The role of a single British soldier in planning up to eight murderous ambushes is to be closely examined at an upcoming inquest, it has emerged.
Lawyers for the families of Derry men Daniel Doherty and William Fleming have obtained documents detailing links between a series of shootings resulting in the deaths of 16 people between 1983 and 1991.
The two IRA Volunteers, aged 23 and 19 respectively, were killed by an undercover British Army unit as they travelled through the grounds of Gransha Hospital in the city’s Waterside on a motorbike in December 1984.
It was reported that the ‘elite’ killer SAS was involved in the attack. It is also suspected that members of the British army’s 14th Intelligence Company, a controversial reconnaissance unit working alongside the SAS, may also have been involved.
The British Ministry of Defence is seeking public secrecy orders in relation to the case. If granted, it cannot be compelled by the inquest to reveal which unit was responsible.
However, it is understood the coroner in charge of the inquest, Jim Kitson, has been made aware of the identity of the unit or units involved.
The men’s families believe they were the victims of a so-called ‘shoot-to-kill’ operation, a targeted political assassination, and were given no opportunity to surrender.
The families’ legal team have been told of 13 undercover British soldiers involved in the Derry ambush - the majority also playing a part in other lethal operations.
One trooper, identified as ‘Soldier H’, is confirmed as having had a command role in seven other fatal shootings.
Although the exact military unit of which he was a member has not been identified, it has been confirmed that he spent four years and nine days in the Six Counties as part of a “special unit”.
In British documents obtained by Fearghal Shiels, of Madden and Finucane Solicitors, each soldier has been identified only by a single letter of the alphabet.
However, while the participation of soldiers in other shoot-to-kill operations has been confirmed, the exact role of the troops in each operation has not been revealed.
Some of the details of the case were discussed at a recent coroner’s court hearing into the Derry killings.
The preliminary hearing was told that three soldiers have declined to be interviewed by the investigating officer appointed to the case and refused to make further statements. Four others have yet to indicate whether they will give statements.
Mr Shiels said the role of ‘Soldier H’ will be closely examined.
“It has now been disclosed for the first time that the officer who planned the operation has been involved in at least seven incidents in which 16 people died. His planning of all of these operations shall be the focus of intense scrutiny at this inquest.”
The documents also reveal that another soldier involved in the Gransha operation had a role in an ambush that saw three IRA men killed in Strabane, County Tyrone, two months later.
Documents obtained from the Ministry of Defence show that a trooper identified only as ‘Soldier F’ in the Doherty and Fleming case is also listed as an ‘LO’ in the Strabane attack.
The term ‘LO’ is believed to mean ‘liaison officer’, a title accorded to Captain Simon Hayward, a convicted drugs smuggler who was said to have liaised between MI5, the SAS and the RUC’s undercover unit known as E4.
Mr Shiels said that if suspicions around Hayward are confirmed he should not be afforded further anonymity. “He has already been named and if that name is accurate clearly this soldier is in the public domain and doesn’t require his anonymity to be preserved,” he said.