A decades-long justice campaign for a teenage boy shot dead by the British Army in Derry in 1972 has been fully vindicated after a coroner ruled this week that Manus Deery was ‘totally innocent’ and his murder ‘totally unjustified’.
Manus Deery was 15 years of age when he was killed with a gunshot wound to the head by a soldier who opened fire from a sentry post on Derry’s city walls in May 1972. The boy had been chatting with friends when the murder occurred, but a British military disinformation campaign claimed they had targeted a “gunman”.
The original inquest in 1973 returned an open verdict. A new inquest was ordered in 2012.
Manus Deery was described during the new inquest as “bright” and “happy go lucky”. He had just started his first job two weeks before his death. The presiding coroner, Justice Adrian Colton, said the teenager’s character had been fully vindicated. He also explicitly ruled that Manus did not belong to the IRA.
British soldier William Glasgow had claimed he had fired on a gunman but had missed and hit the wall. The coroner said his assessment of the evidence was that there was no such gunman. Glasgow, who has since died, was “totally unjustified” in his actions on the day, he said.
“The force used was disproportionate to the threat perceived,” the coroner said. He told Derry courthouse that he had “no doubt” the boy was blameless.
“He didn’t pose a threat to soldiers or anyone else,” the coroner added. Colton said the official police investigation of the shooting in 1972 was “flawed and inadequate”.
Outside the Derry court Manus Deery’s sister Helen said: “We always knew Manus was innocent. It has been a long drawn-out process and there’s been lots of hurdles along the way, but it’s been worth it.
“My emotions today are I love my brother, so I am just a bit sentimental and peaceful too.
“I’ll probably go the cemetery at some stage. But this was about Manus and all the witnesses and clearing all their names.”
The woman who cradled Manus as he lay dying also welcomed the coroner’s ruling.
Margaret McCauley, who was 14, held the teenager’s hand and prayed after he was shot in the head by a soldier from an observation post in May 1972. She said the coroner’s ruling made her feel good for the Deery family, as the case had taken over their lives. “I think about him every day,” she said.
Sinn Fein’s Raymond McCartney also welcomed the findings.
“The Deery family are entitled to the truth about the killing of Manus and hopefully today’s decision will help them in their quest for justice in setting the truth free.”