Operation Motorman soldiers 'not traced'

Published Monday, 22 March 2010
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None of the colleagues who were with a British soldier when he shot a teenage boy in Londonderry, during the controversial Operation Motorman nearly 30 years ago, have been positively traced ahead of a new inquest into the killing, a court has heard.

It is also uncertain whether the Royal Scots Regiment solider who fired at 15-year-old Daniel Hegarty in July 1972 is well enough to give evidence to the inquiry, a preliminary hearing in Belfast was told.

The man - known as Soldier B - was in a squad of four to six troops in the Creggan Heights area during the military operation, which saw thousands of personnel enter parts of Derry and Belfast that were effectively controlled by the IRA.

Daniel, who was unarmed, was shot dead and one of his cousins injured when Soldier B fired on them in disputed circumstances in the early hours of 31 July.

The boy's family reject the soldier's version of events that the boys were running at him and his comrades and that they ignored repeated shouted warnings.

The relatives also claim Daniel was struck at close range, not 70 feet away as originally alleged by the Army.

The preliminary sitting at Mays Chambers heard that four Royal Scots soldiers initially believed to have been in the vicinity of the shooting now claim they were elsewhere.

Meanwhile confusion surrounds the identity of another - Soldier A - with the Ministry of Defence and police at odds over who this man actually is.

"Nobody other than Solider B, and possibly Soldier A, have we identities available for," a police detective told Northern Ireland's senior coroner John Leckey.

The police understand Soldier A is the same person who has previously been referred to as Solider I. But Peter Coll, representing the MoD, said that is not what the Army has been told.

"Soldier I says he's not Soldier A," he said.

Names for the other four soldiers were suggested by a Royal Scots major involved in Motorman, but the detective said they all denied being there.

Three claimed to have been deployed elsewhere in the city, he said, while the other said he joined the unit the day after the shooting.

"We really only had the names Major C provided and those have turned out not to be accurate," the detective told the court.

When asked by Mr Leckey why the Army did not know where individual soldiers were on the night, the detective said it appeared such detailed records were not taken, noting the vast number of troops involved.

He said the task of tracking former personnel was further complicated by the fact the Royal Scots Regiment no longer exists, having been merged into a larger regiment a number of years ago.

The Attorney General ordered the new inquest after a probe by the Historical Enquiries Team heavily criticised the original RUC investigation.

Three years ago the Government officially apologised to the Hegarty family for describing the teenager as an armed terrorist in an official document about the shooting.

The start of the full hearing is scheduled for Derry courthouse in June.

© Press Association
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