Brian Stewart 13-years-old hit by a British Army plastic bullet 4th October 1976 – DIED 10th October 1976

 


 

With many thanks to the: James Connolly Association Australia for the original posting

Ballymurphy inquest: General’s ‘sympathy’ for relatives

General Sir Geoffrey Hewlett was commanding officer of the 2nd Battalion the Parachute Regiment 1971

The former commanding officer of a key battalion in the Parachute regiment has said he has “enormous sympathy” for all relatives of those killed in the Ballymurphy shootings.

General Sir Geoffrey Howlett, 89, was giving evidence at the Ballymurphy Inquest.

It is examining the deaths of 10 people in west Belfast in August 1971.

The deaths followed three days of gunfire in Ballymurphy following the introduction of internment.

Ballymurphy shootings: Who were the victims?
General Howlett described the first day of interment in 1971 as “the busiest day of my life” and said of those shot in Ballymurphy that “most if not all were not IRA”.

Addressing the families
He expressed his sympathy after asking the coroner if he could address the families of the bereaved.

He addressed the families whilst looking across the courtroom at them in the jury area.

He said he had lost his own father, killed in Italy during the war, when he himself was aged just 13, and therefore knew something of bereavement.

General Howlett later rose to be commander-in-chief of Allied Forces in Northern Europe, retiring in 1989.

As Lt Col Howlett, he was commanding officer of the 2nd Battalion the Parachute Regiment, known as 2 Para.

The regiment was based in the Ballymurphy area at the time of the shootings along with the 1st Battalion (1 Para).

General Howlett was the officer who deployed B Company 2 Para to Vere Foster school and Henry Taggart Hall, both army bases on the Springfield Road.

Who were the victims?
Father Hugh Mullan, 38, and Francis Quinn, 19, were shot in an area of open ground behind Springfield Park
Daniel Teggart, 44, Joan Connolly, 44, Noel Phillips, 19, and Joseph Murphy, 41, were shot near the Henry Taggart Army base near Springfield Park
John Laverty, 20, and Joseph Corr, 43, were shot at separate points at the top of Whiterock Road
Edward Doherty, 31, was shot at the corner of Brittons Parade and Whiterock Road
John McKerr, 49, was shot outside the old Corpus Christi Parish
Six people died as a result of shootings in the area on 9th August 1971.

They were Father Hugh Mullan, Francis Quinn, Joan Connolly, Joseph Murphy, Noel Phillips and Danny Teggart.

General Howlett recalled meeting Father Hugh Mullan some weeks before the priest was shot dead.

He said he was sure that he had indeed been administering the last rites when he was shot.

“It was quite obvious Father Mullan was not part of the IRA” he said .

Of the other victims he said: “Whether they were IRA or not at the time I don’t think we quite knew.”

Father Mullan was killed in the same incident as Francis Quinn, on waste ground near Springfield Park.

The other four people fatally shot were in the Manse area opposite the Henry Taggart army base.

‘The UVF never took us on’
General Howlett said he was based on the Springfield Road at the time of the shootings on 9th August 1971, but came to Henry Taggart Hall in the late evening to resupply B Company with ammunition.

He described being ambushed on the journey. He said he believed that 30 to 40 rounds were fired at his land rovers when they entered the base.

He claimed the firing at them was coming from the south west.

Soldiers from the Parachute Regiment were based at Henry Taggart Army base

He described hearing later of the death of Father Mullan, and was surprised to read in recent years that the UVF now claim to have been operating in the area.

“The UVF never took us on” General Howlett told the court. “In fact we rarely saw them”.

Several times during his evidence, he said that his memories of the time had become “muddled”, but said he had better recollection of moments when he had been fired on.

“I find my memory of places and timing very difficult” he said.

‘Internment changed Belfast’
He remembered that it was not common practice to conduct a forensic examination of soldiers’ weapons after civilian deaths.

He also said that no soldier was disciplined over the events of 9-11 August.

He told the court that his brigade commander Brigadier Kitson had disagreed with the introduction of internment, and that no one had realised what it would lead to.

He said the introduction of internment had totally changed Belfast and created a “full-blown battle”.

He added he and his military colleagues were unprepared for “such a rebellious period, with as much rioting, shooting, petrol and nail-bombing as there was.

“I don’t think any of us were prepared for the big change.”

Relatives of some of the victims attended the inquest in Belfast

General Howlett recalled meeting Father Hugh Mullan some weeks before the priest was shot dead.

He said he was sure that he had indeed been administering the last rites when he was shot.

“It was quite obvious Father Mullan was not part of the IRA” he said.

Of the other victims he said: “Whether they were IRA or not at the time I don’t think we quite knew.”

Father Mullan was killed in the same incident as Francis Quinn, on waste ground near Springfield Park.

The other four people fatally shot were in the Manse area opposite the Henry Taggart army base.

Ten people were murdered in the shootings in Ballymurphy in August 1971

A regimental history from 1971 was read out to General Howlett, stating that the Paras had inflicted severe damage on the IRA on 9 August.

“I think that was our belief at the time” he said.

He accepted that their beliefs and thoughts at the time were mistaken.

He added, that later “we realised that most if not all were not IRA”.

The retired general agreed Daniel Teggart and Noel Phillips were not “members of the IRA firing at us”.

“I accept that” he said.

He added that he was not certain that the two men had not been associated with the IRA.

With many thanks to: BBCNI for the original story

Related Topics
BelfastBallymurphy inquestBritish ArmyThe Troubles

 

Ballymurphy Inquest: Paratroopers ‘just opened up’ on group

Nine men and a woman were murdered in Ballymurphy in August 1971

Paratroopers “just opened up” on a group of people standing near their base, the Ballymurphy Inquest has heard.

The inquest is looking into the shooting dead of 10 people in the Ballymurphy area in August 1971.

They died during the first few days after the introduction of internment.

Four people died and several others were injured after what the inquest describes as “Incident 2”.

Who were the Ballymurphy victims?

Shooting witness suffers PTSD
Those who died in the shooting outside the Henry Taggart Memorial Hall, on the Springfield Road, were Joan Connolly, Joseph Murphy, Daniel Teggart and Noel Phillips.

The inquest has been listening to statements about the incident from those who are now deceased, cannot be traced or are too ill to attend and give evidence in person.

The former Henry Taggart Memorial Church Hall was being used as a base by soldiers from the Parachute Regiment.

The victims had been standing opposite, across the road in a grassy area where there had previously been the manse of a local Presbyterian minister.

Relatives and supporters gathered outside Lagan side Courts ahead of the start of the inquests

Several witnesses had given statements saying that around half a dozen paratroopers emerged from the base in the evening and “just opened up” on them with their SLR rifles.

The statements explained how some parents were out looking for missing children amid the arrests by the Army and general turmoil of the first day of internment.

Paul Connolly’s statement, given in recent weeks, told how his mother went to look for his sister and never returned.

‘They blew her face off’
Mr Connolly cannot attend the inquest due to ill health.

He explained how the next day his father went to find her.

He later returned to the family home and said: “It’s your mother, they blew her face off.”

Joanie Crone’s statement described how her husband Dessie had hidden in the field opposite the barracks as others were around him were shot and later managed to crawl to safety, despite continuing gunfire from the army base.

Two men described hearing a child crying in the darkness and how they managed to persuade him to crawl through a fence to safety.

The boy, Edward Butler, had been shot in the leg but survived, and is expected to give evidence in person in March.

Who were the victims?
Father Hugh Mullan, 38, and Francis Quinn, 19, were shot in an area of open ground behind Springfield Park
Daniel Teggart, 44, Joan Connolly, 44, Noel Phillips, 19, and Joseph Murphy, 41, were shot near the Henry Taggart Army base near Springfield Park
John Laverty, 20, and Joseph Corr, 43, were shot at separate points at the top of Whiterock Road
Edward Doherty, 31, was shot at the corner of Brittons Parade and Whiterock Road
John McKerr, 49, was shot outside the old Corpus Christi Parish
Joseph Murphy’s widow, May, described talking to him in hospital after the shooting, before his condition worsened, and he later died.

He described being taken into the base, and being beaten and kicked, with rubber bullets being fired into his body at point blank range.

Mr Murphy told his wife that his wounds, and those of others, were only dressed after the intervention of a younger soldier and an Army padre also in the base.

Willie Ward’s statement described how he ran to safety with others, only noticing later that he had been shot in the shoulder.

He sought treatment from his doctor, his statement said, but had not gone to hospital, because he had heard that anyone with a gunshot wound was being interned as a matter of course.

None of the statements contained any reference to a weapon being held by anyone in the area immediately opposite the barracks when the shooting began.

At the time. the Army told journalists that the soldiers had responded to gunfire and had shot gunmen, something the families of the victims have consistently denied.

Anonymity and screening
Later the coroner heard submissions on the issue of future military witnesses at the inquest.

Seven former soldiers called to give evidence have applied for anonymity and screening during proceedings.

Another soldier appeared under such conditions at the inquest in 2018, although relatives of the man he admitted shooting, Edward Doherty, were permitted to see his face while he gave evidence.

The barrister for the Teggart and Phillips families suggested to the coroner that the risk to the lives of some of the former soldiers giving evidence was “vanishingly small”.

He said screening and anonymity was not necessary.

He asked of former soldiers, called to testify: “Is there a single incident or instance in judicial proceedings in Northern Ireland of a witness being threatened, let alone being actually attacked or physically assaulted in any way?

“There aren’t any.”

Other barristers endorsed his comments.

The barrister for the Murphy family said some of the applications by former soldiers were “straight out of the theatre of the absurd”.

However, using recent statistics of terrorist attacks, a barrister for the Ministry of Defence argued that the risk to former soldiers was “real and continuing”.

Counsel to the inquest suggested that each military witness should be asked if he or she desires to be screened from the next of kin.

The court heard that this process has already begun.

With many thanks to: BBC News for the original story

Robert McGuinness Murder: Was Robert McGuinness shot in revenge for IRA killing of soldier?

British Army bomb-disposal expert Captain Barry Britten was killed by a IRA booby trap bomb the night before Robert McGuinness was shot dead

The night before Robert McGuinness was murdered a bomb-disposal officer was killed in an explosion in the Brandywell area of the city.

Captain Barry Gritten of the Royal Army Ordnance Corp who was attached to the 22 Light Air Defence Regiment, was inspecting an IRA explosives cache located in a derelict house in the area when it partially exploded.

The bomb-disposal expert died at the scene and three other soldiers were wounded, one seriously, in the incident. The 29-year-old deceased soldier came from Darlington and was married with two children.

Some of the witnesses to the shooting of Robert McGuinness believes that the soldiers were in the area the following night (June 22, 1973) looking to exact revenge for the killing of the British officer.

One witness said: “I could hear the other soldiers calling to one another and using very strong language. From the way they carried on in the lane I firmly believed they were a vengeance squad. They sounded drunk or drugged to me.”

A soldier referred to as ‘Soldier A’ who in Robert McGuinness’ inquest file admits firing the round which killed him, was also a member of the 22 Light Air Defence Regiment.

A Freedom of Information request lodged to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in relation to the killing of Captain Gritten produced some partially redacted British Army intelligence files and also some held by the former Royal Ulster Constabulary-now the property of the PSNI.

Part of the material obtained by the Derry News states: “Even though the PSNI have completed a review of Captain Gritten’s murder, the case still remains open and if new evidence comes forward the PSNI will reinvestigate the murder.”

Also, British Army information on the explosion that killed Captain Gritten was recorded at both Northern Ireland wide and at a local level.

The British Daily Operations Brief for Northern Ireland 20-21 June 1973, recorded that: “In Londonderry, it was an eventful day. An ATO (Army Technical Officer) was killed and another soldier seriously injured when a Brandywell house was being investigated.”

At local level the 22 Light Air Defence Regiment which was tasked to operate in the city centre, Bogside and Brandywell areas. They recorded: “At 00:18 hours in Hamilton Street (derelict) an explosion occurred. There were two SF (security force) casualties. Captain BS Gritten (dead).”

It should however be noted that another British Army document records the scene of the explosion as being at a house in Quarry Street in the Brandywell.

Another soldier, whose name is blanked out received serious head injuries and the report then continues by stating: “Two other soldiers received minor injuries. Earlier a patrol had reported finding a bomb making kit in the house. ATO was tasked and was examining the house when the explosion occurred.”

A police intelligence file, carrying information from British military intelligence on the matter contains blanked out references to two IRA suspects that it was claimed “were handling the explosives on the night that Captain Gritten was killed.”

And, another police file contains the blanked out name of another republican suspect and states that a ‘device’ within the IRA explosives cache was rigged to kill. That report states: “(Name blanked out) was involved in the booby-trapped bomb which killed a member of the SF (security forces) and injured three others.”

A final RUC intelligence file states: “(Name blanked out) and others was responsible for the murder of Captain Gritten. They had been assembling bombs and left a booby-trap.”

With many thanks to: Derry Now for the original story.

Robert McGuinness murder: Forensic report says victim was shot in the back whilst soldier says he ‘aimed for the chest’

Robert McGuinness aged 7. He was a pupil of Long Tower Primary School before attending St Joseph’s Secondary School in the Creggan after which he began a career in the Irish Army

The original inquest into the death of Robert McGuinness was held on November 29th, 1973-around five months after his murder

It is a document that had, until recent months, never been seen by anyone from the McGuinness family.

A straightforward request to the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland to release the file however still took almost two years to process.

The documents revealed that the inquest into Robert McGuinness’ death recorded an ‘Open Verdict.’ Essentially, this means the verdict records that a death is suspicious but that it was not possible for a jury to reach any other verdict.

So, in the case of Robert McGuinness this left ‘open’ the possibility that he was, as said by the man who fired the bullet that killed him, brandishing a revolver at the time he was shot.

According to the original inquest papers, eight jurors sat and listened to the evidence presented to them and Coroner Major Hubert O’Neill in the Robert McGuinness’ case at Derry courthouse almost 46 years ago.

A Police Report Concerning Death in the inquest file states that: “This man was shot was by the Army on 22/6/73 at around 1am in Brandywell Avenue. At the time the Army say McGuinness was armed with a revolver. The weapon was not recovered by the Army.”

It should also be noted that in this period, soldiers involved in shooting incidents were not interviewed directly by the RUC. Instead statements were taken from them by the Royal Military Police and then handed over to the local police force.

So, this provided no scope for external questioning of military personnel.

The verdict paper in the case simply records that Mr McGuinness passed away at Altnagelvin Hospital at 7.30pm on June 26, 1973. The cause of death is recorded as “(a) Pneumonia and Peritonitis due to (b) gunshot wound of the left chest and abdomen.”

A statement given by a forensic scientist who examined the jumper worn by Robert McGuinness when he was shot says: “There is a small hole in the rear of the jumper and a larger hole in the front. Although no lead residues were detected around either of the holes, they are consistent with bullet holes, in the bullet entering the rear and leaving at the front. There is nothing to indicate close range shooting.”

Whilst the forensic statement clearly indicates that Robert McGuinness was shot in the back, the statement of ‘Soldier A’, the man who fired the shot the fatal round differs from that scientific conclusion in that he said he fired at the victims chest.

‘Soldier A’, was a member of the 22 Light Air Defence Regiment stationed at a temporary encampment on Foyle Road close to Craigavon Bridge and, a few hundred yards away from the Brandywell area.

His statement, taken around midnight the night after (June 22, 1973) Robert McGuinnees was shot says: “On 22 June, 1973 about 0114 hrs, I was a member of a two vehicle patrol which was patrolling the Brandywell area of Londonderry.

“We were all dressed in DPM Combat Kit and armed with SLRs. I was travelling in the rear of Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) 1.

“Sitting opposite me was Gnr ‘B’. We were both looking out over the rear doors. We were moving up Brandywell Ave with the intention of turning right into Brandywell Rd. On the junction of Brandywell Ave/Lecky Rd were a group of about ten youths.

“On approaching the junction to turn right a youth approached the APC from the left, the offside and grabbed hold of ‘Bs’ rifle barrel. ‘B’ struggled to keep hold of his rifle. I noticed that the group of youths on the Lecky Rd junction had disappeared and it was then that I saw a youth run out into the road from behind a black Cortina, which was parked outside Brandywell Ave.

“I saw that he had a pistol in his right hand. This he put into the aim position aiming at the APC.

“I cocked my SLR, attached to which was a magazine containing 10 x 7.62 rounds. I fired 1 x 7.62 round and saw the gunman jerk violently backwards and fall to the ground.

“A crowd of about 50-60 people formed and the APC by this time had turned right towards Brandywell Road and I lost sight of the gunman.

“At the time of the incident it was not raining and visibility was good due to street lights being in Lecky Rd and a certain amount of light coming from a spot light in the grounds of St Columb’s College.

“The distance between myself and the gunman when I fired was about 20 yards. I aimed at the centre of his chest.”

The witness statement of ‘Soldier B’ completely mimics that of ‘Soldier A’ in his recollection of the sequence of events. This includes a claim that Robert McGuinness had a pistol in his right hand and was taking aim at their vehicle when he was hit.

‘Soldier F’ said: “I saw the youth in the purple jumper walk left around the corner into Southend Park. I again sighted him walking back around Brandywell Ave into that street. I saw he had a small object in his left hand. I couldn’t see what it was. I immediately became suspicious and shouted to ‘H’ ‘watch that bloke, he’s got something in his hand.’

“We started to walk backwards along Deanery Street and as I did so I saw the leading APC following us slowly and about to turn into Deanery Street from Brandywell Avenue, when, at 0112 hrs I heard the sound of a HV (high-velocity) shot.”

However, the recorded testimony of ‘Soldier C’ also in the leading patrol said: “I did not see him with any form of firearm, or any object lying near him.”

The remaining British Army personnel-‘Soldiers D, E, F, G, H, J and K’ make references to a group of youths in the area in the period before ‘Soldier A’ fired his shot. Their estimates of the number of youths vary between around forty to sixty.

None of the soldiers statements, including that of ‘Soldier A’ indicate that a verbal warning was issued to the ‘gunman’ before the fatal round was fired.

Some of these soldiers also claim that some of these youths offered verbal harassment, but not to an extent where they were likely to cause a major incident or provoke retaliation from the British Army.

‘Soldier E’ for example stated: “When initially travelling down Lecky Road to AnneStreet/Foyle Road (Making the U Turn), I noticed up to 50 persons, mainly young people aged 18 years onwards, congregating between Brandywell Road and the Y junction on the Lecky Road.

“They were standing in doorways, generally loitering with no purpose. None of these people directed any shouting or remarks to me, but as we passed them ‘D’ reported to me by radio, that the youths had shown hostility towards his APC. The report of this crowd was logged at 0106 hrs.

“I would add that these youths were well spaced along the Lecky Road, but in my experience of many patrols in the area there were a lot of people about for that time of night.

“Apart from this, the rest of the area was quiet and peaceful. I can state that between the time we left on patrol at 055 hrs and at the time of the shooting, which I will describe at 0112 hrs, there was no incident, apart from the incident I have mentioned involving ‘D.’”

After the witness statement of ‘Soldier C’ none of the remaining army personnel who gave statements mention seeing ‘Soldier A’ discharge his rifle or seeing his target lying on the ground after he was hit.

In fact of the ten soldiers whose statements are contained Robert McGuinness’ inquest file only two of them actually mentions a direct claim of seeing a pistol in the hands of the victim. These were ‘Soldier A’ and ‘Soldier B’, the man who fired the shot and the man standing beside him respectively.

With many thanks to: Derry Now for the original story

Ballymurphy Massacre shootings: Experts uncertain over bullet

A picture of John Makers and his wife Maureen (Image ©copyright McKerr family)

The Ballymurphy Inquest has heard that ballistics experts cannot be sure which kind of bullet struck one of the victims or where the shooter was located.

There has been evidence suggesting several locations for the person who shot John McKerr, 49.

Mr McKerr died on Westrock Drive in August 1971.

He was one of 10 people who were shot and killed in west Belfast over a three-day period.

Some of the evidence has suggested the shot that killed Mr McKerr may have been aimed and fired by a paratrooper standing on the junction of Ballymurphy Road and Westrock Drive.

It has also been considered whether the shot could have been fired from a different direction, from a nearby area known as Corry’s Timber Yard.

The court has heard that local people considered the yard to be an observation post or sniper position used by the Army.

Ballymurphy: Who were the victims?
Because of the oblique angle at which Mr McKerr’s head was struck, three ballistics experts have been unable to conclude if the shot was from a low or high-velocity weapon.

A soldier’s SLR rifle would fire a high-velocity bullet, and a low-velocity bullet might come from a pistol or sub-machine gun.

‘Numerous locations’
All three of the ballistics experts think both are possible.

However, the ballistics expert for the next of kin considers a high-velocity bullet more likely to have caused Mr McKerr’s injuries.

The court heard that other types of weapon than those used by soldiers could fire such a bullet.

The court also heard evidence of “numerous” locations from which a stray bullet could conceivably have come.

It could also have been a ricochet shot.

Nine men and a woman were murdered in the Ballymurphy Massacre in West Belfast in August 1971

Earlier, the inquest heard how the son of one of the first victims killed said he later saw another shooting.

Paul Connolly’s mother Joan was the only woman killed over the three days of shootings in August 1971.

Mr Connolly has been unable to give evidence at the inquest in person due to ill health, but has provided statements to the Coroner’s investigator.

Witnessed single shot
Mr Connolly remembered watching a soldier from his home on Ballymurphy Road.

He recalled looking out as his father set off to go and identify the body of his wife, Joan Connolly.

Paul Connolly said that, as he watched, the soldier fired a single shot in the direction of Corpus Christi Church, outside which John McKerr was walking.

Mr Connolly’s statements explain that he walked far enough from his home to see Mr McKerr’s body, without approaching it.

The inquest into John McKerr’s death has now finished hearing evidence.

Two of the 10 deaths over three days in August 1971 have been examined in detail so far.

The Ballymurphy Inquest will resume public hearings in the new year.

With many thanks to: BBCNI for the original story.