1996 – Veronica Guerin is shot and killed

Veronica Guerin was an Irish journalist whose beat was crime. This did not sit well with the criminals whose exploits she covered, even though she used psuedonyms (mostly in order to avoid trouble with Irish libel laws). She received threats to her life and wellbeing, but did not allow this to deter her.

A particular foe of hers was mob boss John Gilligan, who threatened to kill her and rape her son after she confronted him about his wealth and apparent lack of legitimate income. On June 26, 1996, men from his organisation (although, according to Gilligan, acting without his knowledge or consent) shot and killed Guerin in her car.

The murder weapon was never recovered, but an investigation led to several convictions for her murder and for other charges related to their involvement in organised crime. Gilligan was not convicted of the murder, but was put away for drug-related charges.

The most lasting legacy of Guerin’s murder was the formation of the Criminal Assets Bureau, which conducted precisely the sorts of investigation that Guerin had advocated and that led to her death.

Referenced in:

Veronica — Christy Moore
Veronica 1337 — Paul Bowen
Easy To Lose Hope — Eleanor McEvoy
Complaint in the System (Veronica Guerin) — Savatage

1977 – Steve Biko dies in prison

Steve Biko was born in King William’s Town, south Africa in 1946. He went to the University of Natal, where he studied medicine. While he was studying, he became involved in various political causes. By the late sixties, he was head of the Black Consciousness Movement, a grassroots anti-apartheid movment.

Biko and the BCM played a significant role in organising the series of protests which culminated in the Soweto Uprising of 16 June, 1976. In the aftermath of the uprising, which was crushed by heavily armed police shooting school children protesting, the authorities began to target Biko further.

On the 21st of August, 1977, he was arrested at a roadblock. He was assaulted while in custody, and suffered severe injuries. On the 11th of September, he was driven, naked in the back of a police vehicle and still badly injured, for 1500 miles to Pretoria prison. He was declared dead shortly his arrival there, which the police claimed was due to a hunger strike.

Biko became a martyr of the anti-apartheid movement, and in a more general sense, of oppressed peoples everywhere.

Referenced in:

Biko – Peter Gabriel
I’m a African – Dead Prez
Biko Drum – Christy Moore
Mal Sacate – Kris Kristofferson
Biko – Sweet Honey in the Rock
Biko’s Kindred Lament – Steel Pulse
Tribute To Steve Biko – Tapper Zukie
A Motor Bike In Afrika – Peter Hammill
The Death of Stephen Biko – Tom Paxton
Chile Your Waters Run Red Through Soweto – Sweet Honey in the Rock