Belfast Telegraph

Soldier on duty when Marian Brown shot dead accused of inventing gunmen story

By Allan Preston

The army officer who ordered his men to open fire the night a pregnant teenager was killed in a west Belfast shooting 45 years ago, has been accused by a lawyer of manufacturing a story about the presence of three terrorist gunmen.

Marian Brown was 17 when she was shot dead in Roden Street in June 1972. She had just kissed her boyfriend Thomas Corrigan goodnight shortly before 1am when she was shot in the neck.

It has never been proven who killed her, and it remains disputed whether soldiers or terrorist gunmen in a passing car fired the shots that night.

A new inquest was ordered after questions emerged over the velocity of the bullets used.

Yesterday, the commanding officer on Roden Street that night was questioned in court.

Giving evidence from behind a screen, he was referred to only as Soldier E, and insisted that three gunmen were there that evening - the first firing a machine gun from a moving car - and that he had ordered the soldiers to return fire to protect civilians and themselves.

He added that he was unaware a civilian was killed until his debriefing later that night.

This was challenged by a barrister for the Brown family, Fiona Doherty, who said Soldier E's story was contradicted by the testimony of seven civilian witnesses who were on Roden Street that night.

In addition, three other soldiers - named B, C and D - had said they had not seen a car or other gunmen. Only one other witness, Soldier A, has asserted the car and other gunmen were there. On Thursday, Soldier A was accused in court by Ms Doherty of "taking part in a cover-up".

On the night Marian Brown was killed, Soldier E was in charge of a vehicle checkpoint on Roden Street.

He said all his men had SLR rifles which fired a single shot at a time, and that he became suspicious when five civilians walked on to Roden Street.

Soldier E added that, moments later, a car began "creeping round the corner" with machine gun shots aimed at the civilians coming from the back seat.

He said he shouted at civilians to get down and ordered his men to return fire.

Soldier E said he fired three rounds at the car and a further two at a third gunman firing a pistol from outside 26 Roden Street.

Ms Doherty questioned why he had not mentioned shouting at civilians to get down in his original statements.

He insisted: "That's what I would have done."

At this point Marian Brown's brother, Richard Brown, who was facing the soldier, began shaking his head. Addressing him, Soldier E said: "Don't shake your head, please don't do that to me."

Ms Doherty called his order to return fire "reckless in the extreme," however Soldier E said not returning fire "would have left civilians in a dangerous position".

Questioning differences with his original testimony, Ms Doherty asserted there had been no gunman at 26 Roden Street, meaning Soldier E had two shots unaccounted for.

"I've no reason to deviate," he said.

"I know what perjury is. I'm not going to lie as a witness. My statement is what I saw on that night."

Ms Doherty concluded by asking: "I suggest you knew there were civilian casualties. You manufactured the story and thought you could get away with, and would never be charged."

Soldier E responded: "No ma'am."

The inquest continues.

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