British soldier ‘to face charges’ over death of Derry boy

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A former British soldier will be prosecuted for the murder of 15-year-old Daniel Hegarty, according to Crown prosecutors.

The killer soldier, identified only as “Soldier B”, will face the charge of murdering 15-year-old Daniel Hegarty in the Creggan area of Derry in 1972. He will also be charged with wounding the teenager’s cousin, Christopher Hegarty, then aged 17, who was shot and injured in the incident.

The shootings occurred on 31 July 1972, during Operation Motorman, when thousands of troops were deployed into Derry and Belfast to end the so-called ‘no-go areas’ – areas that were under the control of republican armed groups.

The Hegarty family, who have been campaigning for decades for the soldier to be prosecuted for the killing, last year won the right to seek his prosecution after the High Court quashed a previous decision not to bring criminal charges. The 2016 decision not to prosecute was judged to have been based on “irredeemably flawed” reasoning.

Welcoming the decision, the Hegarty family said they had “waited long enough for this day”, adding: “We wish Soldier B no ill will. We have not and do not seek revenge or retribution. We just want the criminal trial to begin.”

Daniel’s sister, Philomena, died recently and their mother and father are also deceased, but the family encouraged other victims of state killings to maintain their campaigns.

“We offer our support to other families seeking justice,” a family statement said. “Stick with it. Difficult as it is, engage with your solicitor and follow the legal route in a patient and dignified way in the memory of the loved one you seek justice for.”

The decision comes just weeks after it was announced that another killer soldier, known as Soldier F, is to be prosecuted for the murder of two civilians during the Bloody Sunday massacre.

Sinn Féin has called for the removal of an inflammatory loyalist banner supporting the soldier in north Armagh.

The banner, which states ‘Portadown stands with Soldier F’, is accompanied by a parachute regiment emblem. Parachute Regiment flags have also appeared in Carrickfergus and east Belfast in support of ‘Soldier F’.

Sinn Féin assembly member John O’Dowd called for the removal of the banner in Portadown, which he said was “designed to cause hurt to the victims of Bloody Sunday and cause community division”. He said the banner was “not appropriate”.

“The victims of Bloody Sunday deserve the truth just as much as any victim of the conflict,” he said. “The banner should be removed immediately.”

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