He became separated from his patrol in the Lower Falls area during a disturbance. A crowd had gathered and his SLR was grabbed from him. Some women in the crowd were apparently trying to get him to safety whilst others had summoned an IRA gunman who had pushed his way through this crowd and into the garage on McDonnell Street, where Pte Barlow was trapped, and shot him twice.

The British Press wrongly reported at the time that the women had attacked him and this was later discovered not to have been the case. He was single, aged 19 and came from Lowton in Lancashire.