It was a quiet, idyllic summer’s morning in Mullaghmore, a small coastal village in Ireland. The sea was calm, with fishing boats gliding gently along the surface of the bay. All seemed right with the world, but relaxation turned to panic when the peace was suddenly shattered by an explosion from the harbour. It was August 27th 1979, and tragedy had struck.
A fishing boat had exploded on the water. Almost nothing was left of the vessel, merely a collection of bright green splinters floating in the water. Would-be rescuers realised in horror that there was only one boat these green pieces could belong to. The boat was the Shadow V, owned by Lord Mountbatten, Mullaghmore’s most famous resident.
Who was Lord Louis Mountbatten?
Lord Louis Mountbatten was the unofficial patriarch of the British Royal Family. The tall, noble-looking lord was a war hero and lifelong officer of the navy who boasted a range of impressive titles including Earl Mountbatten of Burma, First Sea Lord, Admiral of the Fleet, and Chief of Defence.
He was the great-grandson of Queen Victoria, uncle to Prince Philip and cousin to Queen Elizabeth II. When Elizabeth was a young woman, Lord Mountbatten took on the role of matchmaker and helped unite her with Philip. He was also an honorary grandfather to the young Prince Charles, acting as a role model and confidant to the Queen’s firstborn son.
By 1979, Lord Mountbatten had retired and was enjoying a life of leisure on his glorious Broadlands Estate. Every summer, however, he would head to Classiebawn Castle, which overlooked the little village of Mullaghmore in the Republic of Ireland.
Despite his status, Lord Mountbatten was accepted by the local people and became part of regular life during the Irish summers. The lord enjoyed spending long hours fishing on his bright green boat, which would be the last place that he was seen alive.
How, and why, did Lord Mountbatten die?
Lord Mountbatten was lifted out of the water, but he had died on impact. And he wasn’t alone on the boat; his daughter Patricia, son-in-law Lord Brabourne, Lord Brabourne’s mother, and the couple’s 14-year-old twins Nicholas and Timothy were also aboard. Paul Maxwell, a local teenager who worked as a boat boy, was also on board.
Lord Mountbatten, his grandson Timothy and Paul Maxwell were killed instantly in the explosion. The other passengers were badly injured but initially survived, although Lord Brabourne’s mother succumbed to her injuries in hospital.
The people of Mullaghmore were dumbfounded by the tragedy and huddled together, speculating about what had happened. Could the explosion have been an accident, or was there a more sinister explanation?
Was Lord Mountbatten murdered by the IRA?
Just thirty minutes after the incident, there was a phone call to the Donegal Democrat, a local newspaper. The explosion was no accident, said the caller: Lord Mountbatten was murdered.
According to the caller, the attack was carried out by the Irish Republican Army (IRA). The IRA’s roots go back to 1920 when Ireland was divided into two separate states; the Irish Free State and British-ruled Northern Ireland. Some people were angry about the partition and wanted to reunify Ireland by any means necessary. These people formed the IRA.
The Troubles were a series of conflicts in Northern Ireland across the latter half of the 20th century. During this time, the IRA favoured a line of attack known as a ‘spectacular’ – i.e. headline-grabbing attacks against prominent British figures to make the world acknowledge them.
The Irish police had feared Mountbatten was a potential target for the IRA and had warned him against taking his usual trip to Ireland that summer, but he went ahead with his plans because, in his view, why would they be interested in a retired old man?
The Royal Family, who heard about Lord Mountbatten’s murder at Balmoral Castle, were devastated and people throughout England were outraged. The police were under pressure to find the culprits, which was no easy task.
The search for Lord Mountbatten’s murderers
Soon, the police arrested their first suspects. There was just one problem: the suspects had been in police custody since 9:30 am, two hours before Mountbatten’s boat exploded.
With just 48 hours to find out whether these two men had killed Lord Mountbatten before having to let them go, forensic scientists were brought in to crack this royal murder mystery.
Did the suspects plant a bomb on the boat, or were they arrested for a crime they didn’t commit? Discover the truth behind this real-life Royal murder mystery in Royal Inquest: Mountbatten exclusively on True Royalty TV.