Crown refuses to say when it will hand over documents to inquest

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A coroner has spoken out over delays by the Crown Forces in providing information to the inquest of a teenager shot dead by British soldiers in 1975.

Speaking at a preliminary hearing into the killing of Leo Norney in west Belfast, Coroner Paddy McGurgan threatened to compel PSNI police and British military figures to appear before him.

Leo was 17 years old when was shot dead at Ardmonagh Gardens in Turf Lodge, minutes after stepping out of a taxi in September 1975 and being stopped by British soldiers.

The British army later claimed he was one of two gunmen who opened fire on them, but an RUC man admitted to an inquest there was no evidence he was a member of any armed group. A court later heard he was an innocent victim.

During the hearing, a barrister for the teenager’s family expressed concerns after a lawyer for the Crown said he was unable to say when relevant information would be produced.

“In relation to the sensitive material are the PSNI seriously coming before this court for the third time saying that they cannot give a timescale?” asked Fiona Doherty.

“I have to say it’s beyond frustrating that on each occasion either a date is given which isn’t then adhered to or no date can be given, As I say it’s beyond frustrating for then next of kin, they feel they are being messed about with in this way and you sir, more importantly, are being messed about with.”

The coroner said he shared the frustration of Ms Doherty and gave a four-week deadline to hand over the information. Mr McGurgan said he didn’t understand how the MoD could not address the situation “as a matter of urgency”.

“I want it done and I will be wanting a very high ranking member of the Ministry of Defence to appear before me if it’s not done,” he said.

The ‘psychopathic’ British soldier who was linked to the killing, Corporal John Ross MacKay, was one of five British soldiers convicted in 1977 of planting ammunition in cars owned by innocent civilians. He died suddenly in Scotland on the 40th anniversary of the teenager’s death in 2015, aged 62.

In 2016, new evidence emerged about MacKay. He was accused of plotting to assassinate Gerry Adams by a fellow soldier in the Black Watch regiment, who described him as a keen Orangeman who sported a King Billy tattoo and a “drunken psychopath with a loaded weapon”.

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