FLASHBACK: The night three people were shot dead in gun attack on Sheffield pub

It was just before closing time on New Year's Day 1960 and a group of people were enjoying a sing song at the East House pub on Spital Hill in Sheffield.

Tuesday, 9th February 2016, 9:10 am
Updated Wednesday, 10th February 2016, 12:20 pm
Three people were killed in the shooting at The East House pub

The jovial scene soon turned to horror when 30-year-old Somali national Mohamed Ismail entered the pub armed with a revolver and started shooting.

Some of those present initially thought it was all a prank and raised their hands in mock surrender, but as the shots started to ring out terrified patrons dived for cover.

The scene of the shooting on Spital Hill

Sadly, some were unable to get out of harms way in time.

Three men were killed - 22-year-old steelworker Mick McFarlane, 27-year-old soldier Thomas Owen, and 30-year-old Fred Morris.

Two others were badly injured in the shooting.

Once the shooting was over Ismail - an unemployed labourer - made his way to the pub's toilet where he was arrested by police minutes later.

The scene of the shooting on Spital Hill

He admitted the crime but was deemed not fit to stand trial due to insanity and was sent to Broadmoor high security hospital.

One of the injured survivors, Don McFarlane, spoke to The Star many years later about the fateful night in the East House when his brother Mick was murdered.

Don spent three years in hospital after the shooting and his injuries left him disabled.

In an interview with The Star in 1984 he said: "It was just fate, that's all. Should have gone to work, went to pub instead. Just fate."

Another survivor of the shooting, Ken Ellis, told The Star: "I thought it was a joke, but then I was hit in the wrist.

"I shouted: 'Christ! It's real!' and ran into the other bar.

Fortunately, the bullet passed through Ken's wrist and caused just superficial damage.

He added: "The police picked the bullet out of the wall later, but I never got round to collecting it as a souvenir."

Another man who was at the East House on that deadly night was Terry Forrest.

He was at the pub with his best friend Mick McFarlane when he heard a loud bang.

Years later he told The Star: "I fell to the floor. When I sat up the gunman was walking towards the gents' toilet.

"Someone opened Mick's shirt to look at his wound. I kept shouting that he was going to be all right.

"I was in a bit of a daze, but I don't remember any blood.

"Tommy Owen was still sat upright, with a hole in one of his eyes.

"Poor Fred Morris had got it in the back of the head as he tried to duck down."

Another witness to the carnage, Tom Musgrave, had nightmares about the events for many years after.

He told The Star in a 1984 interview: "I remember seeing the man, but well all seemed to freeze while he was shooting.

"It didn't really sink in for me until I saw the bodies."

There are still some unanswered questions about the awful events of that New Year's day night, not least the motive for the murders.

Ismael never gave a detailed explanation of why he carried out his deadly shooting spree.

At the time there were reports that he'd told some women before the shooting that he wanted to die but was prohibited from killing himself due to his religious beliefs.

One theory was he carried out the shooting in the hope that he would receive the death penalty and that his life would be put to an end.

Instead, he was sent to Broadmoor where he was treated for 22 months before being returned to Somalia.

Once back in Somalia Ismael tried shooting a judge in a courtroom and was jailed.

After being released from prison in the late 1960s he reportedly ran amok with a gun in a Somali village, killing a number of people before being killed himself.

The East House pub murders remains one of the deadliest crimes in Sheffield's modern history.