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Northern Ireland's former state pathologist carried out at least one autopsy on someone shot dead every day of 1972, inquest hears

By Rebecca Black

Northern Ireland's former state pathologist carried out at least one autopsy on someone shot dead every single day of 1972.

Professor Thomas Marshall appeared as an expert witness before a new inquest into the fatal shooting of a pregnant teenager in west Belfast on a June 10, 1972.

Marian Brown (17) was struck by a number of bullets on Roden Street just after midnight as she kissed her boyfriend good night.

A new inquest into her death is seeking to discover whether she shot was by soldiers or paramilitaries as well as establishing other facts around the shooting.

Painting a picture of Northern Ireland in 1972, Professor Marshall said there had been 310 deaths by shooting that year.

"In 1972 we were performing autopsies on deaths by shooting almost once a day, we would get them in groups, three, one, two, four," he told the inquest on Tuesday morning.

Professor Marshall carried out the autopsy on Marian Brown on June 11, 1972 at his former base in Laganbank Road in Belfast,

He described that facility as "rather primitive", describing it as consisting of just three rooms in a stone building with no room for X-ray facilities.

Professor Marshall's original autopsy report described the clothes Marian had been wearing on the night she died as a black and yellow dress with black tights and beige shoes. Her clothes had been left covered in bullet holes.

He recorded she had been struck by three or four bullets. The fatal wound is recorded as being to her neck. She also had wounds to her arms and right knee.

Professor Marshall added the commentary to the autopsy reports that he felt it was more likely that she had been shot by a Thompson submachine gun than an SLR rifle.

The inquest previously heard that soldiers at that time used SLR rifles.

However Professor Marshall said he had changed his view in the last two years after receiving information that was new to him, that there had been a lot of bullets and fragments of bullets ricocheting at the scene where Marian had been shot

A number of other expert witnesses are expected to give evidence to the inquest on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday, including HET pathologist Dr John Clark as well as pathologists Dr Nat Carey and Dr Russell Delaney.

Soldier H is also scheduled to give evidence by video link on Tuesday afternoon.

One of the objectives of the fresh inquest sitting at Belfast Coroners Court is to ascertain who shot Marian.

Her family initially believed she had been killed by loyalists, there were also rumours she was shot by the IRA but on Monday the first day of the inquest heard a fragment of a bullet retrieved from one of the three others shot on the same night was similar to the type of bullet used by soldiers in Belfast at that time.

Marian's family has attended every day of the inquest so far.

The previous inquest in 1974 at Crumlin Road court house lasted just a few hours and recorded an open verdict.

A new inquest into Marian's death was ordered by Attorney General John Larkin following a re-examination of the case by the Historical Enquiries Team, which included a review of ballistics and forensic evidence.

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