Belfast Telegraph

Man waved white hanky as unarmed pair shot dead, Ballymurphy massacre inquest told

Killed: Joan Connolly
Killed: Joan Connolly
Brett Campbell

By Brett Campbell

A man waved a white handkerchief on a stick after soldiers shot an unarmed man in the back and a grandmother in the face, an inquest has heard.

John Maguire recalled the shooting of Joan Connolly (44) and Danny Teggart (44) outside Henry Taggart Army base on August 9, 1971 as he gave evidence at an inquest for the 10 victims of the Ballymurphy massacre yesterday.

The 84-year-old said he was walking to a pub on the Springfield Road at around 7pm on August 1971 when he saw a "mini riot" further ahead.

"We stopped - then soldiers started shooting," he said.

The pensioner recalled how he and his four friends took cover in waste ground - formerly the site of a Presbyterian Manse - opposite the base.

"Daniel Teggart tried to run, but he didn't get too far," he recalled. "He fell to the ground about 10 yards away; he was shot in the back and must have died instantly - he was definitely not armed."

The elderly witness recalled hearing mother-of-eight Joan Connolly say "I can't see" after she was shot in the face.

"She said it again, but her voice was much weaker," he said.

"She must have lost consciousness then."

Mr Maguire, who took cover behind a pillar with a number of other men, told the inquest his friend "tied a hanky to a stick and waved it" before an army vehicle drove into the middle of the field.

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.

"A soldier got out - he knelt on the ground and started shooting with his short-arm," he said.

The witness said he ran through a gap in the hedge and took refuge in a nearby house fearing the soldier was going to "pick us off". "If I had have ran with Danny Teggart I would have been shot too," he added.

However MoD barrister Peter Coll QC highlighted discrepancies between Mr Maguire's testimony yesterday and previous statements he has made.

The witness was "certain" the shots were fired from the Army base but failed to account for why he previously claimed he "did not know" where they came from.

Mr Coll ceased interrogating the witness after the coroner intervened to say she would not allow the pensioner, or any civilian witness, to be subject to "this type of questioning".

The inquest was shown a Belfast Telegraph report featuring a picture of an 18-month-old baby girl's bedroom which was riddled with bullets in August 1971.

The coroner is considering issuing an urgent witness appeal to contact the child's parents who might still be alive.

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