Inquest ordered into first shoot-to-kill victim

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The North’s Attorney General has ordered a new inquest into the British state killing of Patsy Duffy, widely regarded to be the first example of a shoot-to-kill operation by the British Army in the North.

Mr Duffy was shot at least 11 times after entering a house at Maureen Avenue in the city in November 1978.

The 50-year-old father of six, an IRA Volunteer, was unarmed and alone when he was shot dead by members of a highly secretive branch of the British Army 41 years ago.

None of the soldiers involved in the shooting gave oral evidence at the original inquest into the incident in December 1980. Members of the Duffy family have campaigned for decades to uncover the facts behind the killing and lawyers for the family made an application for a new inquest in November 2015.

Attorney General John Larkin has now directed that a fresh inquest be brought forward.

Mr Duffy died instantly after being struck by the hail of bullets fired by two members of the British Army on November 24, 1978. One of his daughters, Marguerite, was sitting outside in a car with a six-month-old nephew.

At the original inquest into the killing held between December 9-10, 1980, pathology evidence showed that Patsy Duffy had been shot at least 11 times, but possibly up to 14 times.

The same batch of evidence showed that rounds were fired from his left-hand side or from behind him and that at least two of the shots were discharged at close range into the left side of his chest.

Also at the 1980 inquest, two members of the British Army referred to only as Soldiers B and C submitted written statements admitting that they were responsible for shooting Patsy Duffy.

They said that they searched the house, found no illegal weapons and then hid themselves in the attic. Soldier B claimed that he fired at the unarmed Mr Duffy in self-defence.

The Commander of the British Army unit, known as Soldier E, also provided only a written statement in 1980. In it he confirmed that he was responsible for deploying the soldiers to the house and that he instructed them to enter the property in plain clothes.

The family’s lawyer, Patricia Coyle, said: “Patrick Duffy was gunned down while alone and unarmed, peppered with between 11 and 14 bullets and shot at close range at least twice.

“There was no attempt to stop, question or arrest him. The killing, possibly by a plain clothes military unit was unjustified and it is considered that Mr Duffy’s killing is one of the earliest examples of the use of lethal force by the British Army in Northern Ireland when an arrest was possible and such force was unnecessary.

“During the course of the autopsy which took place on November 25, 1978 a deformed copper jacketed bullet was removed by the pathologist and handed directly to police present at the autopsy.

“There is no reason why this bullet cannot be made available for up to date ballistic analysis to trace it to the weapon and possibly to the soldier responsible.

“The legal restriction on the 1980 inquest which did not permit compelling suspects and armed forces personnel to attend and to give evidence and be cross-examined rendered that inquest ineffective.

“Persons suspected of involvement in Mr Duffy’s killing are now compellable witnesses. My clients welcome the Attorney General’s decision to direct a fresh inquest into the killing of their father and look forward to representation before the inquisitorial process.

“Their priority is to access all information and materials to establish the truth about their father’s death, whether it was pre-planned, which element of the British military was responsible and whether the shooting was directed at political level as part of a shoot-to-kill policy.”

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