The character of the soldier likely to have fired the bullet that killed Kathleen Thompson at her home in Londonderry in 1971 and the credibility of his evidence came under intense scrutiny yesterday during the fresh inquest into her death.
Identified as ‘Soldier D’ and hidden from public view, the Army man was back in the witness box on the third day of the hearing in Derry.
The 47 year-old mother of six died in disputed circumstances in the back garden of her home in Rathlin Drive, Creggan, 46 years ago while an arrest operation was being carried out by the Army at a neighbour’s house.
Karen Quinlivan, representing the Thompson family, raised aspects of Soldier D’s record of service with the army.
Soldier D admitted that he had “bits and pieces of trouble” during his 26-year career which he said were in relation to “drunkenness and fighting”.
Ms Quinlivan pointed out that according to his Army personnel file he was also convicted of “larceny” and drink-driving which she said could hardly be the “unblemished” career which Soldier D had suggested.
Ms Quinlivan dissected the statements given by Soldier D in 1971 to the Royal Military Police and in 2010 to the Historical Enquiries Team – parts of which were contrary to statements given by three other soldiers who were present on the night Mrs Thompson died.
Ms Quinlivan suggested to Soldier D that he was wrong about where he said he was positioned, wrong about hearing a shot being fired, wrong about seeing a “flash” and hearing a “bang” and his recollection was “inconsistent” with other evidence from military witnesses. Soldier D denied this saying he believed his life was in danger.
She also challenged Soldier D on his firing of another six bullets at a man holding an object with a fuse moments later – something he said later he had no recollection of.
Ms Quinlivan suggested to Soldier D that this was a “total fabrication” and that he had actually fired the six bullets at other soldiers, according to evidence given by Soldier D’s commanding officer.
Soldier D responded by saying his “account at the time was as honest” as he could be – but added: “It is clear to me since then I have completely got it wrong.” He will return to the witness box today.
With many thanks to: Marianne Collins – Friends of Relatives of Justice in Ireland.