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Secret documents reveal Thatcher’s anger at report on ‘Death on the Rock’

Margaret Thatcher denounced as “a disgraceful whitewash” a report by Lord Windlesham into Thames Television’s ‘Death on the Rock’ documentary about the 1988 killing of three IRA suspects in Gibraltar, newly released confidential files reveal.

The British Government had attempted to prevent the broadcast of the programme in April 1988, fearing it would prejudice the subsequent coroner’s inquest into the shooting of three IRA members by British Special Forces.

However Lord Windlesham’s report “virtually exonerated” the programme-makers and found that the jury at the inquest on the deaths was sufficiently robust…to be able to ignore any extraneous influence from the showing of the television programme.”

Documents released this week to the National Archives in Kew reveal that Lord Windlesham’s findings led to a furious response from the Cabinet on January 26 1989, when the report’s author was accused of “bias” and presiding over a “whitewash”.

At a Cabinet meeting that day, minister argued that the “central failing” of Lord Windlesham’s report was the contention that unlawful killing was only one possible interpretation of the ‘facts’ as presented by the television programme, “…whereas the actual thrust of the programme had been altogether more categorical in that sense.”


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