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TUESDAY 27  FEBRUARY 2024

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LEST WE FORGET Express reporter Geddes is remembered 40 years after his murder by IRA 

By CHRISTOPHER WILSON

Forty years is a long time but, as Drone readers know all too well, not long enough to dim the memory of friends and colleagues long gone.


Knightsbridge came to a momentary standstill on Sunday as the victims of the 1983 IRA bomb attack on the Harrods department store were remembered in a brief and low-key ceremony. Among the names called was that of Philip Geddes, the 24-year old Daily Express reporter killed by the blast as he went to investigate the all-too-inadequate bomb alert.


The ceremony, confusing to shoppers milling around Hans Crescent more concerned about grabbing last-minute bargains, is an annual oasis of calm in the busy Christmas rush – an event which draws together friends, family and colleagues of the six dead and 90 injured that day. They come back every year.


Representing the Express was former executive editor Alan Frame, ex-William Hickey colleague Jeanette Bishop, and former features executive (and latterly editor of the Daily Mail's YOU magazine) Sue Peart. Also present were members of the Philip Geddes Memorial Trust, which administers the student journalism awards created in the reporter's name and which has fostered many successful careers in print, broadcast and social media. Flowers were laid by Philip's partner at the time, Jane Beaton.


Across town at St Bride's Church in Fleet Street, the memorial book dedicated to journalists who lost their lives in the line of duty was opened at Philip's page, and during morning service prayers were said in his name by the Rector, the Revd Dr Alison Joyce. Present were several old friends who'd travelled from Barrow-in-Furness, where Philip – son of a Polish-born tailor – grew up. That they were prepared to make the long journey, forty years on, shows he is not forgotten.


What does seem to have disappeared below the horizon is the UK authorities' interest in discovering who committed the bomb attack which robbed a young reporter of his life and an undeniably promising career.


What's beyond doubt is that the names of the perpetrators are known to the security services. But either incompetence on their part — or the edict of a higher authority to let sleeping dogs lie — means the murderers have never been brought to justice. The Daily Express as a newspaper has never sought to question how these men have been allowed to remain free.


Forty years on I remain as angry as the day Philip Geddes died for the sloth and/or the political expediency which allowed his killers to live out their lives untroubled by investigation or arrest.


Philip – just a kid, really – exhibited early on the ratlike cunning, plausible manner, and little literary ability that the late Nicholas Tomalin demanded of all young recruits to Fleet Street. He could have been big.


He could have been great.


19 December 2023

NOT FORGOTTEN: The Philip Geddes page in the St Bride’s memorial book

IN REMEMBRANCE: The ceremony drew a crowd outside Harrods

Philip's cousin Sarah Catherine McKay who's a staunch supporter of the Geddes Prizes

19 December 2023