Northern Ireland

Ballymurphy inquest: Witness C3 'saw civilian gunman shot'

The Ballymurphy victims
Image caption An inquest is examining the deaths of 10 people killed in shootings at Ballymurphy in August 1971

A civilian witness has told the Ballymurphy Inquest that he saw a civilian gunman shot before a priest went to help him in Belfast in 1971.

Witness C3 said he was 16 at the time and left his home in the mainly Protestant Springmartin area to see what was going on after hearing shots.

Two people died in the area on 9 August 1971. They were 38-year-old Fr Hugh Mullan and 19-year-old Frank Quinn.

Their relatives have always insisted that neither was a gunman.

This has been supported by many witnesses at the inquest.

The inquest is looking into the shooting dead of 10 people in the Ballymurphy area of west Belfast in August 1971.

The shootings occurred amid disturbances sparked by the introduction of internment without trial in Northern Ireland.

Some witnesses have told the inquest of other gunmen in the general area of Springfield Park and Moyard at different times that day.

The first man shot in the field is widely understood to have been Bobby Clarke, who survived and has already given evidence at the inquest.

Mr Clarke said he was not carrying a weapon and no other witness has said so either, most saying he had been taking children across the field to safety.

Image caption The 1971 shootings took place during the introduction of internment without trial

Witness C3 said he watched proceedings from the Springmartin Road while lying in the grass for cover.

He said there was shooting from four areas, from loyalists and soldiers in Springmartin, and from the Moyard and Ballymurphy areas.

C3 described seeing men with their faces covered carrying a .303 rifle in the Springmartin area, men he understood to be loyalists.

He said they were entering flats in Springmartin.

He also saw paratroopers around a Ferret scout car parked on the Springmartin Road.

He described muzzle flashes from Moyard flats and hearing gunfire from the other areas over in Ballymurphy and behind him from Springmartin.

C3 said he did not see the Army have any dealings with the loyalist gunmen, or fire at them.

'Soldier shot priest'

He also said that looking down from Springmartin, he saw eight gunmen carrying arms he took to be rifles, walking from Finlay's Factory to Moyard, but did not see them firing.

He explained that he watched them run across a field or waste ground in single file, with their weapons.

He said seven of the men made it to foliage on the other side but after an officer shouted to identify him as a gunman, the eighth man was shot by the Army and fell at once.

C3 said he later watched a priest wearing a robe and a collar, climb over a low fence and go to the man who had been shot.

He said the priest lifted the man's rifle and, at that point, a soldier near him said: "I've identified a gunman" and shot him.

C3 told the court he thought that the soldier who shot the priest may have been an officer.

'Frustrated'

He also said that women and children appeared in the field at around that time.

C3 said he became afraid at that point and went home to his house in Springmartin, telling his father what had happened.

This is the first time the inquest has heard evidence from a civilian witness who was watching from the Springmartin Road that day.

In a statement read out in court, C3 said he was frustrated that loyalists had not been engaging with the Ballymurphy Inquest.

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