Stormont AG blocked soldier’s prosecution
Stormont AG blocked soldier’s prosecution

A 41-year-old Derry man shot dead by the British army in 1971 was an innocent victim and was not carrying a rifle, as claimed by the soldier who killed him, the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) has found.

Shop manager William McGreanery was shot by a British soldier while crossing a junction in Derry in the early hours of September 15th, 1971.

He was shot by one of two soldiers on duty inside a fortified defensive sangar outside a factory in Derry at around 12.45am.

The Pat Finucane Centre in Derry has released details of the inquiry by the team, which investigates unsolved killings from the past.

The team also found that the killing was not properly investigated as British military police interviewed the soldiers in isolation from the RUC.

The inquiry team interviewed the two men who were soldiers in the sangar. The soldier who fired the single shot, Soldier A, claimed Mr McGreanery was aiming a rifle at the sangar. All of the civilian witnesses said Mr McGreanery was not armed. Soldier A told the inquiry he was “petrified” at the time.

The inquiry team said two of the most contentious issues in the case revolved around whether Mr McGreanery was armed and whether he posed a threat to the soldiers.

“There is an abundance of evidence from the civilian witnesses to say that Mr McGreanery was not armed and therefore posed no threat whatsoever to the soldiers.

“Soldier A is prepared to concede, on the basis of what the civilian witnesses say, that he was mistaken about the rifle.”

The HET concluded: “An examination of the original case file reveals that there were clear doubts over the veracity of soldier A’s account yet nothing was done to challenge it or investigate it.”

Even the head of the RUC in Derry at the time, recommended that Soldier A should have been prosecuted. The team examined how no charges were made against him.

The report revealed that the Stormont attorney-general in 1971, Ulster Unionist Basil Kelly, recommended the soldier should not be prosecuted for anything he did “in the course of his duty”.

The late Mr McGreanery’s nephew and niece, Billy McGreanery and Marjorie Roddy, who took the case to the HET said the grief of their uncle’s loss was compounded by the British Army’s claims.

In a joint statement, Ms Roddy and Mr McGreanery said: “We were shocked and surprised to find out that although Frank Lagan,the chief superintendent in Derry at the time had recommended the soldier be prosecuted for murder and that this recommendation was supported by another superintendent at RUC force headquarters, no charges were proffered.

“We felt that if the prosecution had been pursued at the time then perhaps other future innocent civilian fatalities may have been prevented.

Pat Finucane Centre spokeswoman Maggie O’Connor said the decision not to prosecute the soldier at the time was a political one and not a legal one.

She said the PFC intended having the report read into the parliamentary record to correct the 39-year-old lie that Mr McGreanery was armed.

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