An SAS soldier celebrated with drinks after shooting dead an IRA man, a Belfast inquest heard this week.
Dessie Grew and Martin McCaughey died when soldiers fired 72 bullets at them in October 1990. Seventy-two bullets were discharged at both unarmed IRA Volunteers in an ambush in a barn near Loughgall, County Armagh.
The inquest into the ‘shoot-to-kill’ incident (a politically-motivated ambush by the British Armed Forces) began just last week. One SAS man stands accused of finishing the IRA men off while they were lying defenceless on the ground.
The soldier in question said he drank “a few beers” in the hours after taking part in the attack.
The SAS man said he had considered the operation as a “success” because none of his unit had been injured in the ambush. Known only to the inquest as ‘Soldier D’, he claimed he was celebrating “because I am alive”.
He admitted firing the final two shots at Grew from close range, which finished off the IRA Volunteer. He said he had done so “instinctively” because he had detected a noise from the fatally wounded man’s body.
On Thursday, a pathologist confirmed that Grew was already dead or dying when he was shot on the ground from close range by the SAS soldier.
Pathologist Dr Nat Cary said: “You could not assume he (Grew) was dead but you could assume he was dying of his other wounds. Even when people are critically injured they may last a few minutes.”
Dr Cary said that he counted 48 wounds in Grew consisting of entrance and exit bullet injuries. He said the cause of death was multiple injuries due to multiple high velocity bullet wounds to the trunk and limbs.
Karen Quinlivan, lawyer for the dead men’s families, challenged Soldier D’s account. She said: “Your immediate reaction when you hear a sound is to shoot a man lying on the ground in the back. What you did when you fired at Mr Grew was you finished him off deliberately.”
The inquest continues.