Sheena Fagan Campbell was an activist, a law student, and a rising star in the Sinn Fein hierarchy. She was a single mother in Belfast who was determined to provide for her young child and at the time of her murder, she was engaged to be married. Sheena stayed on the legal, political side of the Troubles and was not a member of the Irish Republican Army but she did know many who were. The young law students’ growing popularity in Republican circles brought her to the attention of the police, the British Army and the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), a deadly Loyalist paramilitary group. The UVF insisted that Campbell was a member of the IRA and on this day in 1992, they executed her very publicly in a hotel bar in Belfast.
Sheena had noted an increase in attention in the weeks leading up to her assassination. She complained that she had been followed a few times and she was also being stopped and questioned at checkpoints more frequently. Her diaries and schedules were confiscated and copied during one of those stops. The unwanted attention and police harassment began when she started going to court proceedings that were investigating the deaths of three IRA men who had died in suspicious circumstances at the hands of the police. Sheena was a little intimidated but it never occurred to her that her actual life was in danger. As such she didn’t change anything about her routine and did not shy away from her favorite haunts, despite being stared at while she ate lunch, or being glared at by strangers. She was a regular in the bar she was killed in and stopped in there every Friday night for a drink. On the night she was murdered, she felt comfortable sitting with her back to the door. She never saw her attacker coming.
The gunman ignored most of the crowd when he walked into the popular York Hotel pub. He walked directly up to Sheena’s table and shot her repeatedly from behind at close range. Her drinking companions were injured as well. Then he walked right back out the door. The UVF issued a statement about the murder and said that their victim had been a member of the IRA, but that has never been proven. No suspects were ever brought to trial and very little progress was made in the resulting half-hearted investigation. Sheena’s friends and family felt that the police might have somehow been involved in her death because they seemed reluctant to pursue any suspects for her death and despite their heavy presence in the area, the killer got away. The police may have begun to see her as an enemy, since she regularly attended proceedings that questioned them and their tactics and she was associated with Irish Nationalists and Republicans. She may well have defended some of them in the future if she’d lived to become a lawyer, but that’s conjecture. Her case is still officially open but the likelihood of it ever being solved grows dimmer every year. Sheena Fagan Campbell was the seventeenth Sinn Fein member to be executed in the region, and many of these assassinations remain unsolved to this day, including hers.