Belfast Telegraph

Search on for witness to killing of boy in 1972

BY David Young

Confusion surrounds the identity of an unknown teenage witness who could shed new light on the death of a schoolboy shot by an Army rubber bullet, a coroner has been told.

Lawyers for the family of Francis Rowntree, who sustained fatal injuries when he was struck by a projectile fired by a Royal Anglian Regiment soldier in west Belfast in 1972, have been trying to trace the 14-year-old boy who at the time gave an anonymous account of the incident to an anti-plastic bullet campaign group.

They are hoping he can give evidence to a new inquest into the schoolboy's death.

The legal team thought they had established the onlooker's name and had been trying to locate him in Wales. But it has emerged that individual may not have been the person who spoke to the campaigners.

Lawyers have unearthed an old police statement given by him at the time and it is a very different account from the eyewitness who spoke to the campaign group.

They now think another witness may have been the person who talked to the campaigners and are keen to trace him.

Francis (11) was hit by a rubber bullet as he played with friends at the Divis flats complex close to the Falls Road in April 1972. He died four days later from injuries including a fractured skull.

Controversy surrounds the shooting, with disputed claims on whether the boy was fired on directly, or hit by a ricochet, and if the bullet had been doctored.

Fiona Doherty, representing the family, told coroner Jim Kitson that relatives were considering making a direct appeal to the west Belfast community to help find the witness, who would be in his 50s.

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