William Price – 1984

Lost Lives

The stories of the men, women and children who died as a result of the Northern Ireland troubles

By David McKittrick, Seamus Kelters, Brian Feeney, Chris Thornton and David McVea



2638. 13 July 1984

William Alfred Price, Tyrone

IRA, Catholic, 28, single

From Carnan, Ardboe, Co Tyrone, he was killed by the SAS in the early hours of the morning at Ardboe. He was shot in the legs and then hit in the head by a bullet as he was in a sitting position. According to Fr Raymond Murray in The SAS in Ireland, the IRA had intended to carry out an incendiary attack on a nearby factory. It was planned to coincide with the anniversary of the death of hunger striker Martin Hurson. The SAS had been briefed and were lying in wait. Two other men were arrested at the scene and jailed for nine years for having weapons.

An inquest in June 1986 was declared invalid by the High Court because the Price family were not told it was taking place. A second inquest, held in June 1987, was told that statements from most of the SAS patrol said that they had been briefed that the factory was an IRA target. The soldier in charge however said it was a routine patrol. The soldiers said they had been in place for about two hours when they heard the crack of a stick.

Soldier A’s statement said he spotted men in a line about ten metres apart. When they were about 30 metres from him, he said he shouted, ‘Halt, hands up.’ He said the man in front of him raised his hands very fast: ‘I believed he was going to shoot me and I fired one shot aimed at the centre of his body and heard him scream. My vision was affected by the flash of my rifle muzzle and he disappeared. I did not see the man with a gun, but he lifted his hand into a position that suggested he was holding a gun,’ the soldier said. He said he saw a body lying on the grass and the hands moved suddenly: ‘I thought he was going to fire at me and I fired one round instinctively. I moved in and saw he was dead.’

The SAS found no weapons at the scene but a closer examination by the RUC found a .45 revolver under William Price’s body and a .455 semi-automatic pistol several feet away. The IRA man had been hit four times, the fatal shot hitting his head.

An IRA statement said the dead man and another volunteer were scouting the way towards the factory, adding: ‘When they got within 20 yards or so of the bushes, three or four figures rose in front of them and suddenly the whole place lit up with gunfire. William Price fell, moaning. The other volunteer crawled back through the long grass to make his escape.’

The statement continued: ‘From the time William Price was shot and wounded to the time the other volunteer got out of the firing line, the shooting never stopped. Some time after that shooting, the other volunteers heard the SAS whooping hysterically like Indians in an American Wild West film. A good three minutes after the firing there seemed to be one shot and then a burst of shots.’

William Price of Carnan, Ardboe (1956-84)

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