Belfast Telegraph

Ballymurphy massacre: Ex-soldier still thinks about Belfast man shot dead in 1971, inquest hears

The former soldier, referred to as witness M3, has been granted anonymity and gave evidence from behind a screen.

The family of Eddie Doherty, one of those killed in shootings in Ballymurphy in 1971, outside Belfast Coroner’s Court (Rebecca Black/PA)
The family of Eddie Doherty, one of those killed in shootings in Ballymurphy in 1971, outside Belfast Coroner’s Court (Rebecca Black/PA)

A former soldier still thinks about a Belfast man who died after being shot in the city in 1971, an inquest has heard.

The man, formerly a member of the Royal Engineers, has been granted anonymity while giving evidence to Belfast Coroner’s Court about the death of Eddie Doherty, 31.

The father of four died after he was shot on August 10 1971.

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Eddie Doherty with his youngest son. (Doherty family/PA)

It came during several days of shootings from August 9-11 in the west of the city.

Ten people died in the incident which has become known as the Ballymurphy massacre.

The shootings took place as the Army moved in to republican strongholds to arrest IRA suspects after the introduction by the Stormont administration of the controversial policy of internment without trial.

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Victims of the Ballymurphy massacre in west Belfast in 1971 (PA)

The former soldier gave evidence from behind a screen, and is referred to as witness M3.

He was formerly known as soldier B.

In a statement to the Coroners Service, which was read to the inquest, M3 recalled a large, hostile crowd throwing missiles at him as he attempted to clear a large street barricade on the Whiterock Road with a tractor.

The statement contained claims that a man had thrown two petrol bombs at M3’s tractor and had been preparing to throw a third when M3 fired a single shot and saw him fall.

Riots : Belfast. January 1971. Soldiers frisking passengers and driver of a car on the Springfield Road, near Ballymurphy. (14/01/1971)
Riots : Belfast. January 1971. Soldiers frisking passengers and driver of a car on the Springfield Road, near Ballymurphy. (14/01/1971)
Riots : Belfast. August 1970. Troops shelter behind their riot shields during rioting at Ballymurphy. (04/08/70)
Riots : Belfast. August 1970. The common sight in the Roman Catholic estate at Ballymurphy, Belfast, as young rioters attack the army with missiles during the troubles. (04/08/70)
Riots : Belfast. September 1970. Ballymurphy Disturbance: troops stand by at the junction of Springfield and Whiterock Roads, after a crowd had thrown stones at them and two police cars. (20/09/1970)
Riots : Belfast. January 1971. Catholic housing estate, Ballymurphy. (15/01/1971)
Mourners file past the coffin of Father Hugh Mullan, one of the 10 people killed (PA Archive)
Father Hugh Mullan. Shot at Moyard Park. 9/8/1971 THE FUNERAL HEARSE CARRYING THE BODY OF FATHER HUGH MULLAN TRAVELS ALONG THE ROAD IN BALLYMURPHY ESTATE. 12/8/1971
Joseph Murphy was one of 10 people shot dead by British soldiers in West Belfast in 1971
Pacemaker Press 17/6/10 John McKerr who is one of the 11 people died in the Ballymurphy Massacre in 1971 in West Belfast
Pacemaker Press 17/6/10 Fr Hugh Mullan who is one of the 11 people died in the Ballymurphy Massacre in 1971 in West Belfast
Pacemaker Press 17/6/10 Joseph Corr who is one of the 11 people died in the Ballymurphy Massacre in 1971 in West Belfast
Pacemaker Press 17/6/10 Danny Teggart who is one of the 11 people died in the Ballymurphy Massacre in 1971 in West Belfast
Pacemaker Press 17/6/10 Paddy McCarthy who is one of the 11 people died in the Ballymurphy Massacre in 1971 in West Belfast
Pacemaker Press 17/6/10 John Laverty who is one of the 11 people died in the Ballymurphy Massacre in 1971 in West Belfast
©Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland - 25th January 2012 Mandatory Credit - Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. Ballymurphy massacre relatives call for a meeting with the Prime Minister, David Cameron. 10 people were shot dead by soldiers in west Belfast in August 1971. The victims, which included a priest and a mother-of-eight, were killed over the course of three days in August 1971 by members of the Parachute Regiment during Operation Demetrius, when people suspected of paramilitary activity were interned. Relatives Rita Bonner, John Teggart and Briege Voyle pictured at the top of the Whiterock Road in west Belfast beside a mural depicting the shootings.

Witness M3 commented in his statement that he now knows more about the man and that he had a wife and children, adding “that was what upset me most about it … I still think about that and it upsets me to this day”.

The statement also includes a claim M3 had fired a burst of four shots at a man running on nearby waste ground who he said had a rifle.

M3 was injured and lost consciousness shortly after the incident after a missile struck his tractor.

He was not seriously injured.

In his statement to the inquest, he said he still suffers flashbacks to that day.

He also contends that he shot Mr Doherty for no other reason than for self defence.

M3’s statement revealed that he received a military medal for his actions that day.

However Mr Doherty’s family have strongly denied claims that he was a terrorist, insisting that he was innocent.

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The family of Eddie Doherty, one of those killed in shootings in Ballymurphy in 1971, outside Belfast Coroner’s Court ahead of inquest proceedings. (left to right) John Doherty, Patrick Doherty and Kathleen McCarry. (Rebecca Black/PA)

From the outset of the inquest they have expressed determination to “clear his name”.

Fresh inquests were directed into the deaths of 10 people at Ballymurphy following claims that the original coronial probes were inadequate.

They are the latest in a series of new inquests into incidents which took place during Northern Ireland’s troubled past.

The inquest continues.

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