Gerry Conlon – 1st March 1954 – 21st June 2014

Gerry was released from prison on 19th October 1989 after serving 15 years as an innocent man. In November 1974, the then 20-year-old was arrested in Belfast for his supposed part in the IRA pub bombings in Guildford, which killed five people and injured 65. Conlon had never been to Guildford. But along with three others – who became known as the Guildford Four – he was sentenced to life in prison on the basis of confessions obtained under torture by Surrey police.

Conlon’s father, Giuseppe was also arrested and charged in connection with the bombings after he travelled to England to organise legal representation for his son. Giuseppe Conlon, along with Conlon’s aunt, Annie Maguire, her husband Paddy and their family – who became known as the Maguire Seven – were convicted on the basis of dubious forensic evidence which the prosecution claimed proved they had handled explosives used in the bombings. Giuseppe Conlon was sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment and died in prison less than five years into his sentence. The forensic evidence used to secure his conviction was later exposed as fraudulent.

The Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven, together with the Birmingham Six, continue to be viewed as three of the most deplorable miscarriages of justice in British history.

“I hope that what ­happened to us will always act as a reminder to people never to jump to conclusions, whatever the nature of a crime, and never to ignore the people who are now trying to get their voices heard so that the nightmare does not happen to them”

With many thanks to: James Connolly for the origional posting.

The family of Kathleen Thompson were in Coleraine Court today as the inquest into the circumstances of their mother’s death in November 1971 resumed.

However it adjourned shortly after lunch with further enquiries necessary to identify potential military witnesses. A preliminary hearing has been set for the end of June.
The court heard from David Thompson, Kathleen’s son, who is believed to be the last person to speak to his mother alive before she was shot dead in her garden in the early hours by a British soldier.
The court also heard from Matthew Lewsey, an expert from the MOD who outlined the steps undertaken to identify documents and military witnesses.
Karen Quinlivan QC, representing the family, cross examined the witness- outlining various steps that had not been taken to identify soldiers A, B & C- the three soldiers who had provided statements to the RMP & inquest at the time.
Quinlivan stated that all the soldiers had been identified as part of the Saville inquiry- including those in the Royal Green Jackets and Royal Anglians, but that was not the case in relation to the shooting of Kathleen Thompson. The MOD confirmed that steps had not been taken to determine whether any of those identify for Saville were A B or C but they could be followed up on. Further steps, including examining personnel files and providing info for the Coroner to approach HMRC re current addresses based on pension records had also not been pursued. These potential avenues came to light during a preliminary hearing as part of the Ballymurphy inquest. Counsel for the family then took instructions and the court heard that they would like these further avenues to be addressed by the MOD. The case was adjourned until the end of June, at which time an update will be provided and hopefully a further date to conclude the inquest will be determined.
Soldier D, the shooter, gave evidence at an earlier hearing in March. He had in effect ‘traced’ himself when he wrote to the RUC in 2002 asking that the files relating to Kathleen’s death not be released following publicity in local press following an intervention by Mark Durkan.
PFC was in court supporting the Thompson family, who are represented by Fearghal Shiels from Madden & Finucane.

With many thanks to the: Pat Finucane Centre for the origional story.

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.