Belfast Telegraph

Army killing of IRA man in 1972 was unjustified, rules coroner

Danny Bradley holds a photograph of his brother Seamus, who was shot by a soldier as he ran across a field in Londonderry in 1972
Danny Bradley holds a photograph of his brother Seamus, who was shot by a soldier as he ran across a field in Londonderry in 1972
Seamus Bradley

By David Young, PA

The killing of an IRA man shot by a British soldier as he ran across a field in Londonderry in 1972 was unjustified, a coroner found yesterday.

The shooting of Seamus Bradley (19) has long been a matter of dispute. He was killed by a soldier from the Royal Scots Regiment during Operation Motorman - an Army attempt to gain control of republican areas in Belfast and Derry that had previously been considered no-go zones for the security forces.

The Army claimed the teenager was shot while he was in a tree and suffered additional injuries as he fell.

His family alleged he was killed later, claiming he was taken away in an Army vehicle and sustained fatal injuries while being interrogated.

Coroner judge Patrick Kinney rejected both versions of events at Belfast Coroner's Court.

He said he was satisfied Mr Bradley was killed by a soldier who got out of a Saracen vehicle, dropped to one knee and opened fire. He said he had not been able to confirm the identity of the soldier. He said Mr Bradley was not posing a threat at the time.

"He was running across an open area of ground, he had no weapon and he was clearly visible," he said. "The use of force by the soldier was entirely disproportionate to any threat that might have been perceived."

Outside court Mr Bradley's brother Danny, who has long campaigned for a fresh inquest, said he had faced down a threat from the IRA in Derry to pursue the inquest.

"I am happy with the verdict, very happy with the verdict," he said. "As the judge said, it's 47 years (later), but it's a lot better than the last (inquest) verdict. I am happy I went forward, even with threats from the IRA, and got this situation heard today."

The coroner criticised the first aid provided to Mr Bradley by soldiers and said he could have survived his injuries if he had been treated properly.

Judge Kinney said the initial investigation was "flawed and inadequate" and he would be sending a report on the case to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Speaking afterwards, East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell said: "Individual reports focused solely on the actions of the state cannot paint an accurate picture of what was happening in Northern Ireland at a time when there was a massive escalation in terror.

"We need to have a more accurate picture of what was unfolding at the time or we will see a distorted narrative, increased polarisation in our community and the carrying forward of problems from Northern Ireland's past into our present and future."

Welcoming the coroner's findings, Sinn Fein MLA Raymond McCartney said: "All families bereaved by the conflict are entitled to access to the truth about the deaths of their loved ones."

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