There are fears a long-standing British strategy to delay legal actions against state killers is succeeding after two soldiers were reported to have died within a week, leaving their victims’ loved ones without justice or closure.
The reported sudden death from Covid-19 of the high profile soldier who killed vulnerable Tyrone man, John Pat Cunningham was greeted with dismay by the Cunningham family, who say they have been robbed of justice for the cold-blooded murder.
The apparent demise of Dennis Hutchings, just 48 hours before he was due to face a difficult cross-examination on his claim that he fired only “air shots” when John Pat died, was greeted with scepticism by some republicans. They pointed to Britain’s history of ‘dirty tricks’ as well as recent rumours of private assurances that no soldier would face conviction for their actions in the north of Ireland.
Hutchings had appeared well when he travelled to Belfast as part of a media campaign by far-right Tory MP Johnny Mercer. On arrival, both engaged in glad-handing, unmasked meetings with unionist supporters and prominent politicians, including DUP MP Carla Lockhart.
Hutchings had rejected the offer of appearing before court via video link. The plan was to draw maximum attention to the British military campaign for a blanket amnesty for those involved in the conflict.
Filmmaker Sean Murray – who has documented British state collusion in hundreds of murders – advised people to be wary of attempts to rewrite the history of the case.
“Watch how the media whitewash the fact that John Pat Cunningham is the only victim here,” Mr Murray wrote. “This family will never see justice.”
The Cunningham family declined interviews, but a statement was issued on their behalf denouncing a surge of entirely false claims made about the case in the mainstream media.
“Negative reaction to this case within unionism and in sections of the British press has been determined by the fact that John Pat Cunningham, who posed no threat whatsoever, was an Irish Catholic”, the statement said.
It noted “none of those who have commented have actually attended the trial and are clearly unaware of the actual facts of the case”. They have laid out those fact in a statement, published below.
SOLDIER ‘DIED IN SUMMER’
And it was reported that a British soldier being sought over the killing of an IRA Volunteer nearly 50 years ago has also died. Stan Carberry was shot dead on the Falls Road, west Belfast in November 1972.
A father-of-six, he was in a hijacked car when members of a British army patrol opened fire. Despite claims by the British soldiers that they had been shot at by Carberry from the passenger side of the vehicle, witnesses have said the republican was in the driver’s seat and was shot dead as he tried to surrender.
The dead man’s son, Stan Carberry Jr, is suing the British Army for the unjustified use of lethal force – but one of the four identified soldiers, ‘Soldier A’, is now reported to have died over the course of the summer.
It is thought the other soldiers involved may now blame ‘Soldier A’ for firing the fatal shots.
ANOTHER DELAY FOR FINUCANES
Meanwhile, lawyers for the British government have succeeded in deferring a legal action on its decision not to hold a public inquiry into the 1989 state-ordered murder of Pat Finucane from next month to next year.
Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly said the family of the Belfast defence lawyer has campaigned with courage and dignity “for decades”. He said people would be forgiven in thinking this is the latest attempt by the British government at “running down the clock” to bring in their recently outlined amnesty proposals.
“The British government’s refusal to honour its promises has frustrated the families of victims who are searching for the truth about the killings of their loved ones.
“It beggars belief that the British government claim that it needs more time to make its case to the courts, 32 years on from the killing of Pat Finucane.
“More than three decades on a full and properly human rights compliant investigation into Pat Finucane’s killing has yet to be carried out.
“The British Government need to end their stalling tactics and fulfil the promise it made many years ago and hold a full and independent public inquiry into the killing of Pat Finucane.”