POLICE in Northern Ireland have appealed for witnesses after a memorial to 18 British Army soldiers killed in an IRA ambush 40 years ago was attacked in a "hate crime".
Poppy wreaths, crosses and flowers were vandalised at the roadside tribute in Narrow Water near Warrenpoint, Co. Down – where the troops died in a double bomb attack on August 27, 1979.
The PSNI said they received a call on Sunday reporting the criminal damage, which occurred sometime between 4pm on Saturday June 1 and 12.30pm the following day.
The memorial commemorating the deadliest attack on the British Army during the Troubles has been targetted at least five times in recent years – including in November 2017, July 2018, twice in September 2018 and again in October 2018.
Superintendent Jane Humphries said: "Our enquiries into this incident, which is being treated as a hate crime, are continuing and we would urge anyone who witnessed what happened, or who knows anything about this to get in touch with police.
"We would also ask anyone who may have captured dashcam or helmet cam footage on the Warrenpoint dual carriageway to call police on 101, quoting reference number CCS 1099 of 02/06/18."
Ulster Unionist Party councillor David Taylor said the roadside spot had been "desecrated".
Yet again poppy wreaths and crosses placed at Narrow Water have been desecrated. Another disgusting attack on this memorial dedicated to the 18 soldiers murdered by the IRA at this location almost 40 years ago. Enough is enough, these attacks must stop!! @uuponline pic.twitter.com/sJawHCzbqT
— David Taylor (@DavidTayloruup) 2 June 2019
He told BBC News: "This attack is another despicable act, just like the many others which have occurred at the site of the memorial dedicated to the 18 soldiers murdered by the IRA on 27 August 1979.
"I say to those who perpetrate these sickening acts, enough is enough.
"The families of the 18 murdered soldiers already endure enough heartache through losing their loved ones in such tragic circumstances without having their pain further compounded when incidents of this nature occur."
Sinn Féin MLA Sinead Ennis said: "There is no place for attacks like in our society and I condemn this act outright.
"Monuments and memorials are important places in communities and should be respected.
"I would encourage anyone with information on this incident to contact the PSNI."
SDLP South Down MLA Sinead Bradley added: "This is another sickening attack on memorial wreaths at Narrow Water and I condemn it in the strongest terms.
"The thugs who set out to destroy memorial wreaths and inflict further pain on those seeking to remember their dead lack any human decency."
The deadliest day
The Warrenpoint ambush resulted in the highest death toll suffered by the Army on a single day in Northern Ireland.
The first bomb – planted under hay on a roadside lorry – killed six soldiers when it exploded as they travelled past in a lorry.
The second device detonated as the injured were being airlifted from the scene, killing 12 more soldiers and seriously injuring several more.
The explosions came just hours after the IRA assassinated the Queen's cousin Lord Mountbatten, who died when a bomb blew up his boat off Mullaghmore, Co. Sligo in the Republic.
Earlier this year, 44-year-old lorry driver Robert James McKeegan was jailed after he admitted vandalising the Warrenpoint memorial in Narrow Water on October 4, 2018.
Anyone with information on the latest attack is asked to contact the independent Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.