Collusion precedent as British military pays out


A man who was shot after a British Army spy targeted him for murder is to receive £90,000 in damages. Eamon Heatley was shot up to five times by a death squad at his home in north Belfast in August 1988 in a state-planned assassination, but survived.

Mr Heatley sued the Ministry of Defence (MoD) over the role of MI5 agent Brian Nelson (pictured) in setting up the attempt on his life.

Directed by Nelson, a gunman posing as a taxi driver fired into Mr Heatley’s house, wounding him in the chest and leg. He spent a long period in intensive care, suffered enduring physical and psychiatric injuries and was unable to return to work for six years after the shooting.

Legal argument had centred on the part played by Nelson, a British soldier who was a high-ranking member of the UDA while also working for MI5. The case was listed for a two-day hearing at the High Court in Belfast, but an out-of-court settlement was reached before the shocking details made it to the courtroom.

Lawyers for Mr Heatley had argued there had been “negligence” over the state’s failures to either warn him his life was in danger or to halt the attack. It had been planned by Nelson with the connivance of the murderous Force Research Unit (FRU), a branch of British military intelligence.

Entering judgment for the plaintiff, Mr Justice Horner said: “The parties are to be congratulated in resolving their differences.”

Outside court Mr Heatley’s lawyer, Jack Quigley of Madden & Finucane, said the outcome fully vindicated his decision to bring a lawsuit against the British government.

Mr Quigley said: “My client and his family have battled for 30 years to gain recognition of the wrongs perpetrated against him by the state. They welcome (the) settlement and the relevant closure that it brings, and now look forward to moving on with their family life.”

The outcome is a precedent for other collusion cases involving Nelson.

A 2002 government review of the murder of Belfast lawyer Pat Finucane carried out by Desmond de Silva found that Nelson was actively involved in targeting Mr Heatley and others for murder.

The report found Nelson had mentioned the targeting of Mr Heatley to his handlers on 21 occasions, noting that former UDA leader Tommy ‘Tucker’ Lyttle had asked for the victim’s home address.

The case is expected to open the door for similar payouts in the cases of other victims, particularly those named in the de Silva report.


Separately this week, the family of a man shot in the back on Bloody Sunday has been awarded £160,000 in compensation.

Patrick Campbell, 52, a father-of-nine, was shot at close range while trying to run to safety. Thirteen people died after members of the British Army’s Parachute Regiment opened fire on civil rights demonstrators. Mr Campbell was seriously injured and subsequently quit working as a docker, the court was told. He died from cancer in 1985.

The judge said Mr Campbell’s gunshot wounds “were inflicted in the most distressing and persistently disputed circumstances.” The bullet which struck him remained in his abdomen and was never retrieved.

Mr Campbell was forced to quit working as a docker and suffered from chronic depression. He underwent surgery, but had to return to hospital for a second time due to complications and then attempted in vain to return to work.

The court heard he was shot at close range at the rear of the Rossville flats in Derry, falling to his knees as he tried to reach safety.

Counsel for the Campbell family said ‘Soldier F’, currently facing prosecution for the murders of two other protestors, had acted liked it was a “turkey shoot”.

Mr Campell went to the grave before being vindicated. Ministry of Defence lawyers shamefully attempted to play down the injury and the effect on Mr Campbell’s life.

Speaking after the court’s decision, his son, Billy Campbell, said: “The money doesn’t mean a lot. It won’t bring him back. It’s just money.”

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