A new inquest has been ordered into the death of a 21-year-old Derry youth who was killed by a British Army rubber bullet in 1973.
Thomas Friel was struck by the bullet in Creggan as he was returning home after a night out. He died four days later. He was one of a family of ten, five brothers and five sisters.
The Six-County Attorney General has now ordered a fresh inquest to examine the circumstances of Mr Friel’s death in light of documents uncovered by the Pat Finucane Centre that were withheld from the original inquest.
The documents show that the British Ministry of Defence had withheld scientific data showing that the Ministry was aware that rubber bullets were more dangerous than had been admitted publicly.
It was also revealed that the British government reached an out of court settlement in the case of Richard Moore, who was 10 years old when he was shot in the face and blinded by a rubber bullet in 1972 -- a year before Mr Friel was killed.
The Attorney General has now examined several declassified documents relating to the lethality of rubber bullets.
One British document describes how the rubber bullet “converts... to a potentially lethal weapon” in certain circumstances. Another describing injuries caused by rubber bullets based on hospital records f rom Derry and Belfast. It concludes: “Despite the low mortality (sic) the rubber bullet cannot be considered safe in its present form.”
Pain James Nash, Thomas Friel’s brother-in-law, said: “We have had years of lies. After more than 40 years they must now accept that Thomas was killed by a rubber bullet.
“These documents show that the British government knew how dangerous the rubber bullets were, but were more concerned with the cover-up than the people they were killing.
“The death had a devastating impact on the Friel family. Thomas’ mother was never a well woman anyway so this added extra pain. It was a very hard time.
“The family is absolutely delighted about this new inquest. It’s about putting the record straight.
“Our thoughts are with the other families who were affected, those who were injured or killed because the British government were happy to use these deadly weapons on our streets.”