A judge has said he expects to hear “a good deal” about the activities of soldiers on a surveillance operation near the scene of a pensioner’s murder 15 years ago.
Roseanne Mallon (76) was shot dead by UVF gunmen as she watched television at a remote country house near Dungannon in May 1994.
A preliminary hearing into the long-running case yesterday was told that an inquest will commence in Belfast on May 17 next year.
The inquest, which could last four weeks, will explore why surveillance soldiers who reported gunfire were ordered “not to react” as the killers escaped.
Yesterday’s hearing was told that the process of considering applications for screening witnesses and possible anonymity could take up to five months.
However Mr Justice Weir, who will preside over the inquest, said that applications from military personnel would have to be fully justified.
“If we have a situation where an old lady was shot we are going to have to find out a good deal about what they were doing there,” he said.
Justice Weir said he would take “a close look” at any proposed redactions, adding that he intended to take “a pretty pragmatic approach”.
“We don’t want people looking for anonymity or screening if all they did that day was lie in a ditch. I do hope we won’t have a rash of needless appeals because that just brings the whole process into disrepute,” he added.
Coroner counsel Sean Doran requested that applications be submitted by December 7, with the process likely to take 18 weeks.
Miss Mallon’s nephew Martin backed Justice Weir’s call for full details on what soldiers were doing at the time of the murder.
“The attitude and approach that he has taken to it is the first positive thing we have seen in a long, long time,” Mr Mallon said.
“All we’re asking for is an inquest, we’ve been asking for that from day one. He wants it taken to a conclusion, so do we. We have asked what call they had for any redactions since the very start.”
Mark Thompson, a director of Relatives for Justice, accompanied Mr Mallon to the hearing and welcomed the development.
“This was a 76-year-old pensioner, a civilian woman, who was killed. There is no need for all this nonsense, the truth just needs to be told,” he said.