Belfast Telegraph

Soldiers 'dead or cannot be traced'

Most of the soldiers involved in the death of a labourer in Northern Ireland more than 40 years ago are dead or cannot be traced, an inquest has been told.

Henry Thornton, from Tullydonnell Cottages in Crossmaglen, was shot in the head in west Belfast.

Ken Boyd, lawyer for the Ministry of Defence, told a preliminary hearing in Belfast that one soldier who had been considered a witness was dead and three others could not be traced.

The Historical Enquiries Team (HET) investigated the killing, but was unable to find the soldiers. Two investigators who have left Northern Ireland after the HET was stood down believe a witness known as soldier A is dead, Mr Boyd said.

At least one soldier has been identified, but it is still unclear whether he will give evidence to the full inquest - which is scheduled for next autumn, the hearing was told.

The MoD has found another potential witness through its pension records, but is still in the process of identification, Mr Boyd said.

A number of personnel records held by the MoD, which provide details like what courses soldiers attended prior to deployment to Northern Ireland, are in the process of being recovered for coroner Jim Kitson.

Mr Kitson characterised the issue around tracing three of the soldiers as a "logjam in the river".

"All efforts should be, and I am quite sure are being, made by your clients (MoD) to remove these obstacles and identify these people."

He fixed a date for next October with the proviso that the "wheels falling off" could not be discounted.

Mr Thornton was in a work van with a colleague when he was shot on the Springfield Road in Belfast.

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