Belfast Telegraph

Soldier 'who fired the bullet' which killed Kathleen Thompson to give evidence at her inquest

By Donna Deeney

The family of a woman shot dead in disputed circumstances nearly half a century ago will hear from the soldier likely to have fired the fatal bullet today.

Kathleen Thompson, a 47-year-old mother of six, was killed in 1971.

She was shot in the garden of her home at Rathlin Drive in the Creggan area of Londonderry during an Army raid on the estate.

An inquest in 1972 returned an open verdict, but a fresh hearing was ordered in 2013.

The inquest at Londonderry Courthouse is due to hear today from 'Soldier B', who is suspected of firing the fatal bullet.

Another soldier, referred to as 'Soldier E' - screened in court but visible to Mrs Thompson's sons and daughters - was among witnesses who gave evidence yesterday on the opening day of the new inquest.

Gerry McAlinden QC, who is legal representative for coroner Sandra Crawford, said "crucially for the family" the inquest will involve questioning the "soldier likely to have fired the fatal shot" who was required to give evidence "for the first time".

Mrs Thompson's daughter, Marie Louise, who was aged 12 at the time, told the court her mother had been a "well respected" woman who "stood up for what was right".

She recalled her mother, father, brother and her watching television the night in question while her younger siblings were asleep in bed.

She heard a noise outside and looked out and saw "four or five soldiers" with their faces blackened and wearing berets and "carrying a suitcase" during a "raid" at a neighbour's house across the street.

A large crowd gathered, alerted by bin lids being rattled.

Mrs Thompson and her son David left their home to go to their neighbours.

Ms Thompson was asked by her father to go to the neighbours' house to bring her mother home but she returned "two minutes" later to say her mother was not at the house.

Ms Thompson's father discovered the body of his wife lying in the garden, and called for help.

A short time later her mother's body was carried into the house and placed on the kitchen table.

Soldier E, a Section Commander with the Royal Green Jackets, said his role of his section was "to provide a protective cordon" for the soldiers taking part in the operation in Rathlin Drive from a nearby "green area". He said his orders were to "shoot anyone" coming across the grass land and "ask questions later".

Soldier E suggested there were 3,000 soldiers taking part in the operation but later admitted he may have got this figure wrong.

He was asked if he could also be wrong in his statement when he said the SAS could have been present and members of the Paratroop Regiment, as neither outfit were known to have been in Londonderry at the time.

Soldier E insisted he was correct about the SAS but couldn't be sure about the paratroopers.

The inquest continues.

Belfast Telegraph

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