Belfast Telegraph

Top republican Copeland seeks new probe into father's killing by Army

By Staff Reporter

Senior republican Eddie Copeland has asked the Attorney General to hold a fresh inquest into his father's death at the hands of a British soldier after a Historical Enquiries Team report raised doubts surrounding the circumstances.

John Copeland was shot as he walked home in north Belfast in 1971. The father-of-two died in hospital days later.

The soldier claimed that Mr Copeland, who was shot during rioting in Ardoyne, was armed and had opened fire at an Army patrol.

A draft report from the HET, however, questioned the soldier's version of events. Lawyers acting for Eddie and mother Carol Copeland have written to John Larkin asking him to order a fresh inquest to establish what happened.

Mr Copeland was 23 when he was killed by a member of the Green Howards.

A 1972 inquest into his killing returned an open verdict.

The recent HET report, which the family obtained, states that police at the time failed to interview three civilian eyewitnesses who told the inquest that Mr Copeland was not carrying a gun at the time of the shooting. BBC NI said that the draft further states that police did not interview the soldier who shot Mr Copeland and two members of the regiment who say they witnessed the shooting.

At that time there was an agreement between the Army and the RUC that only the Royal Military Police would interview soldiers involved in fatal shootings.

The role of the RUC was to carry out interviews with other witnesses.

"What could have been done, and what should have been done, at the very least, was to have the soldiers re-interviewed as soon as it became apparent to the investigating officer that there was conflict between the accounts given by civilian witnesses and those given by the soldiers," the HET report said.

Referring to the agreement between the RUC and the Army, it said: "(It) brought about major failings in the investigative process, to such an extent that it rendered it ineffective."

It went on to say that there was no evidence of any scientific tests for firearm residue to determine whether Mr Copeland had fired a weapon.

HET investigators wanted to interview the solider under caution. However, solicitors representing him said he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and was not fit for interview.

The man, who is referred to as Soldier A, was seen by HET investigators in 2011 but did not inform them of his condition.

The BBC also reported that the report contains extracts from a book written by Soldier A, using the pseudonym Nicky Curtis, entitled Faith And Duty.

It chronicles his time in the Army. In it he says the Army's rules of engagement outlining when soldiers could open fire "seemed increasingly like a joke to me".

Eddie Copeland himself was shot and wounded by a soldier in 1993. Andrew Clark, a private in the British Army, was convicted of attempted murder in 1995 and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

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