TODAY, March 20, marks the 31st anniversary of the IRA attack on Warrington town centre.

It killed Johnathan Ball and Tim Parry and left more than 50 injured.

It followed an attack on the Winwick Road gas works a month earlier.

Here’s what happened when two bombs exploded in the town centre and the events leading up to the attack.

Friday, February 26, 1993

The first IRA attack on Warrington at Winwick Road gas works.

Police constable Mark Toker stop-checked three men in a white Mazda van in Sankey Street shortly after midnight.

Warrington Guardian: PC Mark Toker, who was shot three times after stopping the terrorists

The 25-year-old was shot three times in the leg and back.

The married father-of-one from Wigan was taken to Warrington Hospital for emergency treatment and a police dragnet was launched.

The gang commandeered a white Ford Escort and imprisoned driver Lee Wright in the boot around 12.50am.

They set off for Manchester, the gunman firing at pursuing police cars.

Mr Wright attempted to immobilise his own car, pulling a petrol gauge indicator wire.

The gang pulled up on the M62 around 1.50am, perhaps believing they were out of petrol. The men fled up an embankment.

A police dog cornered the gunman and another man was arrested but the third man escaped.

Three devices exploded at the Winwick Road gasworks at 4.10am, destroying a gasometer, which caused a 1,000ft high fireball.

Warrington Guardian:

The bombs failed to destroy five million cubic feet of gas in surrounding tanks and a major disaster was averted.

Nearby residents were evacuated and took shelter at St Ann’s Primary School.

Pairic MacFhloinn, aged 40, and Denis Kinsella, aged 25, were later jailed for 35 years and 25 years respectively for their part in the bombing mission and John Kinsella, aged 49, was sentenced to 20 years for possessing Semtex explosives that he hid for the IRA cell.

The third man in the car, Michael Timmins, was never caught.

Saturday, March 20, 1993

The Samaritans received a coded warning at 11.58am about a bomb outside a Boots chemist shop in Liverpool, 16 miles from Warrington.

Merseyside Police responded to the warning and informed Cheshire Police but there was no time to evacuate Warrington town centre.

IT was a day Warrington residents will never forget. 

Two bombs, hidden in separate cast-iron litter bins, exploded on Bridge Street just after 12.25pm, the first outside a British Gas showroom and the second near Argos and Boots.

The first explosion drove panicking shoppers into the path of the next blast just seconds later, with police describing the bins and shrapnel as ‘huge hand grenades’.

Buses were organised to ferry people away from the scene and 20 paramedics, some on motorcycles, were sent to administer on the spot treatment.

Warrington Guardian: The scene at the Bridge Street bombing

Crews from 17 ambulances dealt with casualties and a team of four plastic surgeons travelled to Warrington Hospital from the regional burns unit at Whiston Hospital, Knowsley.

Johnathan Ball, who was in town with his babysitter buying a Mother’s Day Card, was killed at the scene.

Tim Parry was caught in the full force of the blast and died five days later in hospital.

56 other people were injured, including Bronwen Vickers, aged 33.

Senior police said they believed the later attack was a reprisal for the police’s success after the gasworks blast.

Nobody has been brought to justice for the second Warrington bombing.

November 1996

The River of Life memorial artwork is opened on Bridge Street.

The memorial to the victims was opened by the Duchess of Kent in April 1996.

Warrington Guardian: Man charged with attempts to steal River of Life plaque

Backed by former Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam, a fundraising campaign is launched to build the town’s Peace Centre.

The campaign was launched at a special service to mark the fifth anniversary of the attacks on the town.

March 20, 2000

Following years of campaigning, the town’s Peace Centre opens in Great Sankey. A festival was held to mark the occasion.

July 2000

The National Lottery invests £250,000 in the centre, the biggest at the time, to help launch a new project at the Peace Centre. The funding for over three years was to help identify Britain-based victims and survivor and pinpoint their individual needs.

December 2001

IRA chief Martin McGuinness apologised to the families of the children killed in the bomb attack.

Warrington Guardian: Former IRA commander says Bridge Street bombing was shameful

A landmark meeting finally took place between Mr McGuinness and the families of Tim Parry and Johnathan Ball.

July 2004

Wilf Ball, the father of Johnathan Ball, dies aged 71.

Found at his home in Grappenhall he had visited Johnathan’s grave almost everyday before his death.

Warrington Guardian: Wilf Ball ay Johnathan's grave

March 2009

Johnathan’s mum Marie Comerford died suddenly aged 53.

The coroner ruled she had died of a broken heart.

She moved from Warrington to Wales after the bombing but had returned to the town in later life.

Warrington Guardian: Marie Comerford

March 20, 2018

A commemoration service was held on Bridge Street to remember the two young boys killed and the many more injured.

Princess Anne attended the memorial event.

Many people from across the town took part in the Colours for Peace Day to pay their respects.

March 20, 2023

A memorial service was held on Bridge Street to mark the 30th anniversary.

Former PM John Major was the guest of honour.

He told the event the attack was the closest he came to giving up on peace.

Warrington Guardian: