THOMPSON INQUEST DAY 2: British soldier who murdered Derry mother-of-six wept in dock then failed to provide names to assist inquest

THOMPSON INQUEST DAY TWO

A former British soldier responsible for shooting dead a Derry mother-of-six wept in the dock as he expressed regret for the killing but failed to provide names of other army personnel who could assist the inquest into her death.

Kathleen Thompson, 47, was shot dead in the back garden at her Rathlin Drive home in Creggan by a bullet fired by a British soldier on November 6, 1971.

Around midnight on the night Ms Thompson was shot dead, members of the Royal Green Jacket Regiment carried out a raid on a house in Rathlin Drive.

Shortly after the raid Mrs Thompson was found dead in her garden, where she had been discovered by her husband, Patrick, and daughter, Minty, who was 12-years-old at the time. Mrs Thompson had been killed by a high velocity bullet that had struck her in the chest.

Today, her family came face to face with the soldier responsible for firing the fatal shot, known only as Soldier D, as he gave evidence at the inquest into Ms Thompson’s death. Presiding over the inquest is Coroner Sandra Crawford.

Soldier D, who has been granted anonymity, gave his evidence screened off from the rest of the court but visible to the Thompson family.

Soldier D confirmed that he had shot a total of eight rounds. He said he shot the first two rounds into the Thompson’s back garden at what he said he believed was a someone with a gun. He said he believed he observed a ‘a flash and a bang’ at ‘the periphery’ of his vision and that he then saw a ‘vague outline’ of a ‘head, arms and torso’ behind the fence.

In a statement made directly after the incident in 1971, Soldier D had also stated that he shot another six times at what he believed to have been the source from which explosive objects had been thrown at him.

However, a statement by Soldier A, who was alongside Soldier D at the time of the incident, was admitted to the inquest as evidence.

Soldier A said he had told Soldier D to stop firing and move on and that the subsequent six shots fired after the two into Mrs Thompson’s back yard, Soldier D had mistakenly fired upon his own troops.

Soldier D, in a later statement to the Historical Enquiries Team in 2010, claimed he could not remember firing the subsequent eight shots after the first two. However, he conceded that the account given in 1971 where he admitted firing eight shots would be the most accurate account due to its contemporaneous nature.

Soldier D said the incident involving Mrs Thompson had been the only incident in his army career where he had ever fired a shot and where there was a fatality. He admitted he had been questioned after the incident but that no further action was taken by the army either in relation to Mrs Thompson’s death or the allegation that he had mistakenly fired on his own troops.

Gerry McAlinden QC, legal representative for the Coroner Service, asked Soldier D if he accepted that it was his bullet that had struck and killed Mrs Thompson.

He replied: “I certainly do have to accept that very possibility, but I was aiming at what I thought was someone discharging a weapon at me.

“I would be appalled if it was me who was responsible.”

At this point, Mr McAlinden asked Soldier D if it was his intention to kill Mrs Thompson to which he replied, “Of course not.”

He then asked Soldier D if he regretted his actions. Thompson family members, who had a view of Soldier D, confirmed that he became emotional at this point and answered by nodding.

Full file
After a short recess, Karen Quinlivan QC, questioned Soldier D in relation to a letter he had sent Chief Constable of the PSNI in 2002 concerned about a request by Mark Durkan, an MP for the SDLP at the time, to see the full file on the Kathleen Thompson case.

In the letter, Soldier D had referred to being informed by other former soldiers and colleagues about articles regarding the case in local newspapers, the Derry News and Derry Journal.

She asked Soldier D who had told him about this as the paper would have only been available locally.

He said he could not remember any of the names of his former colleagues from the Royal Green Jacket Regiment, which he had earlier described as a ‘family’.

He then said the information may have come from soldiers who married women from Derry. When asked about the other soldiers that gave evidence about the incident that involved the fatal shooting of Mrs Thompson, Soldier D again said that he could not recall anyone’s name. He also said he could not remember the names of anyone who had been selected to be trained as promising young soldiers, of which he was one of 30, in a special platoon.

Ms Quinlivan put it to Soldier D that, given this was the only time that he had ever discharged a live weapon in an operation and that it had resulted in a fatality, this was ‘not a forgettable incident’ and that he would recall at least some of the names of the soldiers present that night.

She also suggested that he was being deliberately obstructive to the inquest by failing to give names that would provide assistance. However, Soldier D claimed he just could not remember anyone’s names.

Ms Quinlivan also questioned him on the six shots fired after the first two into the back garden of the Thompson family. She pointed out that on his annual report and employment sheet dated August 1971 to August 1972, that Soldier D had lost his place on the junior NCO (non-commissioned officer) cadre due to an ‘unfortunate incident’.

Promotion
Ms Quinlivan asked: “Is there any chance you lost your place for shooting Kathleen Thompson or because Soldier A said you were shooting at your own platoon?”

Soldier D said he didn’t recall that and repeatedly told the court how he had been promoted.

He said: “I can’t understand this, if you check my records you will see I was promoted.”

Ms Quinlivan replied: “We know that in Northern Ireland soldiers are promoted after firing fatal shots.” She then made reference to Bloody Sunday by way of proof.

She also asserted that what Soldier D had fired six shots at was his own troops deploying CS gas.

She pointed out that someone would have been ‘super-human’ to have thrown an explosive device 130m, citing the World Record for the javelin throw at 104m while the discus was 74m.

Ms Quinlivan added that, even if the shots had been aimed at someone who had thrown something, this was a breach of the ‘yellow card’ rules of engagement as once the items had been thrown there was no further threat.

The inquest continues. See Thursday’s Derry News for comprehensive coverage.

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

 

IRA victim’s family to appeal inquest decision

Eugene Dalton among three killed in ‘Good Samaritan Attack’

Eugene Dalton, whose family are appealing a decision to secure a new inquest.

THE family of one of three neighbours killed in an IRA bombing 30 years ago are to appeal a failed legal bid to secure a new inquest, it emerged yesterday.

The scene of the explosion in the Creggan area of Derry in 1988.

Last year the High Court dismissed a challenge by Dorothy Johnstone to the attorney general’s refusal to order a fresh tribunal into the so-called Good Samartan attack which claimed the lives of her father and two others. Even though Ms Johnstone has herself since died, the Court of Appeal was told steps are now being taken to substitute another relative in the continued proceedings.

Lord Chief Justice Declan Morgan agreed to list the hearing for a date in May. Outside court the family’s solicitor, Kevin Winters, said: “Yet again another relative connected to a Troubles killing sadly passes away without ever seeing closure.” The case was the first of its kind to challenge the decision-making powers of the North of Ireland’s chief legal officer.

Ms Johnstone’s 54-year-old father Eugene Dalton and Sheila Lewis (68) were both killed in the explosion at a house in the Creggan area (pictured above) in August 1988. A third victim, Gerard Curran (57), died months after being pulled from the rubble. The attack became known as the ‘Good Samaritan Bombing’ because the three friends had gone to check on the where-abouts of a neighbour kidnapped earlier by the IRA.

The paramilitary grouping later apologised, admitting it had planted the device in a bid to kill soldiers. In 2013 Police Ombudsman Michael Maguire published findings that RUC officers had information about an IRA booby trap bomb in a house in the housing estate but did nothing to warn residents of the possible danger. He identified a failure in the police obligation to protect the lives of the public.

Following his report Attorney General John Larkin QC decided a new inquest was not advisable at that time. But Ms Johnstone’s legal team claim it could help to establish responsibility for police failures. They contend that investigative obligations under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights were rekindled by the Ombudsman’s findings. Ordering a new inquest could establish responsibility for police failures and provide fresh hope of identifying and punishing those responsible, according to their case. However, in March 2017 a High Court judge refused to quash Mr Larkin’s decision.

Citing the financial and human costs of a further public hearing which would be unlikely to advance the goal of prosecuting the perpetrators, he ruled that the attorney general was justified in concluding such a step was not advisable. In the Court of Appeal yesterday Fiona Doherty QC, for the Dalton family, confirmed plans to continue the case in another relative’s name. Tony McGleenan QC, for the attorney general, replied that the move may need to be legally tested. Despite the potential uncertainly, Sir Declan decided that the appeal should be fixed for hearing.

With many thanks to: The Irish News for the origional story.

Owners of Poyntzpass bar recall night LVF killers struck

Bernie Canavan was working in the family-run Railway Bar when Philip Allen and his friend Damien Trainor were shot by the LVF in 1998. Picture by Mal McCann.

Co Armagh woman working in the Railway Bar when the LVF killers struck says she will never forget the night two of her customers were gunned down.

Protestant man Philip Allen was shot dead with his Catholic friend Damien Trainor in Poyntzpass 20 years ago tomorrow.

The life-long friends were sitting close to the door of the village pub when the gunmen burst in and ordered them to lie on the floor before killing them both and wounding two others.

Two of Mr Allen’s brothers were also in the bar when the gang struck but managed to escape with their lives.

The double murders took place just weeks before the Good Friday Agreement was signed in April 1998.

Loyalists Stephen McClean, Noel McCready and Ryan Robley were later jailed for their parts in the attack.

A fourth loyalist, suspected informer David Keys, was murdered in jail by the LVF less than two weeks later while on remand.

Bernie Canavan, now aged 84, was behind the bar in her family’s pub that night.

She recounted how two masked gunmen rushed in and opened fire, striking the frame of a door as she made her escape.

“It wasn’t long till they started to shoot,” she said.

“They said ‘lie down’ but then they just started to shoot and I ran up the stairs – they take you into the living room where my husband was.

“I ran in and I turned off the lights.”

Damien Trainor

She believed at the time she might have been the target of the killers.

“I thought they were going to follow me, I don’t know why, it must have been the first reaction – it was me they were looking for.

“I didn’t even think who they were, it’s just I thought they were going to follow me with these guns.

“I went to turn off the lights and I said ‘They are shooting, they are shooting in the bar’.”

After returning downstairs a short time later she said there was a lot of panic.

“We thought the ambulance never would come,” she said.

“I was up and down to see was it coming.

“They actually said they didn’t die until they were up the road but Damien must have been unconscious. He never spoke.

“If any of them had had the luck to be shot down about the legs, I was often thinking that – why did they all have to be shot up in a sort of a fatal place.”

The Railway Bar in Poyntzpass where Philip Allen and his friend Damien Trainor were shot by the LVF in 1998. Picture by Mal McCann.

Mrs Canavan said in the aftermath of the murders her husband Dessie didn’t want to reopen the family business.

“It wasn’t me, my husband said we would never reopen again,” she said.

“Then I took a notion that I wouldn’t let them close me.”

She said she eventually reopened the bar after being contacted by members of the public.

“I came out and I opened it and let a couple in and then that broke the ice,” she said.

Former Armagh manager Brian Canavan said he rushed from training after hearing of the attack. Picture by Mal McCann.

Her son, former Armagh manager Brian Canavan, was training with the squad when he got a call to tell him there had been a shooting at the bar.

He made a dash home, not knowing if his mother was safe.

It wasn’t until he reached Poyntzpass that he was told she had escaped unharmed.

Read more: Mother of Poyntzpass victim believes killers shot Philip Allen and Damien Trainor to clear their own £1,000 drugs debt

Mr Canavan says he has concerns about the circumstances of the attack, especially around the role of David Keys, the suspected informer.

“The bit I could never understand was the police had an informer in the car,” he said.

“One of the drivers was an informer. He maintained he didn’t know where they were going… so I don’t know what happened there.

“They knew the car was stolen in Dromore two days before it.

“The police knew a whole lot afterwards when you started to quiz them, not that they like to be quizzed too much, they knew a bit, they knew there was something going to happen.”

He believes there are still questions that need to be answered.

“I suppose maybe the families don’t think the way I think but I would be more curious – they had an informer,” he said.

“Then you see all these stories coming out now about collusion and everything else you wonder to yourself, well, did somebody inside know anything?

“You don’t know, you will never know because the informer was killed in prison.”

The LVF was formed in 1996 after the UVF expelled its mid-Ulster unit led by notorious killer Billy Wright.

Although it had pockets of support across the north, it was particularly strong in Wright’s mid-Ulster heartland and his murder in prison in January 1997 by the INLA was followed by a series of reprisal killings of innocent Catholics.

The organisation was also involved in a bitter feud with the UVF, which claimed several lives. It called a ceasefire in May 1998 and eventually stood down in 2005.

Mark Thompson of Relatives for Justice, who has worked with families of LVF victims, claimed it was “no coincidence that the formation of the LVF occurred in the context of a wider securocrat agenda that was also opposed to the peace process”.

“The securocrat agenda was largely driven by the tunnel vision of some within the security, military and intelligence community that sought to militarily defeat republicans rather than engage in the changing political dynamic that the IRA ceasefire created.”

Philip Allen

With many thanks to: The Irish News for the origional story.

Mother of Poyntzpass victim beleives killers shot Philip Allen and Damien Trainor to clear their own £1,000 drugs debt

The murders of lifelong friends Philip Allen and Damien Trainor – one a Protestant, one a Catholic – in a bar in Poyntzpass, Co Armagh 20 years ago were among the most shocking of the Troubles and made headlines around the world.

Ethel Allen, the only surviving parent of the men, tells Connla Young that she can never forgive the killers

Ethel Allen, whose son Philip was killed by the LVF along with his friend Damien Trainor in the Railway Bar in 1998. Picture by Mal McCann.

THE mother of a man shot dead by the LVF 20 years ago believes the killers may have carried out the sectarian attack to clear a £1,000 drugs debt with the loyalist group.

Philip Allen was shot dead along with his close friend Damien Trainor as the pair sat in a bar in Poyntzpass, Co Armagh on March 3 1998.

The brutal double murder made headlines across the globe as it emerged the lifelong pals were from different religious backgrounds.

The SDLP’s Seamus Mallon and former UUP leader David Trimble visited Poyntzpass and met relatives of the two men in a powerful show of unity between nationalists and unionists.

Former secretary of state Mo Mowlam also visited relatives.

The Good Friday Agreement was signed just weeks after the deadly attack at the Railway Bar.

Owners of Poyntzpass bar recall night LVF killers struck

Loyalists Stephen McClean and Noel McCready laughed and joked in court as they were sentenced to life for the savage murders, with a judge saying it “will be remembered as one of the most heinous events in the history of Northern Ireland”.

Stephen McClean

Banbridge man Ryan Robley also pleaded guilty to his part in the killings and was given a lengthy jail term.

A fourth man, suspected informer David Keys, was killed in jail by the LVF while on remand just days after the two friends were murdered.

Noel McCready

McCready and McClean were released from prison in 2000 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement but were later arrested after a man was badly beaten in a row over paramilitary flag.

David Keys

Although they were acquitted, then secretary of state Peter Mandelson revoked their early release licences and they remained in prison until 2010.

Philip Allen’s mother Ethel is the last surviving parent of the two men who were killed.

She now believes McClean and McCready took part in the murders to clear a £1,000 drug debt to the LVF.

“I don’t know why they picked Philip and Damien but I was told that they owed £1,000 for drugs and if they killed two Catholics that was their bill paid for. And that came from a reliable source,” she said.

“But they didn’t kill two Catholics, they didn’t care.

“Why was them boys’ two lives only worth £500? A life is worth a hell of a lot more than that.

Damien Trainor

Mrs Allen praised her son as a hard worker.

“He was quiet and was a good child and he worked hard,” she said.

“He never was on the broo for the length of time he lived.”

The 74-year-old said she can’t forgive the men who murdered Philip.

“No, nor forget. I couldn’t,” she said.

“I don’t know whether that’s because I’m not religious.

“I don’t know how anyone can stand up and say that ‘I forgive them for what they done’, I can’t.

“I have only three grandchildren, I could have had six grandchildren.

“I could have seen Philly happily married.”

However, Mrs Allen said she may be willing to meet the killers, who she says knew both victims.

“I think I would but they would have to answer the questions I wanted answered, it wouldn’t be me just answering their questions,” she said.

“Why did they do it whenever they knew the boys – were the two boys easy targets?

“The pub was full because there was sale on, there was plenty of other ones there – why was it just them two?”

Philip Allen

At the time of his death Mr Allen was engaged to be married to his long-time girlfriend Carol Magill and had asked Mr Trainor to be his best man.

His mother said the publication of a photograph of Stephen McClean in a local newspaper in recent years caused her further hurt.

“McLean, he is married now and he has two of a family,” she said.

“It hurt that he was able to live and get married and my son wasn’t.”

The grandmother revealed that the close friends died at the same place on the road as they were being brought to hospital.

“The two of them died at the same spot going in the two ambulances to the hospital,” she said.

“The ambulance drivers said they never had an experience like it before.

“It was as if the two boys was still in contact with one another.

“And I think it was Damien that actually died first and whenever Philly came to the same spot he died too.”

Mrs Allen said the murders brought the people of the area closer together.

“The pass always was close and we always thought it would never happen to us because we were so close,” she said.

The grieving mother said she intends to put flowers at her son’s grave and otherwise remain at home his anniversary tomorrow.

“I find it hard to talk about it,” she said.

“It’s all right talking now… but the nearer it gets, then it gets harder.”

With many thanks to: The Irish News for the origional story.

Poyntzpass murders committed ‘to clear killers’ LVF drug debt’

THE sectarian murders of two friends in Co Armagh 20 years ago may have been carried out because the killers had a £1,000 drugs debt with the LVF.

* ‘I CAN’T FORGIVE OR FORGET’: Ethel Allen, whose son Philip was murdered by the LVF along with his friend Damien Trainor in the Railway Bar in Poyntzpass in 1998.

Philip Allen and Damien Trainor – one a Protestant, the other a Catholic – were shot dead as they sat togeather in a bar in Poyntzpass on March 3rd 1988. The attack came just weeks before the signing of the Good Friday Agreement and made headlines around the world. Loyalists Stephen McClean and Noel McGready laughed in court when they were sentenced to life for the savage murders, with a judge saying it “will be remembered as one of the most heinous events in the history of the North of Ireland”.

Speaking ahead of the 20th anniversary of her son’s murder tommorow, Mr Allen’s mother Ethel says she can never forgive the killers. ” No, nor forget. I couldn’t,” she says. “I have only three grand-children. I could have had six grandchildren. “I could have seen Philly happily married.”

Mrs Allen (74), the last surviving parent of the two men, also reveals she was told that McClean and McCready may have carried out the murders to clear a drug debt with the LVF. “I don’t know why they picked Philip and Damien but I was told that they owed £1,000 for drugs and if they killed two Catholics that was their bill paid for. That came from a reliable source,” she says. “But they didn’t kill two Catholics. They didn’t care “Why was them boys’ two lives only worth £500? A life is worth a hell of a lot more than that.” In another interview in The Irish News today, a woman working at the Railway Bar last night recalls the moment the killers struck. Bernie Canavan (84) says bullets struck the frame of a door as she made her escape. “They said ‘lie down’ but then they just started to shoot and I ran up the stairs… I thought they were going to follow me,” she says.

With many thanks to: Connla Young and The Irish News for the origional story.