Hegarty family defy prosecutors
Hegarty family defy prosecutors


A British soldier who shot and killed a 15-year-old boy in Derry in 1972 will not be prosecuted, Crown prosecutors have said.

Daniel Hegarty was just 15 years old when he was shot dead close to his home in Derry’s Creggan early on the morning of July 31 1972. The teenager had gone with two cousins - Christopher and Thomas Hegarty - to look at the huge British army tanks which were being used clear Derry’s ‘no-go’ areas.

He was shot and killed by a member of a British army patrol. His cousin, Christopher was shot and injured by the same soldier. At the time, the British army described them as terrorists.

The British soldier who killed Daniel and who has never been named claimed he and his cousins were running towards him. He claimed he opened fire with a heavy duty machine gun after shouting three separate warnings and that he fired from a distance of 25 metres.

A decision not to prosecute the soldier was previously taken in 1973 and again in 2008.

However, the case was referred back to prosecutors by the Coroner following the conclusion of an inquest in December 2011. The jury unanimously accepted the evidence of a ballistics expert that the teenager was unarmed and no more than 8 feet from the soldier when he was killed.

They also ruled that the soldiers offered no medical assistance to Daniel as he lay dying or to his wounded cousin.

Assistant Director of Central Casework Michael Agnew admitted this week that neither Daniel or Christopher Hegarty posed a threat to soldiers and there was “no objective justification for the shots fired by ‘Soldier B’ that morning.”

The letter sent to the Hegarty family on Tuesday states: “Our assessment remains that there is no reasonable prospect of proving to the criminal standard that ‘Soldier B’ did not act in self-defence having formed a mistaken but honest belief that he was under imminent attack.”

Daniel’s sister Margaret Brady (pictured, right) - who led the campaign to clear her brother’s name - said Soldier B’s actions were in stark contrast to her father’s. Six months after Daniel was killed, Alex Hegarty comforted a young British soldier as he lay dying in Creggan.

“Years later I said to my father that the soldier could have been the one who shot our Daniel and he just said ‘If he was or was not, he’s still someone’s son’,” Mrs Brady said at the time.


The Hegarty family promised to continue their efforts to bring the British soldier to justice. Mrs Brady said prosecutors “have some gall to throw this soldier a lifeline by allowing him to say that he acted on impulse because his life was in danger.

“I think that when we went for a second inquest, they believed that we were not going to get one. That sent shock waves through the establishment because they also didn’t think that Daniel’s name would be cleared.”

“So, they have four years since that inquest to concoct this story about ‘Soldier B’ saying that he felt he was under attack. They are trying to destroy the outcome of the inquest.”

‘Soldier B’ used claims of ill-health in order not to appear at the 2011 inquest and instead provided a documentary account of his activities in the morning in question, during which he also hit and wounded Christopher Hegarty, Daniel’s cousin.

Margaret Brady said: “He’s still lying, still shows no remorse, shows no forgiveness and is just sticking to what he wants the people of this island to believe. They are running, they are ducking the past, they don’t want us to see anything, they just want us to shut up and go away. Ask them to use the word ‘murder’ when it comes to soldiers, but they are happy to label everyone else as terrorists.”

The Hegarty family say that they have already spoken to their legal counsel to set in motion a civil action against the perpetrator of Daniel’s killing.

“We will get him into court. Even if he’s kicking and screaming he is going in.

“They came here and terrorised people in their own homes, put people in prison without even a trial, murdered people and got away with it and got a pension for it,” Margaret said.

Asked about the treatment of victims in general within the political and judicial process, Margaret said: “They are being used and abused. The British government do a lot of talking, but not a lot of walking. This should not be called a peace process, it should be called peace without justice.

“I would like to see accountability, because if you don’t then you cannot bring these people, who committed murder to justice.

“So, what kind of message are you sending to young people? You are telling them not to trust the British government, the British Army, because they will murder you and get away with it.

“These people know what they have done, they know that they’ve murdered. They cry for justice for the British Army, but when it comes to justice for innocent civilians, they do not want to do the time for the crimes they have committed, but they do want their wages, their war pensions and their government to protect them,” she said.

The Hegarty family said that in the 43 years since Daniel’s killing they have never had any indication of the identity of ‘Soldier B’, nor his age or where he is from.

Margaret Brady said: “The PSNI has never once left Northern Ireland in an attempt to arrest or interview this man for the murder of my brother. They went solely on what the Historical Enquiries Team report produced.”

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