Northern Ireland

Ballymurphy inquest: Soldier 'saw paratroopers kill civilians'

Ballymurphy families
Image caption The inquest is examining the deaths in west Belfast in August 1971

A former British soldier has told the Ballymurphy inquest he watched paratroopers shooting and killing civilians.

The inquest is examining the deaths of 10 people in west Belfast in August 1971.

Witness C4 was a 24-year-old man in 1971 and a serving member of the Royal Corps of Signals.

He explained that although he came from Gloucestershire he had married a woman from Ballymurphy.

He was in the area on leave at the time of the shootings.

On occasion he said he had acted as a go-between for the Army and the local community.

C4 told the court he was present during the incident where Fr Hugh Mullan and Francis Quinn were shot and killed on waste ground near Springfield Park.

Image copyright Public
Image caption The shootings occurred amid disturbances sparked by the introduction of internment without trial in Northern Ireland

He said he and others had been pinned down whilst trying to help women and children, including his own sister-in-law, from a mixed area, escape across the waste ground.

C4 said he saw two soldiers wearing red berets on the roof of Springmartin Flats, which were unfinished at the time.

He had been practising on a Army shooting range just the week before, he said, and was well aware of the noises made by various weapons.

C4 said the soldiers were firing SLRs (self-loading rifles).

He had earlier watched as soldiers and a Ferret scout car had moved into the area.

He said he watched Fr Mullan being shot and said the priest screamed for some time.

Image caption Ten people were killed in the shootings

Later, after the priest was hit a second time, C4 said he listened to him pray for a while in both English and Latin, before he died.

During the shooting C4 said he could see the two soldiers and watched the muzzle flashes from their weapons.

The off-duty soldier was nicked in the leg by one bullet as well, he said.

He reported hearing handguns fired earlier from Springmartin which he thought came from loyalist paramilitaries.

Later in the evening C4 said there was firing from two Lee Enfield rifles at a factory on a different side of the waste ground.

He also said that an Army major asked him not to testify at the inquest in 1972.

'Ghost gunman'

Later on Tuesday, a previous television interview C4 had given was played to the court.

In it he described lying in the waste ground under fire.

Image caption Soldiers from the Parachute Regiment were based at Henry Taggart Army base

"I looked up," he said. "I saw them. I could see they were paras by the berets they were wearing."

In the interview, he said the soldiers later created "ghost gunmen" to justify having opened fire.

"I was quite, not shocked, disgusted, by the fact that the soldiers did lie," he said.

C4 later said that at the 1972 inquest into Father Mullan's death he'd been called a traitor by an officer of the Parachute Regiment and had been threatened.

Of his own military career, he said: "I served with honour. To me, part of that was the truth."

Later C4 was questioned at length by a barrister for the Ministry of Defence.

The former soldier told him: "Don't think this is easy for me, it's not. My loyalties are being torn apart."

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