Belfast Telegraph

Soldier's evidence on Ballymurphy killing deemed 'most likely'

By Allan Preston

An inquest has heard a man shot during the Ballymurphy massacre may have been in an "exaggerated throwing stance".

Father-of-four Edward Doherty (31) died when he was shot close to a barricade on the Whiterock Road in west Belfast on August 10, 1971.

He was one of 10 people to die in three days in what became known as the Ballymurphy massacre.

The shootings happened as the Army attempted to arrest IRA suspects as part of the controversial Stormont policy of internment without trial.

A former soldier, known as M3, claimed he fired a single shot from the cab of an Army tractor at a man trying to throw a petrol bomb.

Other witnesses have said he was some distance away with his back to the soldier.

This year, the original autopsy was examined by two pathologists - Dr Benjamin Swift for the coroner and Dr Nathaniel Cary for the next of kin.

They agreed a number of scenarios were possible.

Dr Swift said he personally preferred M3's account was the most likely of the two they examined, something Dr Cary did not accept.

According to the original autopsy report, Mr Doherty was shot in the left side of his back with an exit wound through his right chest. The bullet also had an upward trajectory through the body.

This raised questions as M3 was said to have fired from the elevated position of the cab.

Dr Swift told the court that Mr Doherty could have been in a side-on "exaggerated throwing stance" consistent with bending over at an angle to pick up an object. This could account for being shot in the back and the appearance of an upward trajectory.

"I'm not able to say he was throwing anything or not, but it's consistent with that sort of stance," he said.

Another possibility was that Mr Doherty had been crouching in a "twist and bent" position as he tried to take cover or run away.

He added that Mr Doherty's death would have been "rapid" but not instantaneous, meaning he would have been conscious for a matter of minutes before losing too much blood.

Mr Doherty's wound was also consistent with a bullet fired from a Sterling submachine gun, as used by M3, with a direct hit rather than a ricochet.

The exact distance between the gunshot and Mr Doherty could not be determined.

"There's a great variety of positions and trajectories that can't easily be excluded," said Dr Swift.

Watching in court yesterday were Mr Doherty's sister Kathleen and brother John.

The family has always said he was trying to walk home at the time and denied he was throwing a petrol bomb.

Earlier this week M3, sometimes known as Soldier B, gave evidence over two days.

He said that he and Parachute Regiment soldiers had been attempting to dismantle the barricade on the Whiterock Road when they were met with hostile crowds throwing missiles.

He claimed a man threw two petrol bombs at his tractor and fired a single shot when he attempted to throw a third.

On Tuesday, he alleged in court that the Royal Military Police had also altered his statement at the time.

He denied a suggestion from a lawyer representing the families that he had embellished his evidence to justify opening fire.

The fresh inquests for 10 people at Ballymurphy were ordered after claims the original probes were inadequate.

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph