Protestant man was shot by British, not IRA - archives

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A factory worker whose 1972 murder was blamed on the IRA was shot dead by the British Army, newly uncovered military documents reveal.

Thomas Mills, an unarmed Protestant civilian, was killed as he worked as a factory watchman in the Ballygomartin Road area on July 18, 1972.

For decades his death was blamed on the IRA. However, British military logs uncovered by the legacy research charity Paper Trail show that his killing was in fact carried out by the British Army.

The new evidence has been submitted to the family’s legal team and the Coroner’s Office as a new inquest into the killing is due to begin in October of this year.

However, details of the killing have emerged in the same week the British Direct Ruler Brandon Lewis revealed new plans for a complete ban on civil proceedings, prosecutions and inquests in conflict-linked cases.

The murder of Thomas Mills happened just over an hour after a member of the British Army’s King’s Regiment was shot dead by the IRA at a British Army observation post in West Belfast.

Military logs from the 39 Brigade Commander’s Diary state that soldiers had “fired 6 x 7.62 [high velocity bullets] at a gunman seen in Moyard – one hit claimed.”

Minutes later, King’s Regiment records reported that a medical officer had been despatched to Ballygomartin where a man had sustained gunshot wounds. Two minutes later the regiment reported that the watchman, later named as Mr Mills, was dead.

A further report, which is contradicted by evidence, claimed that Mr Mills was “holding a pistol that went off”.

The British Army then asked for an intelligence trace on the victim, in what researchers believe was an attempt to connect him to criminality or the IRA. However, according to the files, intelligence found no trace on Mr Mills, who was completely innocent.

Ciarán MacAirt of Paper Trail said either the King’s Regiment soldiers made a “terrible mistake” after the British solider was killed “or they were out for revenge”.

“What is certain is that the British Army’s cover-up of Mr. Mills’ killing was calculated and cold-blooded. The British Army knew its soldiers killed him but instead blamed it on the IRA.

“Even more frightening, this killing is but one of a number of killings of unarmed civilians by the King’s Regiment which were covered up and feature in a number of Paper Trail investigations. These killings include the murder of 13-year-old Martha Campbell and the Springhill-Westrock Massacre.

“The same regiment also played its part in the cover up of the Kelly’s Bar Massacre and the murder of Anthony Davidson which are covered too in soon-to-be published Paper Trail investigations.

“The blatant murders and cover-ups by the King’s Regiment, which we are exposing nearly half a century later, did little but inflame the conflict in 1972 and compound the grief of the victims’ families. Nearly half a century later, the British state has devastated these families again as it announced plans to bury its war crimes and protect its killers in uniform.”

Paul McNickle, a lawyer who acts for the family, said that given moves this week by the British government to draw a veil over such killings, the exposure of such material “underlines the necessity for victims and their families to have proper access to justice”.

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