A fresh inquest has been ordered into the British state killing of a teenager in west Belfast in 1975.
Seventeen-year-old Leo Norney was murdered by soldiers from the Black Watch regiment of the British Army just minutes after he got out of a taxi in the Springfield Road area of west Belfast on September 13 1975.
Following his death the British Army tried to claim that the teenager was one of two ‘gunmen’ who had opened fire on one of their patrols. Lies were later spread about the shooting and pressure put on the coroner’s office to say there was ‘gun residue’ on the teenager’s hands.
Following the shooting Leo’s body was taken to Springfield Road barracks, instead of the morgue, where the bones in his hands were shattered. The British Army searched his parents home five hours after the shooting but failed to tell them the teenager was dead.
Within days of the shooting Fr Denis Faul published a damning account of the incident with eye witnesses’ testimony which confirmed the teenager had been stopped and searched by the same British soldiers just minutes before he was shot, refuting claims he was armed.
Research carried out by Mr Norney’s sister, Anne Wiggins, along with Relatives for Justice (RFJ) has now uncovered efforts to smear her brother’s name.
The members of the Black Watch regiment responsible for shooting Leo Norney were never called to give evidence at his inquest. Two years after his death, soldiers from the same regiment were convicted of planting ammunition in the cars of civilians who were then arrested. This fact was never revealed at first inquest.
RFJ discovered documents in the British government’s National Archive in Kew London that exposed the attempts by the British Army to label Mr Norney as a gunman.
Paul Butler of RFJ said: “What is clear from these official records is that both the RUC chief constable and the head of the British army at the time colluded to make Leo Norney out as having been involved in a shooting incident”.
In 2010 Mrs Wiggins was contacted on two occasions by the police’s Historical Enquiries Team (HET). They said they had spoken to a British military police officer who had attended the scene of the shooting and admitted he was sceptical of the soldiers’ version of events. He said he was placed under pressure to establish that gun residue was found on the victim’s hands.
Fearghal Shiels of Madden and Finucane, who represents the family, said: “An amendment to the coroners rules means that [the British soldiers] are compellable witnesses and will be questioned by the family’s lawyers, therefore this will be the first public and effective examination of the circumstances in which Leo Norney died.
“The conviction of three of the soldiers for offences of the most serious kind casts grave doubts on their credibility and their bad character evidence is of clear relevance to the coroner’s investigation.
“This material fact was concealed from the coroner by the RUC during the first inquest.”
Mrs Wiggins who lives in Guernsey said the new inquest provided the best opportunity to clear her younger brother’s name.
“My mother was determined not to let her son’s name be blackened and tried everything she could clear Leo’s name,” she said.
“My father handled it differently, he just went into himself. My younger sister was still living at home and she told us she could hear him crying alone every night in his bedroom.
“He told the rest of us to go get on with our lives but he never came around and died two year later. He died of a broken heart really”.