Breakthrough for family of Manus Deery
Breakthrough for family of Manus Deery

The family of Manus Deery has won a fresh hearing into the fifteen-year-old’s murder in the nationalist Bogside area of Derry in May 1972.

The 15-year-old was shot by a British soldier firing from Derry’s walls while he was standing close to a chip shop with friends.

Nobody was ever prosecuted over his death. The shot was fired by a member of C company, 1st battalion, the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. The British Army claimed the soldier opened fire after a gunman was seen. Eyewitnesses at the time said no gunmen were present.

The first inquest returned an open verdict and his family have fought for answers for 40 years.

A report by the police Historical Enquiries Team (HET), released in February was angrily dismissed by his family as a ”whitewash” when it backed claims that the soldier responsible was shooting at a gunman.

The request for a new inquest was made under the Coroners’ Act. The previous inquest returned an open verdict. The family hope this one will conclude that Manus was unlawfully killed.

Manus’s sister, Helen Deery, welcomed the news that their efforts had finally brought movement.

“We are absolutely delighted. For 40 years we’ve fought for justice and now we finally seem to be getting somewhere.

“Manus was an innocent child whose young life was brutally taken from him. He did nothing wrong. He wasn’t — as the British Army initially claimed — a gunman. He wasn’t rioting. He was eating a bag of chips and chatting to friends when a soldier opened fire on him.

“My mother’s and father’s lives were destroyed after Manus’s death. They went to early graves. But we pledged to continue our campaign until the truth is told about our brother and the British Army comes clean.”

Manus had just started work in a factory when he was shot dead on May 19, 1972. He received his first pay packet that evening.

“Manus had his own money in his pocket for the first time. Life seemed full of promise,” Ms Deery said.

He was standing with friends at Meenan Square in the Bogside when a soldier, anonymously labelled ‘A’, opened fire from Derry’s Walls, fatally shooting him in the head. Soldier B, who was with him, didn’t fire but said he’d also seen a gunman.

Neither soldier had to appear at the original 1973 inquest. Their depositions — later given to the family — were illegible.

No civilian witnesses were interviewed by the RUC. Nor did the RUC interview the soldiers.

Ms Deery said: “We fought for years to see the RUC investigation file. When we got it, we couldn’t believe it. It contained a statement from our mother ‘Margaret’.

“Our mother’s name was Mary and the RUC had never taken a statement from her.

“It also contained a statement from Manus’s ‘cousin James’. We have no cousin James.”

Ms Deery said that, unlike the first inquest, her family would be legally represented at this one and the soldiers could be called to give evidence and cross-examined.

“This new inquest will give all of those involved, witnesses and soldiers, the chance to tell the truth. After 40 years it is the least my young brother deserves,” she said.

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