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Coroner rules farmer killed by Army in 1974 'shot in cold blood'


Inquest: Patrick McElhone’s sister Mary McCourt and brother Michael with a photograph of Patrick

Inquest: Patrick McElhone’s sister Mary McCourt and brother Michael with a photograph of Patrick

Inquest: Patrick McElhone’s sister Mary McCourt and brother Michael with a photograph of Patrick

A farmer killed by the Army in 1974 was "an innocent man, shot in cold blood, without warning when he was no threat to anyone", a coroner has said.

Patrick McElhone (24) a farmer from Pomeroy in Co Tyrone, was shot in the back by Lance Corporal Roy Alun Jones of the 1st Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Wales, in a field close to his family home.

Mr McElhone died instantly after the bullet penetrated his heart on August 7, 1974.

Mr Jones, who passed away in 2002, was charged with murder but acquitted and returned to duty.

The Ministry of Defence has since accepted Mr McElhone's death was unjustified.

He was not on any list as associated with the IRA and was an innocent man from a humble background, evidence before the inquest showed.

Mr McElhone's brother Michael described the manner in which his brother was killed as "cowardly" and said the truth had been a long time coming but had been worth waiting for.

A fresh inquest into the killing, ordered by the Attorney General at the request of Mr McElhone's family, concluded on Thursday in Omagh.

Coroner Siobhan Keegan found the soldier had violated the Army rules governing when it is acceptable to fire a weapon, and had killed Mr McElhone without warning, in cold blood.

In her summary, she said it was important to put on record that Mr McElhone did not have any kind of learning disability which had been previously been reported and which was something that had pained the family for many years.

Michael McElhone said the family have been totally vindicated. Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, he said: "We have waited a long, long time for the truth but it was worth waiting on. This has been weighing on us since the day Patrick was shot.

"Paddy was everything that the coroner said and everything that we always said - that he was an innocent fella and there had been no reason for his death.

"The soldier who shot Paddy did a very cowardly thing. When he put up his gun to shoot, he put up his gun to kill.

"I was there at the scene at the time and I had to identify Paddy, I saw the blood ooze out of him and his body was still warm. That will never leave me."

Mr McElhone and his sister Mary, who was also present in court thanked the coroner, their legal representatives and the Attorney General.

In a summary, Ms Keegan was critical of the lack of the level of co-operation from the Army to the police investigation at the time, but praised evidence provided to her by one of Lance Corporal Jones' colleagues, a Private Bedford, which she said was "convincing" and was "consistent" with evidence from Mr McElhone's parents.

She continued: "This inquest has put the record straight as I will record the use of force was unjustified.

"Mr McElhone was an innocent man shot in cold blood without warning when he was no threat to anyone. The family have waited a long time in which both Mr McElhone Senior and Mrs McElhone have died."

Patrick McElhone was a son and a brother who tragically lost his life for no valid reason, she said. The deceased was unarmed and not acting in any threatening way or in other way that would have justified the shooting, the coroner added.

"This shooting has not been justified by the State - a fact now admitted," she said.

Belfast Telegraph