Soldiers resist courtroom questioning

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Soldiers of the British Army’s Parachute Regiment have been accused of putting up a “virtual wall of silence” against an inquest into the shooting of 10 people in Belfast.

Ten innocent men and women were shot dead by British soldiers over a period of 36 hours in a small area of Ballymurphy in west Belfast in 1972.

After a lifelong campaign for justice, several former soldiers from different companies of the Parachute Regiment, who were based in the area at the time, have now appeared at proceedings at Belfast Coroner’s Court.

But lawyer representing the families of two of those killed said the inquest has had little cooperation from the ex-soldiers of Support Company, one of the units closely linked to the massacre.

Two former soldiers from the unit, both of whom were permitted to give evidence anonymously and screened from the public, appeared at the inquest on Wednesday.

Karen Quinlivan QC put it to witness M222 that he was “one of very few soldiers from Support Company” who has attended the inquests.

She also put it to him that former soldiers had been advised not to co-operate with the inquests over social media. But he claimed he didn’t even own a mobile phone.

“I am an old soldier, I don’t even have a mobile phone,” he said.

Ms Quinlivan also put the same points to witness M88. She put it to him that members of Support Company had fired 60 rounds in the area of waste ground where Father Hugh Mullan and Frank Quinn were shot dead.

She asked whether there had been any conversation between soldiers about what happened, and put it to him there has been a “virtual wall of silence from support company”.

M88 responded: “I don’t know ma’am, but I am not because I can’t remember anything”.

SOLDIER F

It was also revealed that a former British paratrooper, Soldier F, accused of taking part in the Bloody Sunday massacre will not appear in person at Derry Magistrate’s Court next week in connection with an effort to try him with the murders of Bloody Sunday victims, Jim Wray and William McKinney.

Crown prosecutors announced in July that Solder F was to appear at the Derry court to face the two murder charges as well as four attempted murder charges. The case was scheduled to commence at Bishop Street courthouse next Wednesday.

However, it has now been confirmed that he will not appear in person.

HUTCHINGS

Former British soldier Dennis Hutchings has claimed ill-health after he was ordered to stand trial next year accused of the murder of a vulnerable man, John Patrick Campbell, in County Tyrone in 1974.

At Belfast Crown Court on Friday, senior judge Justice Colton set the date for the non-jury Diplock-style trial as Monday, March 9, 2020.

Mr Cunningham was shot with an SLR rifle in a field on the outskirts of Benburb. With a mental age between six and 10 years, he was shot in the back as he ran terrified across fields towards his home.

The defence barrister suggested that, given the former soldier’s ill health, his formal arraignment on the two charges should be postponed as long as possible.

Justice Colton said he recognised that Hutchings “will require some accommodation” given his age and reported health problems. A prosecutor accepted the defendant could follow trial proceedings by video link from England.

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