Northern Ireland

Ballymurphy inquest: Man recalls being shot as boy of 11

Picture of Ballymurphy families
Image caption The families of some of those killed in the incident

A man has described how he was shot and seriously injured in Ballymurphy when he was a boy aged 11.

He also told the inquest that he saw a soldier shoot a man dead with a sidearm as he lay wounded on the ground.

Edward Butler said he had been watching rioting at Henry Taggart Army base when he and his brother, Martin, then nine, decided it was getting dangerous and they had better go home.

The inquest is examining 10 people's deaths in west Belfast in August 1971.

The deaths followed three days of gunfire in Ballymurphy following the introduction of internment.

Mr Butler, who is now in his 50s, said that when crossing the Manse area, shooting broke out and the brothers took cover in a dip in the terrain.

He said later another man shouted: "Here kids, come on down here".

He called them to crawl over to shelter in a ditch behind a fallen tree.

Mr Butler said he was in the field for some hours because the gunfire was so heavy they dare not get up and try to leave.

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 said that almost all of the shooting came from soldiers at the Henry Taggart base and included tracer bullets, but he was adamant that there had also been shooting from the Springmartin area, which sounded different.

He described seeing some people being hit and hearing Joan Connolly call to others to stay down.

Mrs Connolly was the only woman killed in the shootings.

Image caption Henry Taggart Army base where soldiers from the Parachute Regiment were based

Mr Butler recalled an Army Saracen entering the field and two soldiers lifting bodies into the back of it.

He said one of the men was wounded and crying out in pain.

Mr Butler told the court one of the soldiers withdrew a sidearm, swore at the man who was moaning in pain, and shot the man dead, with one or two rounds "towards the chest".

'Covered in blood'

Later, after the Saracen had gone, Edward Butler crawled towards a lane way at the edge of the field.

He spent some time there waiting for his younger brother, Martin, but he did not come.

When he moved slightly forward to call to him, he heard the cracks of two shots and realised he had been shot just above the right hip.

He looked down as he lay on the ground, he said, and his leg was covered in blood.

Mr Butler believes these shots came from the Henry Taggart base which was in direct line with his position.

He started to squeal, as did Martin, and about 10 minutes later he was rescued by people from a nearby house.

A man encouraged him to crawl to a hole in the fence which they pulled him though.

He received immediate first aid and was later taken to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children.

Edward Butler had sustained serious and life-changing injuries and was in hospital for several months.

He had further treatment until he was 14.

To this day, he told the court, he has difficulty with his right leg.

He explained that he has tried hard to forget what happened that day in 1971 and has never been back to the field where he was shot.

He returned with his father to the house where he received first aid to thank the people who had helped him.

Wounded on the ground

Later, Mr Butler told a barrister for the Ministry of Defence that he did not observe any weapons or gunfire from the Manse area.

Military witnesses have previously asserted that soldiers were returning fire after shooting from the area.

Mr Butler's brother, Martin, also gave evidence.

He described seeing a man being shot in the Manse area about 20 yards from where he and his brother had taken cover.

He also described three soldiers from the Saracen vehicle getting out and firing their weapons, at people lying already wounded on the ground.

Later, he heard the shot that struck his brother.

He remembered someone using a loud speaker to ask the soldiers at the Henry Taggart base to stop shooting, and managed to escape when another man helped him over a fence in the dark.

He said there was more shooting even as he escaped.

Image caption An image of the field where four victims were shot, taken a week after it happened

Earlier, there were upsetting scenes at the inquest as a witness described the injuries of Joan Connolly.

Margaret Elmore was continuing the evidence she began on Tuesday.

She lived in the house beside the scene of the shooting and had been watching from an upstairs window.

When Mrs Elmore described Mrs Connolly being shot, there were sobs and crying from the family members observing from the jury box.

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