Belfast Telegraph

I may have shot Ballymurphy bystander during mad 30 seconds, ex-soldier tells inquest

Family of Eddie Doherty, brother, John Doherty, son, Paddy Doherty, and sister, Kathleen McCarr, at the inquest yesterday
Family of Eddie Doherty, brother, John Doherty, son, Paddy Doherty, and sister, Kathleen McCarr, at the inquest yesterday
Eddie Doherty

By Rebecca Black

A former soldier has apologised to the family of a man he possibly shot dead in "a mad 30 seconds" in Belfast almost 50 years ago during a new inquest into his death.

The ex-Royal Engineer, who has been granted anonymity, was giving evidence at Belfast Coroner's Court on Monday during an inquest into the death of 31-year-old Eddie Doherty.

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

Referred to as M3, the former soldier insisted he fired the shot because he believed his life was in "immediate danger".

Giving evidence from behind a screen visible only to Mr Doherty's family, M3 said he wished he could turn back time.

"I can't even begin to think how it affected them, horrendous," he said.

"I just can't believe, I just can't understand how ... for a mad 30 seconds to last a legacy like this.

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.

"Me, I just like to soldier on, I just feel that if I could turn back time ... I am sorry, I still get emotional (about this)."

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

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

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

In a statement to the Coroners Service, which was read to the inquest, M3 recalled a hostile crowd throwing missiles on August 10, as he attempted to clear a large street barricade on the Whiterock Road.

M3 said he saw a man throw two petrol bombs at his tractor and had been preparing to throw a third when he fired a single shot and saw the man fall.

The new mural, honouring UDA gunman Stephen McKeag, in the lower Shankill area
The new mural, honouring UDA gunman Stephen McKeag, in the lower Shankill area
The sabotaged mural of former Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers on the International Peace Wall in west Belfast
Murals down the years ... former IRA sniper and Sinn Fein politician Martin Meehan aiming a rifle
Murals down the years ... The Shankill Star Flute Band in Belfast carries a Lambeg drum dedicated to the memory of Brian Robinson, a UVF terrorist who shot Paddy McKenna dead at Ardoyne in 1989
Murals down the years ... A huge UFF mural was beamed to the world as cyclists passed it during May's Giro d'Italia
Republican mural depicting former north Belfast IRA man Martin Meehan is revealed in the Ardoyne area of Belfast.
Republican mural depicting former north Belfast IRA leader Martin Meehan revealed in the Ardoyne area of Belfast
UVF mural is being painted in Willowfield
The UVF mural painted over one of George Best at Inverwood Court in east Belfast
Going back: The absurd psychology of paramilitarism fixating on UVF gunmen and Bobby Sands instead of icons like George Best, shows their mawkish self-mythologising
A mural at Free Derry Corner depicting the events of Bloody Sunday.
Residents gathered to watch the unveiling of the new mural opposite the Catholic church in Harryville, Ballymena, County Antrim. The old loyalist paramilitary mural close to a Catholic church which was the scene of weekly protests in the 1990s was removed at the weekend. It was replaced by an Ulster Scots mural featuring symbols such as a shamrock and Red Hand of Ulster. 2/4/06
Bobby Sands
Fading Memories. A mural of David Healy at Carnforth Street, east Belfast
A project recording experiences of key figures from the Troubles and the peace process has been launched
File photo dated 03/05/07 of a Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) wall mural in north Belfast.
The mural by artist Ross Wilson celebrating King Williams 1690 battle with King James replaces a UFF mural on a gabel wall on Linfield Avenue Sandy Row.
The Civil Rights mural in the Bogside.
Parade commemorating Brian Robinson - Shankill Road, Belfast
Born identity: The UDA mural in east Belfast where many young Protestants say pride in the British Army, and anger at flag protests, have reinforced their sense of Britishness
One of the mural, "Bernadette" in the Bogside. Supplied Picture
A Loyalist mural on the Newtownards road in Belfast
A Thomas Devlin murder appeal poster beside a UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force) mural in the Mount Vernon area of North Belfast opposite the flats where one of his killers had lived.
UDA wall mural in the Shankill Road area.8/9/09
Healy among the greats at Windsor Park
Belfast murals. A mural off the Newtownards Road dedicated to 'The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe' author C.S Lewis who was from the area. 2010.
Republican mural in West Belfast. 1998
A republican mural in the Ballymurphy estate in Belfast on March 14, 2009
A loyalist mural in the Shankhill area of Belfast on March 14, 2009
A republican mural off the Falls road area of Belfast on March 14, 2009
YCV paramilitary mural in the Village, Belfast

"I was shooting at the upper chest to kill because I believed my life was in immediate danger," he said in the statement.

When asked whether it was possible the bullet he fired had not hit the man he saw with the petrol bomb, but someone further back, where Mr Doherty's family said he had been, M3 said "there is always that possibility".

M3 said now knowing the man had a wife and children is "what upset me most about it ... I still think about that and it upsets me to this day".

Meanwhile, the statement also includes a claim by M3 that he had fired a burst of four shots at a gunman running on nearby waste ground.

M3 lost consciousness shortly after receiving a blow to the head when a missile struck his tractor, - but he was not seriously injured.

Mr Doherty's family have insisted that he was an innocent bystander and 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.

The inquest continues.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph