Belfast Telegraph

Ex-soldier: I may have killed Kathleen Thompson in 1971, but not deliberately

From left: Ernie, Minty (Marie Louise), Patricia, Billy and Davy, the children of Kathleen Thompson
From left: Ernie, Minty (Marie Louise), Patricia, Billy and Davy, the children of Kathleen Thompson
Kathleen Thompson
Donna Deeney

By Donna Deeney

The soldier who fired two shots into the garden of the home of Kathleen Thompson accepts it was possible his bullets killed the mother-of-six, a Coroner's Court has heard.

He was speaking on the second day of a fresh inquest into the death of Mrs Thompson in November 1971, which opened in Londonderry on Monday.

Mrs Thompson died from a bullet wound in disputed circumstances during an arrest operation at an address close to her home at Rathlin Drive in the Creggan area of Derry.

Screened from public view, the now retired 'Soldier D' nodded but couldn't speak from the witness box after he was asked if he regretted her death, members of the Thompson family said.

Soldier D told the court he would be "appalled" if it was him who was responsible for Mrs Thompson's death, but he accepted "it was possible", although it was not his intention.

He said he believed he was "aiming at someone I thought was discharging a weapon".

Quizzed by Karen Quinlivan, legal representative for the Thompson family, Soldier D later refused to accept her suggestion he was deliberately being obstructive to the inquest by not providing the names of three other soldiers, referred to in court as 'A', 'B' and 'C', who were present on the night.

The Coroner's Office has not been able to locate the whereabouts of these three men, so statements they made in 1971 were read out in court.

Soldier D repeatedly stated he could not remember their names.

He also said he did not know the names of the soldiers who told him at an Army reunion that Mrs Thompson's death was being written about in 2002 in local papers.

Ms Quinlivan reminded Soldier D he had written to the Chief Constable in 2002 about his concerns that the then MP for Foyle, Mark Durkan, had requested the file relating to the shooting.

However, Soldier D insisted he did not know who passed on this information to him.

The court heard that Soldier D had provided a statement to the Royal Military Police at the time of the fatal shooting in which he recalled he fired two shots after he heard a single shot.

He believed it had been a low velocity shot which came from the direction of 129 Rathlin Drive, the Thompson family home.

He told the court he heard a flash and a bang simultaneously which he believed also came from behind the fence, and that, believing he was being shot at, he "released the safety catch and fired two rounds".

He said: "I believe I saw a silhouette, head, arms and a torso behind the fence" of someone he thought was in a standing position.

He admitted in court that "with hindsight" he now knew by the level of the garden in relation to the fence that he was mistaken, and the figure could have been "kneeling or in a crouched position".

Asked if he could have mistaken the "gunshot" for bin lids being banged, which was common practice at the time when members of the security forces entered so called "no-go" areas, Soldier D said "no".

He was also asked about the difference in two statements he had given. In the first, made in 1971, he said he fired an additional three rounds after "a hand appeared with a black object" which was thrown a distance of 130 yards before it exploded near him, and three more rounds 30 seconds later.

But this was not in his statement to the Historical Enquiries Team in 2010.

Soldier D said he simply could not recollect having fired these six rounds.

Gerry McAlinden, legal representative for the Coroner, told Soldier D that it had been suggested in a statement by two other soldiers there that he had mistaken the "presence of other soldiers" for hostile presences.

He asked Soldier D if this had been the case, would this not have been considered a "very serious matter" which would require investigation.

Soldier D said it would, but he had not been questioned about it by the Military Police.

Soldier D will return to the witness box today when the inquest resumes.

Belfast Telegraph


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