Murdered on this day Carol Ann Kelly, aged 12-years-old, 22nd May 1981

Carol Ann Kelly, murdered 22nd May 1981 (12) murdered by the British army, died three days after being shot by plastic bullet while walking along Cherry Park, Twinbrook, Belfast

With many thanks to: Saoirse Eire 32 Tiocfaidh Ar La for the original posting

Ballymurphy inquest: Rifles ‘may have been in paramilitary hands’

An inquest is examining the murders of 10 people shot dead by the British Army Parachute Regiment at Ballymurphy in August 1971

Loyalist and republican paramilitary groups and the Army may have possessed the weapons most likely used in the Ballymurphy shootings, according to expert witnesses.

An inquest is looking into the shooting dead of 10 people in the area in west Belfast in August 1971.

A report was presented to the court on Wednesday from ballistics experts.

They are acting on behalf of the Coroner’s Service, the Ministry of Defence and the victims’ next of kin.

Ballymurphy shootings: Who were the victims?
Joan Connolly, Noel Phillips, Daniel Teggart, and Joseph Murphy were fatally shot in an area of waste ground near the Henry Taggart base on 9 August 1971, the day that internment without trial was introduced.

It is thought that almost all of the victims were struck by bullets from a rifle, although it is possible that Noel Phillips was not.

He was struck by 9mm bullets, which may have been fired by a military pistol or a submachine gun on semi or automatic fire.

Intelligence reliability challenged

Some of the rifle bullets could be clearly identified as having come from an SLR weapon (self-loading rifle), identical to those issued to British soldiers.

However, the experts quoted police intelligence that such SLR weapons could also have been in the possession of both republican and loyalist paramilitaries at the time.

The 1971 shootings took place during the introduction of internment without trail

A barrister for Joan Connolly’s family challenged the reliability of that intelligence.

The question arose of exactly when SLR weapons fell into paramilitary hands.

Turning to the injuries of the victims, the ballistics experts told the court:

Joan Connolly was shot three to four times and a fragment of an SLR round was found in her body
Noel Phillips was shot three to four times, at least twice by 9mm bullets, one of which was recovered from his body
Daniel Teggart was shot eight to 11 times but no bullets were recovered
Joseph Murphy was struck at least once in the thigh and a bullet fragment recovered after an exhumation of his body was of a rifle type, which could have included an SLR

‘No evidence of victims firing weapons’
The experts could not say whether the victims had been moving or static when shot or where the shooters had been located.

They agreed that all the shots could have come from the Henry Taggart Army base but could also have come from several other places, such as the waste ground, Vere Foster school, Springmartin and the Springfield Road.

The experts also agreed that none of the victims had been shot from a range closer than about a metre (3ft 4in).

Three of the victims – Joan Connolly, Noel Phillips and Joseph Murphy – could not have been shot by the kind of Mauser rifle that Witness X – the so-called Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) interlocutor – has claimed was being fired by the loyalist paramilitary group that day.

Witness X has not given oral evidence to the inquest.

The Manse field area in Ballymurphy is opposite the Henry Taggart Hall

The ballistics experts also agreed there was no evidence that any of the victims had been firing weapons, although it was noted that their clothes had not been scientifically examined.

Michael Mansfield QC, the barrister for the family of Noel Phillips, spoke at length with Ann Kiernan, a ballistics expert for the next of kin.

Miss Kiernan used a mannequin and tracking rods to demonstrate to the court the positions of Mr Phillips’ injuries.

She agreed with Mr Mansfield’s suggestion that it was possible that Mr Phillips could have been shot by a pistol held as close as two or more feet away, as he lay face down on the ground with an arm raised.

But she could not discount the possibility that the weapon, either a pistol or a sub machine gun, had been fired from the Henry Taggart base or elsewhere.

The court heard that two other victims, Father Hugh Mullan and Francis Quinn, could have been shot by SLRs.

They died on waste ground near Springfield Park on 9 August 1971.

The evidence came in another agreed note from ballistics experts.

They agreed:

Fr Mullan was shot at least twice by rifle bullets while kneeling or lying down and those bullets could have come from an SLR
Frank Quinn was shot in the head by an SLR bullet, which some experts think may have first passed through Fr Mullan, who was beside him
Frank Quinn could not have been shot by the UVF Mauser rifle described by Witness X

With many thanks to: BBCNI and Will Leitch for the original story

 

RUC/PSNI murder plot discussion apparently ‘recorded by MI5’

Colin Duffy, 51, is accused of directing terrorism and being a member of the IRA

An undercover MI5 agent has told a court of how recordings were made of three men allegedly discussing a failed murder attempt on police.

Colin Duffy, 51, Henry Fitzsimons, 50, and 57-year-old Alex McCrory are on trial at Belfast Crown Court.

They face a range of terrorist-related offences connected to a gun attack on the PSNI in 2013.

All three men deny preparing and directing terrorism and being in the IRA.

Mr Fitzsimons and Mr McCrory also deny attempting to murder police and possession of two AK47 assault rifles and ammunition with intent to endanger life.

The charges relate to a gun attack on a police convoy in the Crumlin Road area of Belfast on 5 December 2013.

On Tuesday, the court heard evidence from the MI5 officer, known as witness 9281, on video and audio surveillance carried out on three men in December 2013.

Harry Fitzsimmons, 50, is accused of attempting to murder members of the RUC/PSNI Image copyright © PACEMAKER

However, before the witness was sworn in, defence lawyers said they would be seeking to exclude three audio exhibits.

They said the exhibits were at the centre of the prosecution case.

Speaking from behind a curtain, the MI5 officer said he placed 15 audio devices at a park in Lurgan in December 2013.

The security service officer also confirmed he placed video recording equipment and that its images were transmitted directly to MI5.

‘Grounds of national security’
He was asked by a defence lawyer about a statement he made saying he replaced one of the audio devices.

However, in cross-examination, he said he placed all 15 audio devices at the same time.

When asked about the technical details of the devices and their recording capabilities, he replied a number of times: “I am not sure I can answer that on the grounds of national security.”

Alex McCorey, 57, is accused of attempting to murder members of the RUC/PSNI Image copyright © PACEMAKER

The judge, sitting without a jury in the Diplock-style trial, has heard the surveillance operation was carried out the day after the gun attack on a police convoy in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast, in which 14 shots were fired at a three-vehicle patrol by two gunmen.

At an earlier hearing, the prosecution claimed the accused can be identified from the covert video footage and from an hour-long audio recording of them as they talked in a public park in Lurgan, known as Demesne Park.

Prosecution case
It is the prosecution’s case that an analysis of the audio recordings by two voice recognition experts provided strong to moderately strong support that the defendants were those captured discussing how to go forward “in light of Ardoyne, and how the leadership were regrouping”.

The prosecution lawyer further alleged this was supported by the video recordings, as the clothing worn by the three suspects in the Demense Park were similar to that seized from the defendants following their arrests.

“The prosecution case is that the three men present and recorded talking in Demense Lane are Duffy, Fitzsimons and McCrory,” counsel claimed.

“The three defendants are close associates and have been seen together by police prior to the meeting and are also friends,” added the lawyer, who further claimed the men spoke using their first names.

Further proof
The voice analysis evidence of the conversation, which the prosecution alleged was not a “normal one” as it involved “an operation which had not gone to plan, and the failings and difficulties in arming a terrorist organisation”, was further proof of the men’s guilt.

The prosecution told the court the men’s discussions lasted almost an hour and “related almost exclusively to terrorism… there was no discussion about everyday issues”.

The trial continues.

With many thanks to: BBCNI and Dan Stanton for the original story

On this day…On 14th May 1978, over 1,000 people joined the Drumm family family for the unveiling of this Celtic cross at Máire Drumm’s gravesite in Milltown Cemetery, Belfast.

(Máire was assassinated by loyalist thugs while she was in Mater Hospital on 28 October 1976)

With many thanks to: Ireland’s Own and Gréine Ni Dhochartaigh for the original posting.

Follow this link to find out more about Ireland’s Own and LIKE their FACEBOOK page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1717703778460660/

Ballymurphy Inquest: Man saw brother ‘being shot by soldier’

Ten people were murdered in the shootings at Ballymurphy in West Belfast 1971

A man has told the Ballymurphy Inquest in Belfast that he stood at his bedroom window and watched his elder brother being shot by the Army.

Robert Russell’s house overlooked the Manse field area and he said he was aware of shooting and screaming there when he looked out.

He said he was 12 or 13 years old at the time.

Gerard Russell survived the shooting, but suffers from ill-health and has not given evidence to the current inquest.

Ballymurphy shootings: Who were the victims?
The inquest is looking into the fatal shootings of 10 people in Ballymurphy in west Belfast in August 1971.

The shootings happened amid disturbances sparked by the introduction of internment without trial in Northern Ireland.

Manse field area opposite the Henry Taggart Hall

Robert Russell who told the court he recalled watching an Army Saracen drive from the Henry Taggart Army base, across the road and into the field, where several British soldiers climbed out.

He said he watched one soldier walk over to a clump of felled trees in the Manse field and use his rifle to shoot someone lying prone on the ground several times.

Mr Russell said he watched the body jerk.

He then saw a different soldier with others over at the gates of the field, which led to the Springfield Road.

He recognised his 19-year-old brother Gerard by his coat, and saw that he was trying to leave the field where he had been taking cover.

Robert Russell said the soldier fired a handgun at his brother around three times.

Again, he saw the body jerk.

He told the court that at this time he did not see anyone in the field with a weapon or firing at the Army.

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

He did say that some hours earlier he had listened as a man a number of yards away from him on Glenalina Road had fired 20-30 rounds from an automatic weapon at the Henry Taggart Army base.

He remembered hearing later that it was a member of the Official IRA using a sub-machine gun.

He recalled that local people were angry with the gunman for putting everyone around him in danger.

Robert Russell, who was one of a number of republican prisoners that broke out of the Maze Prison in September 1983, has already testified at the inquest with regard to the death of John McKerr.

Mr McKerr, a 49-year-old former soldier with the Scottish Fusiliers, was shot outside the old Corpus Christi Parish.

He had been working as a joiner at Corpus Christi Church on Westrock Drive in west Belfast.

He was shot and injured on 11 August 1971, and died in hospital a week later.

During Robert Russell’s evidence on Wednesday, he was challenged about differences in his various statements since the late 1990s.

Taking cover
Later, a man told the inquest he had lain under fire in the Manse field alongside two young boys, one of whom was later shot and badly injured.

Francis Notarantonio said that after the shooting started he had been running for cover alongside Noel Phillips, who was shot and went down screaming.

Mr Phillips was one of four people who died from their injuries sustained in the Manse field that day.

Mr Notarantonio, who was 14 years old at the time, said when he took cover seconds later near a fallen tree he was with Martin and Edward Butler, who were aged nine and 11.

He said he encouraged the boys to get down and take cover.

As they lay there he said he later saw soldiers arrive in an armoured vehicle and saw a soldier fire some shots towards the ground.

He could not see at what or whom the soldier was aiming.

He described how Edward later made a run towards a gap in a fence and was shot in the upper thigh, and seriously injured.

Mr Notarantonio said he held Martin down to stop him from trying to make the same run after his elder brother.

Later some people from nearby houses helped the boys to escape after dark.

Both Butler brothers have already testified at the inquest.

Mr Notarantonio said he did not see shooting from the field or anyone there with a weapon.

With many thanks to: BBCNI for the original story

 

The life of spymaster Gordon Kerr

Belfast, the North of Ireland

 

 

BRIGADIER Gordon Kerr is one of the most high-achieving soldiers in the British army – but he is also one of the most controversial men to have ever put on a military uniform.

Brigadier Gordon Kerr, from Amberdeen

He is seen as the mastermind of the Dirty War in the North of Ireland – which saw multiple murders carried out by double agents who were working for British intelligence inside terrorists organisation.

The machinations of the Dirty War are the stuff of spy novels. In some cases, agents were allowed to carry out acts of terror, including murder, simply to keep their cover inside paramilitary groups.

In other cases, officers who ran agents – known as handlers – passed intelligence to their informants which was then used to prepare assassinations. The Force Research Unit which Kerr headed was the key unit involved in running agents.

However, it’s a long way from Aberdeen where Kerr was born in 1948 to the back streets of Belfast or the bandit country of south Armagh. After graduating from a Scottish university in 1970, Kerr was commissioned in the Gordon Highlanders – and his talents quickly became obvious.

His high level of education, which was relatively unusual for officers at the time, marked him out when he arrived at Glencorse, the training depot for the British army in Scotland, in 1971.

READ MORE: Officer to be questioned by police over Stakeknife

Stakeknife

Second Lieutenant Kerr – army number 489090 and nicknamed Craigie by his friends – was posted to Cyrpus, and then to the North of Ireland in 1972, at the time when the Troubles were at their most bloody.

He was appointed an Intelligence Officer and began his undercover work. Dressed in civvies, he grew long hair to fit in with the civilian population, and drove an undercover scout car which was permanently being resprayed.

By the time he finished his first tour of duty, he’d helped arrested four leading Provos. In 1974, he was made a captain and posted to the British army’s Intelligence Training Centre in 1975.

He was briefly with the ‘Det’ – the SAS-trained 14th Intelligence Company, the forerunner of the FRU – before been sent to the army’s HQ in Ulster and transferring from the Gordon Highlanders to the Intelligence Corp.

He vanishes off the map for a while, but by the early 1980s he was a major and posted to Berlin at the height of the Cold War.

His job was taking on the Soviet KGB and the East German Stasi. Colleagues from that period found him too maverick, though they still praised him as a brilliant spy. One described him as ‘the spook’s spook’.

In Berlin, he was commander of Three Intelligence and Security Company, known as Three I-Spy. Stasi files show that Kerr’s men carried out more ‘flag tours’ – secret intelligence missions – than the French and US military intelligence put together. One officer who served with Kerr said his tactics were ‘pointlessly aggressive’.

Men who served with Kerr at the time describe him as ‘drunk with power’ – a brilliant soldier who lived by his own rules and was prepared for the ends to justify the means as long as that was in Britain’s interests.

After Berlin, he was a senior instructor with the Special Intelligence Wing in Ashford, Kent. At Ashford, Kerr and his Northern Irish wife – a school teacher who we have chosen not to name – were later involved in resettling British army agents whose cover had been blown in Ulster.

READ MORE: Officer to be questioned by police over Stakeknife

In 1987, Kerr, now a colonel, became Officer Commanding the FRU. It was then that civilians started to die in Ireland at the hands of loyalist gunmen aided and abetted by the security forces.

One FRU source said: ‘My unit was guilty of conspiring in the murder of civilians in Ulster on about 14 occasions. We were able to take out leading Provos with the help of the UDA. It was a great military coup.’

One of the FRU’s main agents was the loyalist Brian Nelson, a former Black Watch solider who became the UDA’s chief intelligence officer. Nelson was later convicted of 20 charges, including five of conspiracy to murder and sentenced to 10 years in prison, even though Kerr gave evidence for him in court using the cover name Colonel J.

Pat Finucane, a prominent human rights lawyer who represented republicans, was killed in 1989 after alleged collusion between FRU officers and loyalist paramilitaries, including Nelson. Kerr was later promoted to Brigadier.

There have been accusations that if FRU handlers discovered one of their terrorist agents was being targeted by rival paramilitaries that they would redirect assassins to innocent civilians in order to protect their informers.

There are also claims that the FRU callously allowed agents, who were deemed to have ‘passed their sell by date’, to be captured, tortured and killed rather than help extract them from Ulster.

The IRA’s Internal Security Unit, which Stakeknife helped run, is known to have used grotesque acts of torture on those they suspected of being a ‘tout’ or informer. Such torture included sitting victims naked on top of electric cookers.

Kerr has what is termed ‘protezione’ – the Mafia word for protection. After his time in Ulster, he was made military attache to the British embassy in Beijing – making him the effective joint number two in Britain’s entire military intelligence operation.

His promotion would have been approved by the then chief of the defence staff, General Sir Charles Guthrie, who was also Int Corp’s colonel-commandant.

After Beijing it is unclear what path Kerr’s career took, though there were rumours he was involved in British military intelligence in Iraq.

However, the Herald on Sunday has learned that Kerr has now retired from the army – potentially making it easier for any detectives to question him about the activities of Stakeknife and the FRU.

The MoD said with respect to Kerr and Operation Kenova: ‘We are assisting police in their investigation. As the investigation is ongoing it would be inappropriate to comment further.’

With many thanks to the: Herald on Sunday and Neil Mackay for the original story

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