Pensioner quizzed on IRA death
MP Elliott angry as police question 75-year-old ex-Marine about 1972 Belfast firefight
An Ulster Unionist MP has hit out at police who questioned a former Royal Marine in hospital about the death of an IRA terrorist over 40 years ago.
Tom Elliott said it is “terribly frustrating that these former soldiers who are now pensioners are being subjected to such lines of interrogation by the police.”
Mr Elliott was responding to the news that a 75-year-old Chelsea Pensioner had been interviewed by police over the killing of an IRA terrorist during a firefight in Belfast back in 1972.
A new PSNI unit, the Legacy Investigations Branch, is investigating every Army killing during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
This unit has been tasked with investigating 238 fatal incidents in which 302 people died.
It is thought this could involve quizzing around 1,000 former servicemen, many of who are now in their 60s and 70s, and who could potentially face charges of murder or manslaughter.
“This is terribly frustrating,” said Mr Elliott.
“Ninety per cent of the killings in Northern Ireland were carried out by terrorists and 10% by the security forces.
“When you look at the breakdown of the investigations, these percentages switch and there are more servicemen being investigated compared to terrorists.
“This man is a former Marine who was serving the community against terrorists that murdered innocent people. I have no idea why the police are going down this route.
“There seems to be an unfair balance when it comes to investigating such crimes. I don’t see any investigations by the Legacy Investigation Branch into the Enniskillen bombing in 1987, yet there are a number of ongoing cases looking into Bloody Sunday.
“These former soldiers were serving the community and protecting them from terrorists.
“It was a long time ago but to try and bring charges to men protecting the community over 40 years ago is frustrating for everyone.”
Speaking to the Daily Mail, the Chelsea Pensioner, who did not wish to be identified, said: “I am now under suspicion. My case is an example of how far these people are willing to go. Are they going to look for 95-year-old Normandy veterans next?
“It does not matter if you’ve served for 22 years in the Army and in the Marines, these people are still going to chase you.
“It does not even matter if you live in a castle in Scotland, a council estate in England, or a magnificent place like the Royal Hospital Chelsea, these people will still want to find you.”
This particular inquiry regards the death of an alleged IRA gunman who died in an Army ambush in Belfast in July 1972.
The veteran said he fired at the armed man during a battle as “bullets rained down in all directions.”
The ex-Royal Marine, who was awarded a ‘certificate of appreciation’ by the commander of Northern Ireland operations, praising him for his ‘good service’ and ‘devotion to duty’, is thought to be the first Chelsea Pensioner to be questioned over historic killings in Northern Ireland.