Ammunition on man killed at Loughgall
An IRA man shot dead by undercover soldiers over 20 years ago was carrying ammunition at the time, an inquest has heard.
Monday, 12 March 2012
A doctor called to the scene claimed a rifle magazine protruded from the trouser pocket of one of the victims and guns were seen nearby.
Sinn Féin councillor Martin McCaughey, from Co Tyrone, and Dessie Grew, from Co Armagh, were shot close to isolated farm outbuildings at Lislasley outside Loughgall in 9 October, 1990.
It is believed the building had been under surveillance for some time by the SAS - three AK47 assault rifles were found nearby afterwards.
Their deaths prompted allegations that they were victims of a British shoot-to-kill policy.
The case has become one of the oldest outstanding inquests in Northern Ireland.
Belfast inquest coroner Brian Sherrard said that soldiers due to give evidence feared they would be attacked.
He added: "At the time of opening fire they believed that the men were going to fire on them."
Dr Brian Cupples checked the men's bodies shortly after they were shot dead.
His statement was read to the inquest and he said one of the men was wearing a green boiler suit and gloves and there was a gun close to the body.
"There was evidence of multiple gunshot wounds to the body," he said.
"There was no evidence of any struggle having taken place after the shooting, with death occurring at the immediate time of the shooting."
The other man was wearing a jersey, jeans and gloves. He was lying face up and a rifle was nearby.
"A rifle magazine was coming from the trouser pocket," Dr Cupples said.
Relatives gave biographical evidence at Laganside courthouse.
Sally Gribben, sister of Mr McCaughey, said he was engaged to be married and worked as a builder. He was from Aughnagar Road, Cappagh, Dungannon, Co Tyrone.
Philip O'Neill, brother-in-law of Mr Grew, said he was single, and his occupation was a car dealer. He worked largely from home at Main Street, Charlemont, Co Tyrone.
Coroner Mr Sherrard outlined brief details to the jury.
He said it was accepted that both men were in the Provisional IRA but that the case also involved the Royal Ulster Constabulary and army.
At least 12 soldiers are due to give evidence and at least six police officers.
Forensics experts and a pathologist will also be called as well as three people located in and around the area of the deaths at the time.
A video was shown to jurors, covering the area where the soldiers fired from, the blue metal shed, agricultural equipment and a laneway.
Mr Sherrard said the agricultural shed was under observation by the soldiers.
"The two men were shot dead after they entered and left the shed," he added.
Mr Sherrard said photos showed the victims were wearing rubber gloves.
He added that there was a car in the garage in which a rifle was found.
The jury will have to consider more broadly the security operation that culminated in the deaths, its purpose, its planning, the actions of the soldiers, their knowledge and the degree of force used in the shooting as well as the circumstances in which the victims came to be in the shed and came by their deaths.
The case is due to last four weeks.
In May 2011, the Supreme Court in London ruled that a coroner must examine the "planning and control of the operation" that led to the fatal shootings. The panel of seven Supreme Court justices ruled that the inquest should not be restricted to "establishing by what means" the men met their deaths.
Supreme Court president Lord Phillips said a coroner "must comply" with European human rights legislation which protected the "right to life" and obliged authorities to carry out "effective investigations" into the circumstances of deaths.
Speaking at the time, Peter McCaughey, brother of Martin, welcomed the decision: "Our family have always believed that our brother Martin was deliberately targeted and murdered by members of the SAS.
"We have waited over 20 years for an Inquest into Martin's death and at last we will have an inquest which investigates not only whether individual soldiers unlawfully killed my brother, but whether the SAS deliberately set out to kill Martin andDessie Grew.
"We hope, now that any restrictions on the scope of the Coroner's investigation have been lifted that we will finally get justice for Martin and Dessie."
He was speaking on behalf of his mother who was the applicant in the proceedings.