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Bullet found at disputed 1972 pregnant teen shooting was consistent with type used by soldiers, inquest hears

Inquest into 1972 shooting to examine army's role

By Rebecca Black

A new inquest into the fatal shooting of a teenage girl in disputed circumstances more than 40 years ago has heard that a bullet fragment recovered from a man injured in the same incident was consistent with the type used by soldiers.

Marian Brown (17), of Stanhope Drive in Belfast, died just after kissing her boyfriend goodnight on Roden Street just after midnight on June 12, 1972.

She was hit by several shots, but the fatal one was to her neck. At least three others were injured in the same incident.

Just minutes before she died, Marian and her boyfriend Thomas Corrigan had told her mother that she was pregnant and that they were planning to get married. She had been walking from her mother's house on Stanhope Street with her sister Teresa to her house when she was shot.

The family of the west Belfast teen, who worked as a stitcher, initially believed she had been murdered by loyalists. But now a fresh inquest into her death is examining claims she was shot by soldiers.

The first day heard that the inquest has received information from a number of witnesses - some who reported hearing rapid machine gun fire, which would be consistent with the Thompson submachine gun known to be used by the IRA at that time, while others heard single shots, which would be consistent with the SLR weapon which was used by soldiers at that time.

Marian's sister Teresa described seeing shadowy figures moving around the Donegall Road side of the street at the time of the shooting - who were assumed to be loyalist gunmen.

Eye-witness David Clarke told the inquest the area had been turbulent following the relocation of many Protestants from one side of Roden Street to the other, and the burning of homes.

On the night of Marian's death, eight soldiers had been in the area on foot patrol.

Several of them are set to give evidence to the inquest which will include that they saw gunmen.

Retired Forensic Scientist Leo Rossi described a bullet fragment retrieved from Robert Wilson, who survived the incident, as being of the type used by soldiers at that time. He examined the fragment in 2010 following a request by the HET.

He said it was a 7.62 x 51mm bullet, of the type that was discharged by weapons which were used by the army in 1972.

However, he also said he had no evidence to prove the bullet the fragment was from had been fired by the MoD. Other weapons also used this type of bullet.

During this section of evidence, 7.62 bullets and also .45 bullets were shown to the court, as well as an SLR and a Thompson submachine gun.

Earlier on Monday, Marian's older brother Richard was emotional as he described the impact on his family.

He told the inquest that they had been told nothing until the first inquest took place in 1974.

He also had to identify his sister's body twice after the paperwork was lost following the first identification.

"Because (my sister) Teresa was there, she had seen shadows running across the Donegall Road end of the street so up until the inquest we thought it was loyalists (killed Marian)," he told the inquest.

"It was not until two years later that the soldiers were brought back from Germany ... when the three soldiers gave their evidence (at the first inquest) the coroner happened to say to them, 'on a June night you took a girl in a bright summer dress for a gunman'."

He said they never spoke about it to protect their mother, describing a "wall of silence", adding that two older siblings emigrated to Canada after the killing to take their children away from Belfast.

"Marian was just an innocent kid, she was fun-loving, just a normal teenager, loved her music and different things," he told the inquest.

"She was completely innocent, like other young ones killed. They were flower buds that never got to flower, Marian never got to bloom. I was robbed of being a big brother. I was ashamed I couldn't do anything, I was angry at them for robbing us of a sister, a daughter and a friend."

The inquest is scheduled to last for almost three weeks.

A number of witnesses have been scheduled to appear, including pathologists, former soldiers, police officers and an HET investigator.

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