Belfast Telegraph

Ballymurphy child saw soldier kill wounded gunshot victim, inquest told

Families of people killed at Ballymurphy outside Laganside Court yesterday
Families of people killed at Ballymurphy outside Laganside Court yesterday

By Brett Campbell

A man who suffered life-changing injuries after being shot as a child during the Ballymurphy massacre saw a soldier shoot a young man in the chest at close range, an inquest has heard.

Edward Butler was only 11 years old when he and his then nine-year-old brother Martin left their aunt's house near Henry Taggart Army base on August 9, 1971.

He recalled how the pair were forced to hide in a ditch in a field opposite the Army base after "intense" gunfire broke out during rioting.

Mr Butler described hearing a man cry out, "I've been shot in the a***", before he fell to the ground.

Soldiers from an armoured car which had entered the field then carried the young man, who was "squealing with pain", over to the vehicle.

"One of the soldiers had a sidearm gun and said, 'F*** up, you c***', and shot him," Mr Butler said.

When asked by MoD barrister Peter Coll, "What made you think he was dead?", the witness said he "stopped making noises" after one or two shots were fired "towards the chest".

Mr Coll asked why Mr Butler omitted the allegations from a 1999 statement and first made the claims in 2012, describing the inconsistency as "slightly remarkable".

"Is there a possibility you have totally misremembered and that it's inaccurate?" he asked.

However, the witness insisted that had "more to do with me trying to forget" the alleged events, and stood by his recollection. Mr Butler also recalled a soldier approaching Joan Connolly, a mother who died at Ballymurphy, but he did not know if she had been shot at that point.

The witness described how his body went into shock after he felt a thump on his right hip that began to get "really hot" and left him with life-changing injuries.

"I looked down and the whole right side of my leg was covered in blood," he said.

"[The bullet] ripped my penis apart, I lost a testicle and couldn't walk for a year. I still can't lift my right foot."

He then crawled towards a barbed wire fence before being "trailed" through and taken to a nearby house, where his wounds were treated before he was taken to hospital.

A witness statement from Elizabeth Donnelly, who provided first aid, recorded the only words spoken by Mr Butler about Joan Connolly at the time: "She was crying for help - she was crying for help and they took her face off."

However, yesterday Mr Butler said he had no memory of seeing Ms Connolly's injury.

He did remember hearing her warning people to stay down and comforting an injured man.

Mr Butler's brother Martin also gave evidence to the inquest and said he saw three armed soldiers exit the Saracen, which "swung" into the field, and saw at least two troopers open fire on wounded people.

He told the inquest he recalled seeing a man being shot by a soldier as he "crouched down" behind a white pillar for cover. "He dropped to the ground," he said. "I put my face down - I did not want him to see me.

"When I looked up, I saw soldiers throwing bodies into the Saracen."

An MoD lawyer pointed out a number of inconsistencies in the witness's statements and suggested he was "misremembering" or had "misinterpreted" what he saw that day.

"I'm 57 years of age and I still have dreams about what I saw that day," Martin Butler replied.

Belfast Telegraph

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