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Belfast man recalls night pregnant teen girlfriend Marian Brown was shot dead in 1972

By Rebecca Black

A man who saw his teenage girlfriend shot dead after kissing her goodnight has told of his pain at losing his "first love".

Thomas Corrigan was just 16 when he saw Marian Brown shot in disputed circumstances in June 1972.

Marian, who was pregnant at the time, had been walking back to her sister's house along Roden Street in west Belfast.

Mr Corrigan, who was also shot and seriously wounded, recalled how the shots rang out after they embraced.

Yesterday he became tearful as he told the inquest in Belfast that he wished he had died instead of Marian.

He said they had known Marian was pregnant, had agreed they were both in love and would get married. They had told Marian's mother earlier that evening.

"Marian was my first love, not only did I lose my future wife, but also our child," he said.

"Marian was one of the most beautiful women and loving people I have ever met and there is not many times go past when I don't think of Marian and wish it was not Marian but me."

Mr Corrigan said he had been walking with 17-year-old Marian and her sister Teresa along the Grosvenor Road where they said farewell. The women crossed the road to Roden Street to continue to Teresa's house on Donegall Avenue where Marian planned to stay the night.

He was walking on to get to his home on the Falls Road when Marian called his name and he crossed the road. They kissed goodnight at the corner of Roden Street and the Grosvenor Road just before the shooting started.

"I grabbed Marian's hand and we ran into Roden Street for shelter, I can't remember if we reached the wall before we were hit," he said.

The inquest last week heard Marian was shot through the neck and would have lost consciousness in seconds and died shortly after. Mr Corrigan was hit by bullets to the face, chest and arm.

He said he didn't remember much more until after the shooting when he saw men in Army uniform holding rifles standing over them as they lay on the ground and then paramedics tending to him.

"I remember asking was Marian okay," he said.

Mr Corrigan was treated in the city's Royal Victoria Hospital for almost a month before being discharged on July 4.

He recalled waking at one point with two men in suits with Northern Irish accents standing at his bedside.

"They were asking, 'what did you do with the guns?' I didn't answer because I had tubes in my mouth. I was in severe pain and very confused about why they were asking me that," he said. "I believe the nurse opened the curtain and asked them to leave because I was getting very distressed."

One intention of the new inquest into Marian's death, being heard in Belfast by Judge David McFarland, is to determine who shot her.

Fiona Doherty QC, for the Brown family, put it to Mr Corrigan that a soldier has given a statement claiming that he had seen flashes from a gun and a figure and heard automatic gun fire coming from the corner of Roden Street and the Grosvenor Road.

Mr Corrigan responded: "Definitely no, there was no one else there... we were actually on the corner."

Kevin Rooney QC, acting for the Ministry of Defence, asked Mr Corrigan why he and Marian had run into Roden Street instead of out of the street.

"We ran to the closest wall, if we had tried to run to the corner we would have been shot down anyway because it would have been too far," Mr Corrigan said.

Mr Rooney put it to Mr Corrigan that if he and Marian had been standing with their backs to the Grosvenor Road they would not have seen a gunman.

Mr Corrigan said: "But we would have heard him."

Mr Corrigan needed surgery to his face, chest and arm where the bullets caused severe damage.

He added: "There is not a day goes by when I don't think about it, every time I look in the mirror I think about that and I think about Marian and I."

Mr Corrigan moved to England a few years after the shooting where he still lives.

Earlier at yesterday's inquest hearing, Marian's sister Teresa revealed that she received two bullets through the letterbox of her then home on Donegall Avenue within days of the shooting.

She said she believed it had happened because her name and address was published in a newspaper after the shooting, and that the second bullet was meant for her child because it had been reported she had been pushing a pram.

Teresa and her family then moved away from the area and did not return.

Ms Brown told the inquest that she believed loyalists had sent the bullets because she was living in a loyalist area.

The inquest is set to continue this morning with evidence from other eyewitnesses.

Later this week it will hear from soldiers who had been on patrol in the area.

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