Northern Ireland

Ballymurphy Inquest: Witness saw victim falling at his feet

Nine men and a woman were killed in Ballymurphy in August 1971
Image caption Nine men and a woman were killed in Ballymurphy in August 1971

A man has described the moment he heard a shot ring out and saw one of the Ballymurphy victims fall at his feet.

Witness Francis Corr has been giving evidence at the Ballymurphy Inquest into the deaths of ten people in 1971.

The victim in this case was 49-year-old John McKerr, a married man and father working for the local firm P&F McDonnell as a joiner.

He was shot on Westrock Drive, outside Corpus Christi Church.

The Ballymurphy Inquest is examining 10 people's deaths in August 1971.

Mr McKerr had been fixing defects in Corpus Christi Church on Westrock Drive, which the firm had recently finished building.

This section of road has since been renamed Springhill Avenue.

Mr Corr, who was 20-years-old at the time, recalled walking past the church with his wife and just overtaking Mr McKerr on the pavement when a shot rang out.

Who were the victims?

  • Father Hugh Mullan, 38, and Francis Quinn, 19, were shot in an area of open ground behind Springfield Park
  • Daniel Teggart, 44, Joan Connolly, 44, Noel Phillips, 19, and Joseph Murphy, 41, were shot near the Henry Taggart Army base near Springfield Park
  • John Laverty, 20, and Joseph Corr, 43, were shot at separate points at the top of Whiterock Road
  • Edward Doherty, 31, was shot at the corner of Brittons Parade and Whiterock Road
  • John McKerr, 49, was shot outside the old Corpus Christi Parish

He described to the court how John McKerr fell at his feet as soon as he was hit.

Mr Corr told the court he noticed a soldier standing in the garden of a house on the Ballymurphy Road.

He said the soldier was black and was wearing the red beret of a paratrooper.

The soldier was pointing a rifle directly at him and his wife.

Image copyright McKerr family
Image caption A picture of John McKerr and his wife Maureen

He says he couldn't tell where the shot came from, but he ran to get his wife to safety, before returning to see if he could help John McKerr.

Mr Corr said he shouted for a blanket and a pillow whilst awaiting an ambulance which eventually came and took Mr McKerr away.

He gave several statements about the death in recent years, but had not made any in 1971.

He told a barrister for the Ministry of Defence that he felt at the time that everybody knew about what had happened.

Image caption John McKerr's daughters Agnes Bond, Anne Ferguson and Maureen McKerr

Francis Corr told the court that he had made earlier statements about two of the other ten deaths to be investigated by the Ballymurphy Inquest.

He said the earlier deaths had affected him deeply and that, for some years, he had not connected the different incidents.

He recalled seeing a map in 2010 showing where Mr McKerr was shot and realised that there were investigations being carried out into another incident he had also witnessed.

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