Inquest sought over ‘rule change’ triple killing

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Relatives of a County Down man shot dead by British soldiers 50 years ago this month have requested a new inquest.

Robert Anderson was one of three Catholic men killed during the same incident in Newry on October 23 1971. Sean Ruddy and father-of-two Thomas McLaughlin were also killed.

The three men had been drinking in a local pub, but as they made their along a street close to the town’s cathedral, British soldiers watching from the roof of a nearby Woolworths store opened fire.

The British Army later said the soldiers had opened fire on a planned bank robbery by the IRA.

Ministry of Defence records from the time uncovered by the charity Paper Trail reveal that the military had intelligence that there would be an attempt to ‘rob a bank’ in Newry.

The papers, marked as secret, also confirm that none of the men killed were armed. The triple killing later prompted a review of the British army’s ‘Yellow Card’ rules of engagement for troops serving in the north.

Mr Anderson’s niece Michelle Osborne said her mother Bernadyne Casey, a sister of Mr Anderson, continues to mourn his loss. The family deny the former British soldier was involved in any crime.

“It’s getting to my mother more and more and the older she gets the more she is always thinking about him,” she said.

Lawyer Gavin Booth, of Phoenix Law, said: “Three men were killed on that night by the British Army and rather than charging them with murder the government of the day changed the rules of engagement to protect the soldiers.

“Their killings were simply brushed under the carpet by the state with the family left to deal with the loss.

“The facts and circumstances of this case are calling out for a proper investigation either by an inquest or from an outside police force.”

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