Niece Sarah and damage from the IRA bomb that killed Express reporter Philip Geddes
Sarah McKay said her family was “aghast” at hearing that Roy Greenslade backed the bombings that killed her uncle Philip Geddes. Philip died aged 24 in the 1983 Harrods car bomb, when he broke off from Christmas shopping to investigate a security alert. He was one of Fleet Street’s finest emerging talents, and a trust was set up in his name to help young journalists. But his relatives now feel betrayed after Greenslade, 74, revealed he supported the violence that killed the Oxford graduate.
The former editor and high-profile media commentator later resigned as a journalism professor at City, University of London.
Sarah, 43, was mortified someone who might have been his boss backed Philip’s killers.
“I was horrified,” she said. “And my parents were absolutely aghast about it. My dad couldn’t believe it. They murdered him. Philip’s death destroyed his parents.
“How could anybody as a human being, believe that violence and killing people is ever justified?
“And [Greenslade] was high up. He was an editor and a professor of journalism. I can’t understand the mentality of people. When you see what murder, stabbing, bombs do to families and individuals.”
Greenslade, who had a long career in newspapers, culminating with his own column about the media in The Guardian, admitted his treachery last month.
He wrote about his long-held Irish republican sympathies: “I supported the use of physical force”, adding he was “pleased to come out from hiding”. He has also spoken about having IRA contacts.
Philip died aged 24 in the 1983 Harrods car bomb
Sarah was Philip’s god-daughter as well as his niece. Now an Oxford emergency department nurse, she was six years old when he was murdered.
She lived in Cumbria with her parents Vivian and Barry, who was Philip’s cousin – their mothers being sisters.
“He was a jolly good presence – all the things that are important when you’re six. He signed my cards Wicked Uncle Philip.”
The grammar schoolboy went to St Edmund Hall, Oxford, and knew former Prime Minister Theresa May.
He was one of three members of the public and three police officers killed outside the Knightsbridge store on December 17 1983. Nobody has ever been charged.
Sarah said: “The last place I saw Philip was at Brown’s restaurant. I remember him striding across St Giles’ in Oxford to meet us and we went for lunch with Mum and Dad and my sister.
“The day we found that he had died is etched on my mind forever.
My grandfather rang my dad. There was a friend in the village who worked for the Met and Dad had rung them to find out if it was true.
“It was horrendous.”
She continued: “I feel cheated that I didn’t get to know him properly. His mother – my Aunty Nora – sat and watched all the generations grow up and get married. Philip was never able to do that, and he was their only child.
Former Prime Minister Theresa May knew Philip
“I’ve still got all the presents he gave me, the letters he wrote me as a baby. His partner at the time very kindly posted the Christmas present he bought me the year he died.
“It was a little kiddies’ blue and white apron with a picture of a cat on it. I still have it. I met her and was able to say thank you.”
Colleagues set up the Philip Geddes Memorial Fund to keep his name and spirit alive by promoting young journalists at Oxford.
It awards cash prizes, runs workshops and stages an annual lecture by one of the industry’s big names.
Sarah said: “The trust means a great deal. I’m the family link among supporters. Philip never got to fulfil his potential and it’s lovely to see the new journalists.
“It is able to give a helping hand and a nudge in the right direction to people who are passionate and enthusiastic, just like Philip.
Comment by Christopher Wilson
I last saw Philip Geddes alive on a Thursday night.
“See you Sunday” he said with his cheery grin, as he stepped out into the December night.
It was a promise he failed to keep.
By the time he was due back on duty in the Daily Express newsroom, his broken body was being identified by two distraught colleagues.
This rising young star of the newspaper business was no more.
With five others, he lost his life in a bomb attack so heedless the IRA high command immediately disowned it, pretending it had nothing to do with them.
Nobody has claimed responsibility. Nobody has been named as a suspect.
In the dark roll-call of terrorist attacks which dogged the nation, the victims of the Harrods bomb appear to have been forgotten.
But not by everybody.
Not by the friends and families of the innocent victims. And not, one imagines, by the bombers themselves – who’ve lived at ease for nearly four decades.
Philip Geddes represented nothing that these men of hate could possibly object to. His father was a Polish refugee who fled the Nazis and settled in Barrow-in-Furness, becoming a stalwart of the community and a gifted tailor.
Christopher Wilson said nobody has been named as a suspect
His son – his only living blood relative – was bright enough to win a scholarship to the local grammar school.
Philip rose from nothing on his wit, his intelligence and his personal charm. He was a hard worker and, as a journalist, determined to get at the truth.
What a shame Roy Greenslade never met him. As a dispenser of journalistic wisdom, he could not have failed to admire this dazzling young man.
Instead, he sides with the people who murdered him.
Soon this despicable man will be forgotten.
Philip’s name, by comparison, will live on – in the prizes in his name which support young journalists to take his place and become what Roy Greenslade, all his life, failed to do: rise to be a journalist of integrity, honesty and compassion.
• Christopher Wilson is a Broadcaster