The murder of Catherine Cutliffe
Ex Royal Ulster Rifles
October 3 was the day of the worst atrocity committed in Cyprus during the entire emergency. Mrs.Catherine Cutliffe, her daughter Margaret, and their German born friend Mrs. Elfriede Robinson, were shopping in Famagusta's Hermes Street. It was a special day for the Cutliffe family, Margaret was shopping for her Trousseau, she was engaged to a member of her father's regiment, 29 Field R.A. As they were leaving a shop in the Greek quarter of Famagusta (Varosha), Margaret was carrying her wedding dress.
They had taken but a few steps, when two youths opened fire on them, from behind, one gunman shot Mrs. Cutliffe twice in the back, then twice more, as she lay bleeding on the street, Mrs Robinson was shot by the other youth, who continued to shoot her as she lay on the pavement, Margaret by some miracle was unhurt, Mrs Robinson eventually recovered from her injuries, but Mrs Cutliffe died almost immediately. At the scene shortly afterwards, several of us accompanied the C.O. L/t.Col. Wheeler, we saw the blood on the street, and felt the anger rise, we had done the 'Firmness with courtesy' routine, and where had it got us, we were dealing with psychos, I think had the C.O. not been there we would have gone looking for trouble.
The murder was denied by E.O.K.A, Greek Cypriot leaders condemned it, and the Mayor of Nicosia offered a £C5000 reward, for the capture of the killers. Prominent Greeks claimed, the murder was carried out by the Security Forces, to discredit E.O.K.A, The Greek Foreign Minister claimed the murderer was a spurned ex lover.
Roadblocks were quickly set up around Varosha, and suspects were taken to Karaolos Camp for questioning. There is no disguising the fact that, a degree of force was used during the roundup, I believe a young girl, and an old man, died of heart failure. I have the utmost sympathy for them, and their families, and will not try to make excuses for the behaviour of some of our troops, I will merely state, that during my tour of duty in Cyprus, I saw very few acts of gratuitous violence used by British troops. I saw plenty of callous behaviour by Greek Cypriots towards their own people, and how they walked past injured British troops and civilians some of them mere children, even after all these years it makes my blood boil thinking about it. The majority of servicemen in Cyprus were 19 & 20 year old N.S.men, friendly to a point of naivety.
This friendliness often had fatal results, as in the case of the R.A.F. lad on sentry duty, who, when asked for a drink of water, by a Greek Cypriot workman, turned his back to get the water from his box, and was rewarded with two bullets in the back. Sgt. Hammonds, R.A.O.C, walking his two year old son, shot in the back, the elderly couple, sightseeing around Kantara castle, murdered, these and many more atrocities like, them were committed by scum who shouted 'Foul' when a 'Squaddy' lashed out with his fists, or boots, after being goaded, spat upon, or drenched with urine, by screaming mobs. That dreadful day had one more horror for us, S/Sgt. James (Frankie) Lane was killed, by a single shot, in Varosha that night, he was my platoon S/Sgt. and at 23 years of age, was a sad loss to the Battalion.
As the investigation into the attack continued, it became obvious it was well planned, and the local population was forewarned, witnesses, British of course), the cyps never saw any thing that happened to the S.F., or their dependents. Shops had put the shutters up early that day, and the streets were almost deserted, there were no young people to be seen, all this, on a Friday, the busiest shopping day of the week, intelligence sources came to the conclusion that it was a premediated attack, and the locals had been informed.
That attack was the prelude to attacks on women, and children, all over the Famagusta area, these attacks, included the setting on fire of baby carriages, and an increase in attacks, on the S.F. Sgt.'Dolly' Grey and his patrol from 1R.U.R were ambushed, and one man was slightly wounded.