Belfast Telegraph

Inquest opens 40 years after Army killed boy

By Donna Deeney

An inquest into the death of a boy shot dead by a soldier has finally opened, nearly four decades after he was gunned down.

Daniel Hegarty (15) died after he was shot twice in the head during Operation Motorman in Londonderry on July 31, 1972.

Counsel for the Coroner Fiona Doherty told the jury of seven men and four women that they would hear from the Hegarty family, neighbours who were witnesses on the night he was shot, the soldier who shot him, and another soldier accompanying him, as well as senior Army officers.

Margaret Brady was then called to the witness box were she was visibly upset as her statement was read out.

In it she described her brother as a big-hearted joker who was always carrying on with her and their two other sisters, Philomena and Kathleeen.

She told Derry Coroner’s Court on the night her brother was shot she and her sister were woken by a loud siren outside and that her mother came into their room.

Mrs Brady added that the next thing she became aware |of was a lot of commotion in the house when a neighbour came and said Daniel had been shot.

There was a lot of crying in the house and the priest, Fr Rooney, called, and her mother, Margaret Mary, asked him to say a Mass for the soldier who shot the Creggan teenager because he needed it more.

Mrs Brady's statement also outlined how in the weeks and months after his death Mrs Hegarty would continue to set her son's dinner on the table and call him for it.

She added that as a young girl growing up she knew that something really bad had happened but nothing was discussed with her.

She had to wait until she was an adult before she asked questions about that night.

Mrs Brady also confirmed to the Counsel for the Coroner that some time before her brother had been shot, he and a friend had found a collection of guns near Creggan reservoir.

They had handed them over to the police and as a reward the two boys were given a tour of the Army Headquarters at St Celica's School and presented with “tuck” as a thank you from soldiers.

She also said that her father Alexander and Daniel were members of the Rosary Crusade movement, which promotes peace and the message of the Rosary.

The inquest is expected to last at least one week.

Background

Operation Motorman was launched by the Army in Derry on the day Danny Hegarty was killed, July 31, 1972.

Its aim was to go in hard and clear the ‘no-go’ areas of the city which had been barricaded off to prevent the security forces entering.

A few hours after the operation ended, the IRA bombed nearby Claudy, killing nine people.



Military operation that ended in bloodshed

Daniel Hegarty's father Alexander died in 1999 but a statement describing how he heard about his son’s death was read out in the Coroner’s Court.

The court clerk read out how Mr Hegarty had left his home in Swilly Gardens around midnight to patrol the streets to make sure everything was peaceful, which he often did.

Mr Hegarty stated that some time later someone came up to him and told him Daniel was dead, and that the next time he saw his son was in the morgue in Altnagelvin Hospital.

The inquest also heard statements from William Moran who said that at around 4am he was woken by sirens which he knew was an alert to local people that something was happening.

He said he was standing in the porch of his house when a soldier with a gun and a second soldier appeared and told him to get inside the house and shut the door.

He added that almost immediately he heard automatic gunfire and that after a while two young men, one covered in blood, came to his door.

He let them in and was told that a third boy had been shot and was lying in the pavement.

Mr Moran went out when he thought it was safe to do so and discovered Daniel Hegarty, but said he knew there was no hope for him because he was an ex-Army man and knew by the nature of the head wounds.

He said he did not see any guns lying near the boy’s body, or even any large stones.

Mr Moran's statement said an ambulance arrived one-and a-half hours later and took the injured boy away.

The final evidence heard on the opening day of the inquest was from James McGill, a neighbour of Mr Moran's.

He confirmed that he too was woken by the siren and heard four shots being fired.

Later he went to Mr Moran’s house where he helped with the three boys. He added that he collected four empty bullet cases from the place where Daniel Hegarty fell after being shot.

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