A British soldier is to face a murder trail over the death of child in Northern Ireland in 1972
The Public Prosecution Service said the former soldier, identified as Soldier B, is also accused of wounding with intent in respect of a second youth.
Northern Ireland mum told file on police killing of child (15) will be sealed for 80 years
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Daniel Hegarty was 15 when he shot and killed by a member of an Army patrol on duty in the Creggan area of Londonderry on 31 July 1972, during what was known as ‘Operation Motorman’.
He died after being shot twice in the head by Soldier B. His cousin Christopher Hegarty, then aged 17, was also shot and injured in the incident.
The Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland, Stephen Herron, met with members of the Hegarty family to inform them of the decision at a private meeting in Derry on Monday April 15.
Speaking afterwards, Mr Herron said: “I have given careful consideration to all of the available evidence. This has included material obtained in the course of the initial investigation; by a later investigation carried out by the Historical Enquiries Team; material generated by Inquest proceedings and a number of expert forensic reports, the most recent of which was provided after the Court ruling in 2018.
“I have concluded that the evidence which can be presented at court is sufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction and that the Evidential Test for Prosecution is met.
“As with all cases, I have also carefully considered whether the public interest requires prosecution through the courts. Particular consideration was given to Soldier B’s ill health, regarding which an updated medical report was obtained. In line with our Code for Prosecutors, I have concluded, given the seriousness of the charges, that the Public Interest Test for Prosecution is also met.
“I have therefore taken the decision to prosecute an individual identified as Soldier B for the offence of murder in relation to the death of Daniel Hegarty and for the wounding of Christopher Hegarty,” said Mr Herron.
“This decision has been reached following an objective and impartial application of the Test for Prosecution which was conducted in accordance with the Code for Prosecutors and with the benefit of advice from Senior Counsel.”
With many thanks to the: Belfast Telegraph for the original story
Paul Whitters was fatally wounded 38 years ago. His mother is appealing for answers
If there’s one thing Helen Whitters knows for certain, it’s that her son Paul would have had a family.
“Knowing the type of boy he was, I’m sure he would have got married and had children. He just loved children.”
The 15-year-old would happily take his toddler cousin to the shops in her buggy – “He didn’t care if it wasn’t macho” – and spent his evenings round at his girlfriend’s house. He loved the Boomtown Rats and was particularly proud of his collection of punk badges, which were used to decorate the black box he kept his cassette tapes in.
Paul was shot in the head with a plastic bullet fired by a member of the RUC during rioting in Derry 38 years ago today. He died in hospital 10 days later after his family made the decision to turn off his life-support machine.
Why should a file on the death of my 15-year-old child, which happened almost 40 years ago, remain classified for another 40 years?
“You miss him all the time,” says Helen. “Even things like technology – Paul was always curious about new things, so every time someone gets a new phone you’re thinking, Paul would have had that as well.
“He’s not here to see the latest innovations, which he would have loved, and of course at any family events he’s just missing from our lives.
“I was deprived of my son, and of future grandchildren, but [my younger children] Aidan and Emma don’t know how deprived they were because they didn’t know him. He’s a big loss to them as a brother.”
Nobody has ever been charged in connection with Paul’s death. In 2007 a report by the Police Ombudsman, Nuala O’Loan, found it had been “wrong and unjustified” to fire at Paul, and the shooting was “clearly not consistent with RUC rules”. She also found that his death had not been properly investigated.
But his family still do not have the full picture. In the National Archives in London lies a file with Paul’s name on it. The document – titled “Paul Whitters: Killed by a Plastic Baton Round, April 1981” – is closed until 2059.
Explainer: What happened on Bloody Sunday in 1972?
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“I find this deeply shocking,” says Helen. “Why should a file on the death of my 15-year-old child, which happened almost 40 years ago, remain classified for another 40 years?”
Appeal to Bradley
On the anniversary of Paul being inflicted with the fatal injury, Helen today writes to the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Karen Bradley, appealing directly to her to “urgently” review the file’s status and to provide her, as Paul’s mother, with an unredacted copy of the file.
In her letter Helen writes: “I brought Paul into this world. When this file is opened on January 1st, 2059, I will not be alive. No one will still be alive who actually knew Paul as the lovely, handsome, caring, intelligent young man that he was.
“Your government does not have the right to withhold this from my family. You do not have the right to withhold this from his two brothers and sister.”
The file’s existence was uncovered by the Pat Finucane Centre, a human rights organisation that supports the Whitters family. It has also found files relating to other victims of plastic bullets in the North, including 11-year-old Stephen McConomy, which are closed until 2071.
“It is extremely unusual that there would be a file relating specifically to a named individual,” says Paul O’Connor, director of the centre.
“Helen has deliberately chosen not to put in a Freedom of Information request, which might result in a heavily redacted file being made available.
“Instead she is making a direct appeal as Paul’s mother to the Secretary of State to release the file to Paul’s family. This is a file which is named after her son, and it is her right as a mother to access the information in it.”
Paul and his older brother Desmond were born in Scotland; six years after his death, she moved back to Glasgow with her two youngest children: Aidan, who had been only a baby when Paul died, and Emma, born two years afterwards.
“I thought the two of them needed the bigger picture of the world,” says Helen. “I didn’t want them to be defined by people always saying, ‘That’s that wee boy’s sister’, or ‘That’s Paul Whitters’s brother, do you remember him?’
“They had the right to live their own lives.”
Helen, now 72, lives in Glasgow, where she spends much of her time looking after her two grandchildren. She continues to campaign on her son’s behalf.
“What could there be in this file about a 15-year-old schoolboy? Is it because there’s stuff in the file, nothing to do with Paul perhaps, that they don’t want publicised?
“If we don’t do our best to get these things opened up to the public, people will never understand.
“Even people here where I live haven’t a clue about what happened in Northern Ireland – they wouldn’t believe the half of it. It’s important that they know what happened and about how people were treated when it did happen.”
Paul would be 53 if he were still alive. “He might well have been a proud and loving father and husband,” Helen writes. “Who knows what he might have achieved?
“I owe it to him to ensure that his file is not allowed to gather dust in a vault in London simply because it is seen as too embarrassing for the establishment.”
With many thanks to: The Irish Times and Freya McClements for the original story
Remembering 12-year-old Kevin Heatley who was shot dead by British soldiers in occupied Ireland on this day in 1973. The Ministry of Defence offered his family £750 compensation. The British deemed that sum to be “the acceptable rate for a minor”.
With many thanks to the: Crimes of Britain for the original posting
John Kelly, whose brother Michael died during Bloody Sunday, during a press conference in reaction to the prosecution announcement
One former British paratrooper is to be charged in connection with the killings of civil rights demonstrators in Northern Ireland on Bloody Sunday in January 1972.
The decision was announced by Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service (PPS) after relatives of the 13 people who died on one of the darkest days of the Troubles marched together through the streets of Derry where the victims fell.
The director of public prosecutions for Northern Ireland, Stephen Herron, said: “It has been concluded that there is sufficient available evidence to prosecute one former soldier, Soldier F, for the murder of James Wray and William McKinney, and for the attempted murders of Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe Mahon and Patrick O’Donnell.
“In respect of the other 18 suspects, including 16 former soldiers and two alleged Official IRA members, it has been concluded that the available evidence is insufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction.”
Bloody Sunday timeline: from 1972 killings to charges against soldier
On their way to the City hotel, where details of the charges were first revealed to the families, the relatives paused to sing the civil rights anthem We Shall Overcome. The PPS then formally announced the prosecution decisions in Derry’s Guildhall.
The former serviceman has not been named and will only be identified by the letters used during the 12-year-long Saville inquiry into the events of Bloody Sunday.
The inquiry found the killings were unjustified and that none of the 14 dead was carrying a gun, no warnings were given, no soldiers were under threat and the troops were the first to open fire.
As well as the 13 who died on the day, 15 others were shot and injured. One of the injured died months later from an inoperable tumour; some consider him the 14th fatality.
Bloody Sunday: the two deaths that led to prosecution
William McKinney, 27
A printer at the Derry Journal newspaper, he was shot dead after he left the safety of cover to try to assist Gerard McKinney (not a relation), who had been shot moments before. He was shot from behind as he bent over.
James Wray, 22
Had been working in England and was engaged. He was shot twice in Glenfada Park. The first bullet travelled “superficially” from right to left across his body, the second bullet entered his back and travelled from right to left.
Photograph: Bloody Sunday Trust/PA
The PPS said prosecutors would now consider charges against others in relation to allegations of perjury relating to the reports surrounding Bloody Sunday.
Herron added: “I am mindful that it has been a long road for the families to reach this point and today will be another extremely difficult day for them.
“There has been a level of expectation around the prosecution decisions in the light of the findings of the Bloody Sunday inquiry. However, much of the material which was available for consideration by the inquiry is not admissible in criminal proceedings due to strict rules of evidence that apply.
“We recognise the deep disappointment felt by many of those we met with today. As prosecutors, we are required to be wholly objective in our approach.”
Bloody Sunday: the victims
In its explanation of the decision, the PPS statement says: “In some cases the only evidence of what individual soldiers did was contained within their own accounts [to the inquiry], which are inadmissible against them.”
Soldier F is to be prosecuted for two murders and four attempted murders in the Bogside streets of Glenfada Park North and Abbey Park.
Responding to the PPS decisions, the defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, said the government would foot the bill for the former paratrooper’s defence: “We are indebted to those soldiers who served with courage and distinction to bring peace to Northern Ireland. The welfare of our former service personnel is of the utmost importance and we will offer full legal and pastoral support to the individual affected by today’s decision. This includes funding all his legal costs and providing welfare support.
“The Ministry of Defence is working across government to drive through a new package of safeguards to ensure our armed forces are not unfairly treated.
“And the government will urgently reform the system for dealing with legacy issues. Our serving and former personnel cannot live in constant fear of prosecution.”
A statement on behalf of all of the families was read out in Derry’s Guildhall by four of the relatives of those who died.
John Kelly opened, saying: “I was going to say good morning, but I don’t think it is. There’s a terrible disappointment at the outcome … We have travelled a long journey since out brothers were brutally slaughtered on our streets … The full cost of Bloody Sunday cannot be measured just in those who died that day.” The shootings deepened and prolonged the conflict, he said.
Alana Burke explained that the three aims of the relatives’ campaign had been to overturn the “whitewash” of the initial inquiry led by Lord Widgery, have the innocence of the victims recognised and pursue prosecutions of the soldiers responsible for the killings. The third aim had now been achieved, she added.
Michael McKinney continued: “If these crimes had been investigated properly and evidence gathered then the outcome today would have been different … There can be no statute of limitations used to deny justice, no new laws to protect state killers.”.
Geraldine Doherty said: “Today’s decision is 47 years overdue … Killers should not be given anonymity.” She called for those who were in charge of the army operation to also face prosecution, saying:. “If the senior officer in charge of the police operation at Hillsborough [can face charges] then so too can those who were in charge on Bloody Sunday. There can’t be one law for for the military and political elite and another law for the others.”
With many thanks to: The Guardian and Owen Bowcott Legal affairs coresspondent for the original story
More than three and a half years – yes, three and a half years! – after the conclusion of all the evidence in the inquest into the murder of Roseanne Mallon, Sir Reginald Weir sat down in Nisi Prius court in Belfast city centre and declared he could find neither direct nor indirect evidence of collusion between the loyalist killers and any state agency in the case.
He had a rather sore throat and coughed regularly throughout, reaching for the glass of water at his side to help him through; reading out his findings for 50 minutes was a challenge for his larynx.
And listening to the verdict, one is tempted to say he might as well not have bothered.
He outlined a litany of issues of concern, missing interview notes, police journals, ID line-ups which never took place, fingerprint tests which weren’t carried out, British army surveillance videos which had been erased and logs which were not all available. He rehearsed shoddy communication, failure to share information, mysterious witnesses who can no longer be traced, a shadowy forensic unit staffed by incompetent personnel. He regretted many of the failings as unhelpful. He bemoaned the way in which Special Branch routinely failed to co-operate with murder inquiries.
But he refused – from this inventory of failures, mistakes, obstructions and malfunctions – to draw any inferences that will discommode former members of RUC Special Branch, current MI5 personnel and other state agents. He refused to draw conclusions from the British army, 6-man, 24 hour-a-day surveillance on (and situated 500 yards from) the property targeted in the attack on Roseanne. He avoided any allocation of blame for the wiping of video records and incomplete log records.
While noting that the seller of the car used in the attack said that he could identify the person to whom he had sold the car and would be prepared to participate in an ID parade, provided he was not visible to the suspect, Sir Reginald baldly states that the police never came back to him. There are, however, no conclusions to be drawn from that as to incompetence or more suspicious motives to make the Retired Police Officers Association sit uneasily at their breakfast.
The murder weapon and ammunition were part of a notorious consignment brought into the north of Ireland in circumstances where British security agencies were complicit. Widespread allegations of collusion in relation to these weapons is not thought worthy of mention by the Coroner.
While deploring the failure of Special Branch to provide relevant information to the murder investigation, he refused to be drawn on whether that investigation had been undermined or the perpetrators thereby protected. His tone was along the lines of: “I am simply unable to say.”
The immediate facts of the assassination are uncontested.
76-year-old Roseanne Mallon was gunned down in her sister’s house on the night of 8th May 1994. Loyalists drove to the house in rural east Tyrone, ran up the drive and round to the back where they opened fire through the living room window. Roseanne’s sister, Brigid, had been on the phone to her daughter who lives across the road. The daughter saw the car arrive and told her mother to get everyone safe. Brigid whispered to Roseanne that she should move out of the room and went back into the hallway. Roseanne was just getting up from the sofa, hindered by her arthritis, when the bullets came through the window, breaking up into fragments in their flight and causing multiple injuries to the head and limbs and, catastrophically, to the trunk. Roseanne died at the scene.
These immediate facts are not in doubt. It is the wider questions concerning the shooting that are the cause of controversy.
Roseanne’s family is convinced that there was collusion in this case. The UVF attack was aimed at the family; Roseanne was an acceptable victim in a wider campaign aimed at republican families in general; targetting the more vulnerable members of those families was a way of terrorising the suspected republican activists in the family and the wider republican community in general. The pattern in this case is replicated in many other shootings carried out by loyalists across the north in circumstances where police officers have threatened that such attacks by loyalists would take place.
As information and wider evidence became available either by accident or through discovery by the courts, the family’s conviction that Roseanne was a casualty of wider collusion became clearer. The extensive undercover army surveillance on the family residence and engineering works was only revealed when the surveillance equipment was discovered overlooking the premises two months after the shooting. The information was not volunteered to the family nor even to the RUC team investigating the murder. Only during the course of the inquest did court orders then lead to the disclosure of partial video records and incident logs, which had not been shared with the murder investigation team by Special Branch.
Special Branch institutional control over this and many other killings was revealed only during the inquest hearings when the existence of an hitherto unknown forensic unit emerged. The Weapons and Explosives Research Centre (WERC) had privileged access to ballistics before the Forensic Science Laboratory. Whether the personnel in WERC were incompetent or dissimulating, their role inhibited the proper investigation of the murder and allowed more sand to be kicked into the eyes of those seeking to expose what really happened. WERC analysis was wildly inaccurate in respect of the previous history of the murder weapon.
The notorious Portadown loyalist, Billy Wright, was mentioned by Sir Reginald in respect of two deeply suspicious issues: the fact that his car is highly likely to have been in the vicinity of the Mallon home (a deeply rural area where passing through traffic is very unusual) in the days before the shooting; and that he was arrested while driving between Armagh and Portadown in the immediate aftermath of the shooting along with two other un-named suspects. These three men were held in Gough Barracks for three days and interviewed. The notes of these interviews were no longer available due to an asbestos scare in the building which had led to documents being destroyed. In respect of this, the coroner reserved perhaps his strongest comments wondering at the fact that the information had not been preserved safely rather than “allowing workmen to carry off sensitive confidential documents without recording the material”. However, rather than being able to add this to a litany of unusual or suspicious lacunae, once again Sir Reginald contented himself by describing the absence of these documents as “unhelpful” to the work of the inquest.
Most surprisingly, Sir Reginald failed to mention Billy Wright in relation to perhaps the most crucial issue; whether he was a paid agent of the state, as has been claimed by many, on many occasions. This was an issue which was addressed at considerable length during the inquest hearings. While police witnesses relied on their tired formula of neither confirming or denying whether particular individuals were paid state agents, the judge pointed out – rather robustly – that when a suspected informant (such as Billy Wright) is dead, their safety is no longer at risk and therefore exposing them is not prohibited.
Yet when it came to his findings overall, Sir Reginald followed the rules by saying nothing at all about Billy Wright and his status as a paid agent.
In all this, the coroner failed to define collusion; he simply said he could find none on the basis of the evidence before him.
Yet consider the following from the Smithwick Report into allegations of collusion between the IRA and members of An Garda Siochana:
“23.1.2 Collusive acts are, by their very nature, surreptitious. Absent a phone call or incriminating bank transfer, if collusion has occurred, the evidence of it will almost certainly be difficult to find…”
Notwithstanding these difficulties, Judge Smithwick nevertheless adopted (see p. 16) the following definition for the purposes of his inquiry:
“… The issue of collusion will be examined in the broadest sense of the word. While it generally means the commission of an act, I am of the view that it should also be considered in terms of an omission or failure to act. In the active sense, collusion has amongst its meanings to conspire, connive or collaborate. In addition I intend to examine whether anybody deliberately ignored a matter or turned a blind eye to it or have pretended ignorance or unawareness of something one ought morally, legally or officially to oppose”.
The Police Ombudsman also addressed the issue of collusion in some remarks in the Loughinisland report, at page 6:
“I am of the view that individual examples of neglect, incompetence and/or investigative failure are not (de facto) evidence of collusion.
“However, a consistent pattern of investigative failures may be considered as evidence of collusion depending on the context and specifics of each case. This is particularly the case when dealing with police informants, who were participating in crime.”
In the end, he also adopted the same working definition as Judge Smithwick.
When these considerations are borne in mind and applied to the pattern of the evidence at the inquest into Roseanne Mallon’s murder, it can be readily seen why her family are so angry. Withheld evidence, apparent incompetence, Special Branch obstruction, destruction of evidence, failure to carry out routine investigative actions, prolonged furtive surveillance, the suspected presence of paid informants: all these fit into the patterns set out by Judge Smithwick and Dr Michael Maguire. The collusion is self-evident.
At best, by emphasising that he could not make a finding of collusion based on the evidence in front of him, Sir Reginald may have been signalling that suspected collusion has still not been found. However, it was open to him to move the debate forward by inferring that the pattern of behaviour and coincidence before him was both suspicious and surreptitious.
In the end, like Pontius Pilate, he seemed to prefer to wash his hands of the matter.
With many thanks to: Relativies for Justice (RFJ) and Mike Ritchie for the original posting