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Inquest adjourned to find three soldiers at scene of woman's death in Londonderry garden

By Donna Deeney

The inquest into the death of a woman who was shot dead in her back garden in Londonderry in 1971 has been adjourned so further searches for three soldiers present on the night can be carried out.

Kathleen Thompson (47), a mother of six, died during an army search and arrest operation at a neighbour's house in Rathlin Drive in the Creggan area of Derry in November 1971.

The soldier "likely to have fired the fatal shot" - known as Soldier D - spent three days in the witness box in March when he insisted he could not remember the names of three other soldiers referred to as Soldiers A, B and C, who had provided written statements.

Sitting in Coleraine Court, the inquest resumed yesterday but when it emerged the Ministry of Defence (MoD) had not been able to identify these three soldiers the hearing was halted before an army major gave evidence.

At yesterday's hearing, Matthew Lewsley from the MoD's Inquest Review Unit told the Coroner, Sandra Crawford, that the MoD had been unable to identify Soldiers A, B and C from searches of records of the Royal Green Jackets and Royal Anglican Regiments.

Their written statements were read out at the inquest sitting in Derry in March - but the MoD could not produce the original copy which would have had identified them.

However, the barrister representing the Thompson family, Karen Quinlivin, pointed out to Mr Lewsley that the Bloody Sunday Inquiry was able to produce the names of every single soldier present in Derry on January 31, 1972 - just two months after Mrs Thompson was killed.

This included the names of all members of the Royal Green Jackets and Royal Anglican Regiments.

Ms Quinlivin asked Mr Lewsley if he had contacted the Bloody Sunday Inquiry and asked for the list, to which he replied "no" but he would be "happy to do that".

Mr Lewsley explained that he had identified a total of 155 potential names and had reduced this to a more likely 91, which he had written to, but had only received responses from 55.

Ms Quinlivin suggested this might be because an organisation of former soldiers had been set up and was "encouraging former soldiers not to engage" with legacy inquests in Northern Ireland.

She said: "It is pretty evident these are people who don't think they should have to co-operate with this process."

She also suggested to Mr Lewsley that the reason the MoD had been unable to locate the three soldiers was because of the lack of "real engagement" with the legacy inquest process, which Mr Lewsley disputed.

Through their barrister, Mrs Thompson's family said they would be "unhappy" for the inquest to finish without further efforts being made to locate Soldiers A, B and C, which the coroner agreed with.

A letter will be sent from the family's legal representative to the MoD and Coroner's Office outlining the search avenues they want the MoD to pursue to find the three soldiers.

It was agreed that evidence from 'Major Williamson' would be best heard after that of the three soldiers, if they are found.

A preliminary hearing will take place in Laganside Court on June 28.

Belfast Telegraph

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