Belfast Telegraph

Ex-paratroopers evidence to Ballymurphy inquest paused over inconsistencies

Families of the people who were killed during a disputed series of shootings in the Ballymurphy area of Belfast in August 1971 hold images of their loved ones with supporters outside Belfast Laganside Courts, during a new inquest into their loved ones deaths. Photo credit: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Families of the people who were killed during a disputed series of shootings in the Ballymurphy area of Belfast in August 1971 hold images of their loved ones with supporters outside Belfast Laganside Courts, during a new inquest into their loved ones deaths. Photo credit: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

A former soldier's evidence to an inquest into a disputed shooting incident has been paused following a change in a detail of his testimony.

Witness M365 gave a different platoon number to Belfast Coroner's Court on Tuesday, as well as responding that he could not remember to a large number of questions from counsel.

Coroner Siobhan Keegan described the situation as "entirely unsatisfactory", and a "discourtesy to everyone involved with the case".

Fresh inquests are taking place at Belfast Coroner's Court into a series of disputed shootings which took place over the course of three days from August 9-11 in Ballymurphy.

Ten people, including a priest, were killed in the shootings which came amid disturbances across Northern Ireland following the introduction of the controversial policy of internment.

M365 had been part of a platoon of soldiers that had marched down the Whiterock Road in the early hours of August 11 when John Laverty, 20, and Joseph Corr, 43, were shot.

He said they had been deployed to the area following reports of barricades and gunmen.

Giving evidence from behind a screen visible only to the coroner and families of those killed at Ballymurphy, he said he had been in 8 Platoon of the First Battalion of the Parachute Regiment, despite previously saying in statements that he had been in 9 Platoon.

When asked when and why he had changed his mind on this, M365 was unable to explain.

He repeatedly responded "I can't remember" to questions posed by counsel.

Families of the people who were killed during a disputed series of shootings in the Ballymurphy area of Belfast in August 1971 hold images of their loved ones with supporters outside Belfast Laganside Courts, during a new inquest into their loved ones deaths. Photo credit: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Families of the people who were killed during a disputed series of shootings in the Ballymurphy area of Belfast in August 1971 hold images of their loved ones with supporters outside Belfast Laganside Courts, during a new inquest into their loved ones deaths. Photo credit: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Michael Mansfield QC, representing the family of Joseph Corr, told the inquest: "Our concern is he was saying clearly on three occasions, I was the sergeant in 9 Platoon, what's unnerved him to say he's not sure any more?"

Coroner Keegan said: "This situation has arisen before but not to the same extent. I would like the witness to pause and reflect."

She said she was pausing the witness's evidence to allow for an explanation.

"It's entirely unsatisfactory. I want an explanation for who is responsible for this," she told the inquest.

"It is a discourtesy to everyone involved with the case."

Earlier the inquest heard that M365 had given a statement to the Bloody Sunday Inquiry.

It also heard details from a note written by a Historical Enquiries Team (HET) investigator that he had found M365 to be "critical of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry" and also "bitter" about the prospect of soldiers facing criminal prosecutions.

The note also indicated that the investigators felt M365 knew more than he had told them about the Ballymurphy shootings.

When this was put to the witness, he said he was annoyed that the HET had called at his home without giving him notice.

The inquest also heard a statement from former HET investigator Dave Hart.

Mr Hart had worked on a number of cases of deaths caused by the British Army.

He said they did not get to finish their review of the Ballymurphy shootings before the HET was disbanded in 2014.

Mr Hart said of the cases he was involved in reviewing, they concluded in some cases that the British Army had made mistakes, while in others it was concluded the Army had acted reasonably.

The inquest continues.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

From Belfast Telegraph