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Soldiers at scene of 1972 killing of pregnant teen Marian Brown must be traced, says coroner

By David Young, PA

A coroner has stressed the importance of contacting three soldiers who were at the scene of the disputed killing of a pregnant teenager nearly half-a-century ago.

The former servicemen did not give statements to the original inquest into the death of 17-year-old Marian Brown in Belfast in 1972.

A breakthrough in identifying them came during preparatory work for a new coroner's probe, when another former soldier provided details about his colleagues.

Judge David McFarland, who will preside at the inquest, told a preliminary hearing at Belfast Coroner's Court yesterday that it was crucial the men were traced, noting that it was likely that at least one of them was still alive. A Ministry of Defence lawyer told the coroner an address had been found for one of the men, with enquiries on the other two ongoing.

Miss Brown was shot in the neck just moments after kissing her boyfriend goodnight at Roden Street off the Grosvenor Road in June 1972.

She was struck by a stray bullet amid a reported exchange of gunfire between paramilitaries and the Army.

The source of the fatal round has long been disputed.

The killing was first blamed on republican, and then loyalist, gunmen.

But a review of the case by the police's now-defunct Historical Enquiries Team suggested the shot may actually have been fired by a soldier.

The three soldiers were in an eight-strong patrol that had been in the area at the time of the incident. The other five servicemen gave statements to the original inquest.

"They are potentially central to the incident," said the coroner. "It is possible they are even individuals who discharged weapons.

"We have to look into this seriously. These are not witnesses on the periphery."

Brenda Campbell, representing the Brown family, cautioned against delaying the planning March 27 start date for the inquest.

"It is frustrating that five weeks prior to the hearing date that three new witnesses, who have been here all along, suddenly come to light," she said.

The coroner said he would review progress in tracing the men at the next preliminary hearing on March 10.

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