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SAS soldier who took part in ambush of IRA pair 'was also at scene of taxi driver's death'

By Alan Erwin

Published 06/04/2016

Martin McCaughey
Martin McCaughey
Dessie Grew

An SAS soldier involved in the lethal ambush of two IRA men was also present when his military colleagues shot dead a Protestant taxi driver, a court heard.

Lawyers claimed the disclosure should have come earlier, to allow questioning at the inquest into the double killing of republicans Martin McCaughey and Dessie Grew.

McCaughey's sister, Sally Gribben, is continuing to challenge a conclusion that the shootings near Loughgall, Co Armagh in October 1990 were justified.

Her appeal against a previous failed legal bid to have the inquest verdicts quashed is to be heard later this month.

In court yesterday it emerged that a member of the SAS unit who opened fire on the IRA men - Soldier D - was involved in an earlier operation in which civilian Kenneth Stronge was fatally wounded. Mr Stronge (46), was shot as he drove his taxi past an RUC base at North Queen Street in Belfast in July 1988. Four members of an SAS team opened fire on IRA men as they launched a rocket at the barracks from a nearby car.

With more than 80 high velocity bullets fired at the attackers, Mr Stronge was critically wounded. He died three days later.

Counsel for Ms Gribben revealed the link between the two incidents based on new disclosure from the Ministry of Defence.

Karen Quinlivan QC told the Court of Appeal: "Soldier D was involved in the incident of the shooting of Kenneth Stronge. Although he did not deploy his weapon, he was one of six officers (present)."

The development came amid final preparations for the bid to overturn a previous judgment on the McCaughey and Grew inquest. They died after being ambushed at farm buildings. Although armed, neither fired any shots, provoking claims that soldiers could have made arrests. But in May 2012 a jury held that the soldiers used reasonable force.

Ms Gribben's legal team say the inquest did not comply with Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, with two main grounds advanced:

l Failure to disclose to next of kin SAS unit members' roles in other lethal force incidents, and the consequent inability to deploy that information at the inquest.

l Failure to secure the re-attendance of Soldier A to answer questions about his suspected link to the fatal shooting of Francis Bradley by special forces near Toomebridge in February 1986.

Last year a High Court judge dismissed her application for judicial review. He denied the tribunal was rendered ineffective by the non-disclosure of soldiers' links to other lethal force incidents.

Ms Gribben's legal team are appealing the verdict in a further attempt to secure a fresh inquest.

They argue that disclosing details of SAS members' links to other lethal force incidents was central to establishing if an alleged shoot-to-kill policy was in operation. Had details been known at the inquest, an application would have been made to cross-examine the soldiers.

With the appeal listed for April 26, the McCaughey family's lawyer stressed the potential significance of the new disclosure.

Fearghal Shiels of Madden & Finucane Solicitors said outside court: "We contend that the involvement of Soldier D in the fatal shooting of Kenneth Stronge, in which soldiers in the unit of which he was a member fired in excess of 80 rounds in a densely populated urban area, is indicative of the propensity of undercover soldiers to deploy excessive and unjustified force.

"His involvement in this incident is a matter about which the families should have been informed and should have been permitted to question him about at the hearing of this inquest in 2012."

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