Belfast Telegraph

Inquest into shooting of mum in 1971 is adjourned until June

By Donna Deeney

An inquest into the death of a mother-of-six shot dead in disputed circumstances during an Army operation has been adjourned until June.

It came after the family of Kathleen Thompson requested to hear additional oral evidence.

Mrs Thompson (47) died during the Army search and arrest operation taking place at a neighbour's house in Rathlin Drive in the Creggan area of Londonderry in November 1971.

The soldier likely to have fired the fatal shot - known as Soldier D - spent three days in the witness box, which has necessitated the need for the adjournment.

Evidence from two witnesses was to be submitted to the inquest this week under Rule 17, meaning it had been agreed by all parties. However, both men will now be required to come to Northern Ireland to give their evidence in person.

Mrs Thompson's son David will also give oral evidence at the inquest when it resumes in June.

The hearing yesterday dealt with evidence from experts in ballistics and forensic photography.

The coroner's office, the Thompson family and the Ministry of Defence each produced an expert in ballistics - respectively Ann Kiernan, Mark Mastaglio and John Boyce - who largely agreed their evidence.

This was that Mrs Thompson died from a "single high velocity gunshot wound" and that her injuries were "consistent with her being in a crouched or kneeling position" when she was shot.

They also agreed that "the shot was fired from greater than 30cm" and "it cannot be excluded that the muzzle of the weapon was fired from within one or more of the gaps of the wooden fence."

Soldier D's account of what prompted him to fire two shots into the back garden was scrutinised for accuracy by all three ballistics experts.

It was established that it was not possible that Soldier D could have heard a bullet pass his head from his position 20 yards from the house as he had said. Mr Mastaglio explained the laws of physics showed it would not be possible for Soldier D to have heard a bullet "whiz" past his head.

Soldier D's account of what prompted him to fire two volleys of three shots slightly away from the Thompson family home moments later, in which he claimed he saw a figure holding an object with a fuse, was also thrown into doubt.

This was part of Soldier D's evidence in 1971. However, in his evidence to the HET in 2010, he said he had no recollection of having fired these six rounds.

The inquest heard testimony from other soldiers taking part in the operation that night suggesting that Soldier D fired these six shots at other Army men.

Brian Murphy, a forensic scientist in photography, provided the court with extensive photographs and maps plotting the line of vision from a number of points according to evidence.

He said from the position Soldier D said he was in and evidence on the position of the other soldiers, it was "difficult to see how there could be soldiers in that area and for them not to be visible".

Provisional dates of June 6, 7 and 8 have been set for the inquest when it resumes, although it may not be in Londonderry.

Belfast Telegraph

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