Northern Ireland

Statement of Friel family in response to HET report

Following the publication of a Historical Enquiries Team report on Monday, the family of Bernadette Friel, shot dead in 1975, released a statement:

Bernadette was survived by her son Tony who was four-years-old at the time, our father, William Friel (now deceased), her four brothers Joe, Leo, John, Billy and Paul and her two sisters Jean and Mary.

Bernadette was a 22-year-old mother who was full of life and had her whole future ahead of her.

We decided to engage with the HET as we knew they were carrying out this review and we hoped that we would get more information about Bernadette's killing and officially clear the record once and for all about the circumstances of her death.

Distress

The HET report concludes that Ramsay deliberately shot Bernadette and fabricated a "Russian Roulette" story that was widely carried at the time, greatly adding to the family's distress.

Our whole family's grief at her loss was made much worse by the fact that Thomas Ramsay and Hugh Stanley's final version of what happened was a concocted story.

(They said) that she had been involved in a game of Russian Roulette, despite the pathologist's clear findings that the position of the wound and the direction of travel of the bullet completely excluded any possibility that Bernadette could have shot herself.

Although Ramsay and Stanley were tried in 1976, we were shocked that Ramsay only received a 12- month prison sentence after he pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Bernadette.

(We were also shocked) that the DPP recommended no charge against Stanley for his involvement in the killing of Bernadette, despite the RUC's recommendation that both be charged with murder.

These recommendations were supported by senior RUC officers.

Suspicious

The DPP are supposed to be an impartial body but what happened raised serious questions for us about this supposed impartiality.

A large quantity of arms was also found in the house following Bernadette's killing and we find it unbelievable that Ramsay was given only two years imprisonment for this, to run concurrently with the sentence for manslaughter.

Stanley was given a conditional discharge for two years in relation to firearms offences.

We are left with unanswered questions about Ramsay's status - we know he was an ex British soldier.

It seems very suspicious that he received such a light sentence while at that time it was common for anyone caught with this amount of arms to have received a much heavier sentence.

It is also very strange that Ramsay was allowed to go in the ambulance with Bernadette and was taken from Altnagelvin Hospital to Fort George where he remained for several hours before he was handed over to the RUC.

It is similar to what happened with Widgery in Bloody Sunday and just adds insult to injury.

Rumours

Although Bernadette has not got justice we know the HET has gone as far as they can with this report and we are pleased it confirms that Bernadette was not involved in any accidental death and gives the lie to rumours of Russian Roulette.

The HET notes also that Ramsay lied repeatedly about the incident.

The HET believes, on balance, that Ramsay deliberately shot Bernadette and then lied to cover up his responsibility.

They agree with the original senior investigating officer, Detective Inspector Ruddell who recommended that he and Stanley be charged with murder.

The family would like to thank the soldier who comforted Bernadette at the scene. We will be writing to him through the HET.

We would also like to point out that some of the details in Lost Lives relating to Bernadette are incorrect and need amendment.

Finally, we wish to gratefully acknowledge the support and assistance that we have received from the Pat Finucane Centre over the years and the efforts of the HET on our behalf.

We do not think any family should go through this process without this kind of support.