Belfast Telegraph

Ballymurphy inquest told mum shot in face 'could have survived'

A mother-of-eight from west Belfast could have survived being shot in the face if she had been given urgent medical attention, an inquest has been told. (stock photo)
A mother-of-eight from west Belfast could have survived being shot in the face if she had been given urgent medical attention, an inquest has been told. (stock photo)
Brett Campbell

By Brett Campbell

A mother-of-eight from west Belfast could have survived being shot in the face if she had been given urgent medical attention, an inquest has been told.

The inquest at Belfast Coroner's Court is examining the deaths of 10 civilians across three days in August 1971 in Ballymurphy.

Dr Benjamin Swift presented a report by current pathologists acting for the coroner, Ministry of Defence, and relatives of four people who were shot dead on the first day of internment.

In it they agreed that Joan Connolly was shot up to three times before she bled to death in a field opposite Henry Taggart Army base on August 9, 1971.

"The initial period of survival is likely to be measured in tens of minutes," Dr Swift said.

The experts agreed with an original postmortem carried out just two days after she was struck by the high velocity bullets. One caused "a gaping ragged wound" to the left side of her face and another entered her right thigh severing a major artery. A third wound on her hand was consistent with being shot.

The 1971 report concluded that she died due to the combined effect of severe shock and haemorrhaging. However, the inquest was told she would have remained conscious.

When asked if eyewitness accounts of Mrs Connolly "calling out for help" for a period of time longer than tens of minutes could be true, Dr Swift said "yes".

The witness was then asked if Mrs Connolly could have survived her injuries if she had been given prompt medical treatment. "I believe so, yes," he replied.

Dr Swift said Mrs Connolly was possibly shot while "in a head down position" but added that there was nothing to suggest the shots were fired at close range, as he accepted that eyewitness testimony is an important factor in determining her final movements.

A legal representative for Mrs Connolly's family questioned how she could have had 23mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood as she was not known to drink.

Dr Swift explained this could have been as a result of micro-organisms beginning to fragment as a result of decomposition.

He also agreed with an original autopsy report which found that Daniel Teggart (44) was killed after sustaining as many as 14 bullet wounds to his arms, back and right thigh.

Dr Swift said it is not possible to say exactly how many bullets struck the father-of-13 but said it could have been over a period of time as he lay in the field being subjected to crossfire.

The coroner was told that Noel Phillips (19) sustained non-fatal gunshots to his wrist and buttocks in addition to two strikes on his neck, at least one from a 9mm bullet which could have been fired from a pistol or sub machine-gun.

Dr Swift agreed one of the bullets lacerated Mr Phillips' right lung filling the chest cavity with blood and causing rapid death, but said he would have been conscious for several minutes.

He said the fatal shot could have been fired from the waste ground area where Mr Phillips was found, but not from a close range of less than one metre.

Joseph Murphy (41) died of kidney failure as a result of septicaemia 13 days after being shot on August 9 and after having his right leg amputated.

Dr Swift said there was no evidence to support allegations that he was beaten, kicked or struck by a rubber bullet.

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