Northern Ireland

Ballymurphy inquest: Witness denies making up evidence

Ten people were killed in the shootings
Image caption Ten people were killed in the shootings

A civilian witness has denied making up evidence about how two men were shot dead in Ballymurphy in 1971.

He also denied trying to malign the memory of those who died.

Witness C3, who lived in the mainly protestant Springmartin area at the time, was resuming his evidence from last May, at the Ballymurphy Inquest.

The witness, who was 16 yeas old at the time, says he watched what happened while lying in grass above waste ground where two victims died.

Father Hugh Mullan and Frank Quinn were shot on waste ground beside Springfield Park that day, some distance below where C3 says he was lying.

C3 gave his evidence by video link from another room in the same building at the inquest at Laganside Courts in Belfast.

He told the inquest last May he saw eight civilians armed with rifles run across the waste ground, where the two victims were later shot and killed.

He stated that the last of the eight armed men was shot and fell.

He had also said that he had seen Father Hugh Mullan run to the man's aid and lift a rifle shortly before he too was shot.

Image copyright Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker Press
Image caption Families of those killed in the Ballymurphy massacre

A barrister for the Mullan and Quinn families said his account was untruthful and explained that no other witness, civilian or military, mentioned the eight armed men running in single file.

She described that evidence as a "bizarre account".

The first man to be shot is widely understood to have been Bobby Clarke, who survived.

He had been rescuing children from the area at the time.

There has never been any suggestion or evidence that Mr Clarke was armed.

C3 said all he could do was explain what he remembered.

'Can't get everything exactly right'

He denied that he was attempting to justify people being shot, or that he was giving his testimony "to malign the deceased and wounded".

"I can't get everything exactly right" C3 told the court. "I'm trying my best here. I'm trying to give you what I remember."

He was also asked why gave the court a clear account of Father Mullan wearing clerical robes when he was shot, although there is clear evidence that he was not wearing robes.

C3 again denied making up evidence and trying to malign Father Mullan's memory.

He agreed that he had seen two masked gunmen whom he took to be Protestant, in the Springmartin area, but did not see them open fire.

He also thought that gunmen were firing from flats in the area into the Moyard area, which was predominantly Catholic.

'Great restraint'

Later on Monday, soldier M506 returned to the witness box after an absence of four months.

He denied having fired his weapon from the roof of Vere Foster school when civilians were shot and fatally wounded.

He also denied deliberately trying to distance himself from the shooting of unarmed civilians.

It was explained that a previous witness, M138 had stated that M506 had fired his weapon, but M506 said his former colleague was wrong.

M506 told the court last May that he believed paratroopers had shown "great restraint" during a day of rioting, and had only opened fire because someone was firing at them.

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

Accused of being less than truthful with his evidence, M506 said he hadn't fired his weapon, and could well have saved lives due to his actions.

He insisted that in Northern Ireland he had only ever fired his weapon on the firing range.

"I should be commended for the lives I saved, and I took none" he said, during a heated exchange with a barrister for the Mullan and Quinn families.

As M506 began his evidence, the families of the victims lefts their usual seats in the jury box whey they would normally have been permitted to see him.

It's understood they did this in protest at the manner in which the court permitted him to be screened.

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