Irish Republican News · June 4, 2016
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Murderous actions of ‘Soldier A’ in west Belfast


The wife of a County Armagh man shot dead by a member of the Parachute regiment more than 40 years ago has welcomed the findings of a fresh inquest saying “the world has seen that he was innocent”.

Mary Thornton was speaking after coroner Brian Sherrard said the shooting of her husband Henry Thornton (pictured) in August 1971 was not “necessary, reasonable or proportionate”.

The 29-year-old died almost instantly when the soldier, still known only as ‘Soldier A’, shot him twice through the rear of his van near Springfield Road in west Belfast.

The father of six from Silverbridge, County Armagh, and his colleague Arthur Murphy were driving to work early in the morning when his van may have backfired. Soldier A, who later claimed he thought he heard shots, fired at the driver killing Mr Thornton almost instantly.

Mr Sherrard delivered his findings at Belfast Coroners’ Court on Tuesday after a new inquest was held into the legacy killing.

He claimed Soldier A had “proceeded on the honestly held but false belief” that the men in the van had been involved in firing shots at a nearby RUC police barracks.

“He would undoubtedly have known that firing two high-velocity bullets at the driver of the vehicle was likely to result in the driver’s death. At the time of the shooting Soldier A was not under attack.”

“Other options to stop or pursue the vehicle were available. In such circumstances the shooting of Mr Thornton was neither a necessary nor a reasonable nor a proportionate response to the situation Soldier A either actually encountered or thought that he encountered.”

Speaking afterwards Mrs Thornton along with her lawyer Padraig O Muirigh said: “He was taken from me, he was taken away from his six children - it’s good the world has seen that he was innocent.

“I am just so glad these findings have come out - the truth is out at last, we can let him rest now.”

A decision has yet to be taken by the coroner as to whether ‘Soldier A’ can now be named in light of the findings.


Meanwhile, a republican family are a step closer to finding out the truth over a long-suspected state role in the killing.

The family of INLA Volunteer Noel Little have asked for a new inquest into his death in 1980 after evidence emerged that his house was under Crown force surveillance before he was shot dead.

Lawyers for his family have recently received information that the RUC’s E4A unit, which gathered information for Special Branch, had the house was being watched shortly before the killings.

Mr Little was shot dead along with fellow INLA member Ronnie Bunting in west Belfast in October 1980, and the involvement of the Crown forces (SAS) was suspected from the outset.

After breaking down the front door with a sledgehammer the gunmen, dressed in combat gear, made their way upstairs where they calmly singled out and shot their victims. Mr Little was sharing a room with the Bunting’s 18-month-old son when he was blasted to death.

Brought up a Protestant, Mr Bunting was a son of Major Ronald Bunting, a former close associate of Rev Ian Paisley. Both men were also members of the IRSP and involved in the National H-Block Committee, which campaigned for republicans prisoners to be given political status.

The double murder took place amid a concerted murder campaign against prominents members of the to the IRSP and the National H-Block Committee, which saw the deaths of Miriam Daly and John Turnly, as well as an almost fatal attack on former republican MP Bernadette McAliskey.

We have a favour to ask

We want to keep our publication as available as we can, so we need to ask for your help. Irish Republican News takes time, money and hard work to produce. But we do it because we believe it makes a difference. If everyone who reads our website helps fund it, our future would be much more secure.

For as little as £1, you can support Irish Republican News – and it only takes a minute. Thank you.

© 2016 Irish Republican News