Belfast Telegraph

Marian Brown inquest: Soldiers 'thought they were under fire'

By Allan Preston

Witnesses caught up in a west Belfast shooting that killed a pregnant 17-year-old have said they believe soldiers were responsible for her death.

Marian Brown had been walking home to her sister's house on Roden Street on June 12, 1972, at around 12.50am.

She had just kissed her boyfriend Thomas Corrigan (16 at the time) goodnight when she was fatally wounded in the neck, while Mr Corrigan was also seriously injured.

The circumstances of who shot them remain disputed.

Yesterday in court, two witnesses present that night relived the ordeal.

Michael Maguire (64) was aged 19 at the time. He did not see Ms Brown being shot but said he and friends had feared for their lives.

He also claimed a soldier had told him apologetically afterwards: "We thought you were shooting at us."

After finishing his shift in the Abercorn bar in the city centre, he had been walking his girlfriend Elizabeth McManus home to Roden Street along with a workmate called Larry.

He told the court he had also been in the Abercorn bar when it was bombed months earlier but escaped injury.

Mr Maguire recalled that as he and his friends turned on to Roden Street, he heard shots fired in the distance.

As this was a common occurrence at the height of the Troubles, he did not feel worried.

Moments later, Mr Maguire said he could distinctly hear a second burst of gunfire aimed at him, this time "loud and dangerous".

He told the court he could vividly remember a third burst of shots which caused paving stones inches away from him to fly into the air.

Terrified, all three began to crawl round a corner.

Ms McManus fell behind, and Mr Maguire said he could hear her say: "I got shot."

His friend Larry also received a wound to the buttocks, he believes from shrapnel caused by the flying paving stone fragments. When the shooting stopped, Mr Maguire said residents came outside.

One woman, seeing Elizabeth on the ground, mistook her for her husband and shouted in panic: "Tom, Tom."

Mr Maguire said he soon became aware of the silhouettes of soldiers running in a line down Roden Street.

He said he recognised them by the guns they were carrying.

An ambulance arrived on the scene to take Ms McManus and Larry to the hospital.

Mr Maguire said a soldier, who also seemed to be around 19-years-old, stopped him from getting in, telling him in an apologetic tone: "We thought you were shooting at us."

A barrister for the Ministry of Defence, Mr Rooney, asked Mr Maguire why he had not mentioned the soldiers in a previous 1974 deposition.

He replied: "It's truncated. I would have put that in my story."

Yesterday, the court also heard from Gretta Fusco (nee Smyth) who was aged 20 at the time and walking home to her house on Roden Street when she saw Ms Brown and Mr Corrigan standing on the corner.

At times throughout her testimony, she broke down in tears telling the court: "It just brings back bad memories."

"The two of them were together having a kiss goodnight", she recalled, adding she was relieved to see other people at such a late hour.

Mrs Fusco said she heard a first shot in the distance which did not alarm them.

"The next thing after that one shot, was a burst of gunfire," she said.

Asked if she knew the difference between a rifle and automatic gunfire she replied: "Living in Belfast you got to know it. I lived on Roden Street and there was a lot going on."

She also believed that more than one gun was fired.

Mrs Fusco quickly ran for cover in the doorway of a poultry shop on the street corner.

During a quick break in the shooting, she looked around the corner twice and said she begged for the shooting to stop.

She then saw the young couple fall to the floor. She called out to them to crawl forward, remembering they were both still moving at the time.

"All I know is that two people were shot in front of me and they fell on the ground," she said.

Looking back down Roden Street, Mrs Fusco said she saw three "bulky" figures she believed to be soldiers zig-zagging down the street.

She did not remember seeing Mr Maguire or his two friends. She was then dragged to safety in a nearby house.

"I was in hysterics at this stage," she told the court.

"What I saw that night was horrific and horrendous and I was lucky to survive it myself."

Soon after this, she ran back out onto the street which was by now filled with soldiers and residents.

"I said to the soldiers, 'What are you doing here? You did it' - and they didn't answer me."

Mrs Fusco was asked why she hadn't mentioned the soldiers in a 1974 deposition or in a newspaper interview days later.

"You have to remember I had just been shot at. I hadn't slept all night.

"The next day, I asked for a bucket of water from a neighbour to wash away the blood on the ground."

Fiona Doherty, a barrister for the Brown family, asked Mrs Fusco about the possibility of a car stopping that night near Roden Street with a gunman inside firing a machine gun.

"No, there was no car there," she insisted.

Ms Doherty finished her questioning by telling an emotional Mrs Fusco that the B rown family wished to express their gratitude for her bravery that night.

The inquest continues.

Belfast Telegraph


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