False narrative for killing faces court challenge

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Relatives of an IRA Volunteer shot dead by a British soldier in west Belfast more than 50 years ago are suing the British Ministry of Defence over the false claim that he was throwing a weapon.

Seamus Simpson’s family say he posed no threat but was targeted and killed unlawfully because of his role in the IRA.

They are seeking damages as legislation is being debated at Westminster to block such actions. The case is set for trial at the High Court in December.

The 21-year-old was shot in August 1971, just days after the introduction of internment, when hundreds of republicans and others were rounded up and detained without trial. At the time Mr Simpson was an intelligence officer within the Provisional IRA’s Belfast Brigade.

The soldier who fired the fatal shot claimed Mr Simpson had been about to throw an explosive device. But lawyers representing the family pointed to a report which found “inconsistencies” in the British Army’s version of events.

An examination of Mr Simpson’s clothing failed to reveal any traces of explosive residue, and no reference was ever made to a warning being issued before he was fired upon.

His sister, Susan Simpson, has brought proceedings against the Ministry of Defence, claiming damages for negligence and misfeasance in public office.

Court papers state: “The family believe the deceased’s death was unjustified and unlawful, the force used was unreasonable and the deceased was targeted because he was in the 2nd Battalion of the IRA.

“The soldiers’ statements support the claim that a verbal warning could have been issued prior to the fatal shooting of the Deceased as he was being observed for some time, and attempts could have been made to arrest him had he posed a legitimate threat.”

Those allegations are now set to come under full judicial scrutiny at a trial listed for a five-day hearing.

Outside court Ms Simpson’s lawyer, Gary Duffy of KRW Law, said: “The family are challenging the narrative of events put forward by the RUC and the Army that Seamus was throwing a bomb when he was killed.

“They believe that he was targeted by soldiers because he was a well-known republican and that he posed no threat (when shot dead).”

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