Belfast Telegraph

Family's 'huge relief' as soldier charged with murder of child in Northern Ireland

Daniel Hegarty
Daniel Hegarty
Donna Deeney

By Donna Deeney

The family of a 15-year-old boy shot dead by a soldier in Londonderry in 1972 prayed at his graveside after "a dark cloud lifted" when they were told the man who shot him is to be charged with his murder.

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) said there is enough evidence to charge the veteran, known as Soldier B, with the murder of Daniel Hegarty.

He will also face a charge of wounding with intent Daniel's cousin Christopher Hegarty (17) during Operation Motorman, as the army went into 'no go' areas of Derry.

Daniel's sister Margaret Brady said the family feel huge relief that her brother can now rest in peace. She said: "As soon as we left the meeting we went straight to Daniel's grave and prayed. I told him, 'You can rest in peace now Daniel', as can my mother and father.

"We stood at his grave and it was as if a dark cloud had been lifted. I honestly think Daniel is in heaven praying for the soldier who murdered him.

"I know my mother had masses offered for him (the soldier) a number of times and I have often wondered about him myself.

"I wondered if he ever had a son and did he ever look at his son aged 15 and think about the boy in Derry who never got to live his life. These have been long hard years, but we were determined we would not stop until this day came, but sadly our sister Philomena passed away just 12 weeks ago so she didn't get to hear the decision we had fought so hard for. We were so nervous going into the meeting with the PPS and half expected to hear that they would not prosecute the soldier, but it was a huge relief for all of us that he will be charged with Daniel's murder."

A fresh inquest into Daniel's death was held in 2011 when the then Northern Ireland Coroner, John Leckey, found Daniel was totally innocent and "posed no risk" at the time he was shot.

He referred the case back to the PPS who in 2016 decided there was no reasonable prospect of a conviction and the test for prosecution had not been met - a decision Mr Hegarty's family successfully challenged.

The Director of Public Prosecutions was asked by the Divisional Court last year to review the case. Following his meeting with the Hegarty family, Stephen Herron said after considering all of the available evidence, he had "concluded that the evidence which can be presented at court is sufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction and that the Evidential Test for Prosecution is met.

Daniel Hegarty and his sister Kathleen
Daniel Hegarty and his sister Kathleen
Shot dead: Daniel Hegarty

He said: "As with all cases, I have also carefully considered whether the public interest requires prosecution through the courts. Particular consideration was given to Soldier B's ill health, regarding which an updated medical report was obtained.

"In line with our Code for Prosecutors, I have concluded, given the seriousness of the charges, that the Public Interest Test for Prosecution is also met.

"I have therefore taken the decision to prosecute an individual identified as Soldier B for the offence of murder in relation to the death of Daniel Hegarty and for the wounding of Christopher Hegarty."

A Government spokeswoman said: "We note today's decision taken by the Northern Ireland Public Prosecution Service, and we will offer full legal and pastoral support to the individual affected."

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