Justice campaign for Robert McGuinness
Justice campaign for Robert McGuinness


The brother of a 20-year-old man shot dead by the British Army 43 years ago has embarked on a campaign to clear his name of accusations that he was armed at the time.

Robert McGuinness was unarmed when he was shot from the back door of a British military vehicle from a distance of no more than three yards. He died from his injuries four days later on June 26, 1973. There was no trouble in the district at the time apart from some shouting at soldiers.

The British Army claimed that he had pointed a revolver at the open back doors of one of their vehicles before being shot by a soldier. But a man who was on the scene has recently confirmed that the Brandywell man was unarmed and totally innocent.

It was widely believed that Robert was shot by the British Army in retaliation for the death of their bomb-disposal expert, Captain Barry Griffen on waste ground at Lecky Road two days earlier on June 20, as he was examining an explosives find.

An inquest into Robert’s killing held in November, 1973 was very brief and simply recorded the death occurred by misadventure, suggesting that he may have contributed to his death.

His brother, Tony, said Robert had only been a bystander.

“Everyone I’ve spoken said he wasn’t even involved in shouting at the soldiers,” he said.

“He had been talking to his girlfriend, gone into the house which was only about 50 yards away and came back out to see what was going on. They shot him through the back and it shattered him inside.”

Robert was the youngest in a family of several children. Their father had already died and most of the siblings had left Ireland to seek work in England.

“He was a very nice fella, he was very popular, there was a lot of craic about him. He was known mainly by his nickname ‘Guinny’. He didn’t deserve what happened to him,” said Tony.

Asked what effect the killing had on his mother, he continued: “She shut up after that. She was never the same woman. She had been very outgoing and would have always been out and going on bus runs. But, she stopped all that. It took a lot out of her.”

Recalling how he heard of the killing of his brother Tony said: “I just got a knock on the door. My mother was in no fit state to come and tell me. She didn’t know what was going on for a week,” he said.

His brother added: “I have always felt that he is a forgotten victim of Derry’s troubles.

“I am only getting into the position now to try and find out what happened. It is still very painful although it was a long time ago. He didn’t die by misadventure. He was deliberately shot in the back.”

John Curran, who was 14-years-old at the time and was there at the time, said that on the night of the killing the British Army were cruising the area in their ‘pig’ Saracens and acting provocatively, one at the home of a neighbour, Tom Mullan, and another at a lane close to Southend Park. His mother had gone upstairs to go to bed and then he went to look to see what they were up to.

“The engine turned off for a couple of minutes then there was a lot of banging of the back doors of the Saracen. Then the engines started up again. I saw a couple of people walking across the street up the side of Southend Park.

“The Saracen was at the back end of Southend Park and came out onto Brandywell Avenue, across and down onto Brandywell Road -- it travelled on a bit but you could then hear it stop. I knew because of the noise of the brakes. Then the one at the side of Tom Mullan’s house, at the side of No 6 Brandywell Avenue, came out and turned left down towards Brandywell football pitch.

“Just at that Robert came around the corner. There were a lot of fellas at the top of the street and they were cat-calling as the army pulled out. There were two cars parked at the corner at Southend Park. Robert proceeded to walk between the Saracen and the two parked cars. He had nothing in his hands. Nothing at all.

“The boys up the street were calling to him. I think he might have shouted something back to them. I can’t be sure because of the noise of the Saracens. Just as he got to the back of the Saracen, I heard the bang. Then my mother was behind me shouting at me to ‘get away from the door’. I said they have hit Robert. You see the sort of light that that came after the shot at the corner.

“The Saracen moved off -- it didn’t stop. It had been crawling at about 2mph then went up to 5 or 7mph and it turned to follow the second Saracen onto Brandywell Road. I ran onto the street to the corner. I don’t know whether it was nerves or what it was. And I looked at Robert and the other fellas were running down the street towards him. I said ‘you bastards you shot him’.

“I knew it wasn’t a rubber bullet. You could tell the difference between a rubber bullet and a rifle shot.

“I ran and I jumped at the back of the Saracen to look in. I tried to grab the guy that fired. He had gold-rimmed glasses. He was looking at me. Then the Saracen took off at speed. Then a girl came around the corner and grabbed me and pulled me off the Saracen. She and my mother pulled me up the street.”

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