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Northern Ireland news

Inquest into 1972 murder of pregnant teenager set to begin in March

Teenager Marian Brown who was shot in west Belfast in 1972
Marie Louise McConville

AN inquest into the death of a pregnant teenager shot in west Belfast almost 45 years ago is set to begin in March.

Lawyers representing the family of Marian Brown, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and PSNI came together yesterday at the Coroner's Court in Belfast for a preliminary hearing.

Ms Brown, who was 17 years old and from Stanhope Drive in the north of the city, was shot in the neck just minutes after kissing her boyfriend goodnight at Roden Street off the Grosvenor Road in June 1972.

Her killing was initially blamed on republican and then loyalist gunmen, as a British army patrol in the area claimed it had exchanged fire with an armed man in a car.

However, following a re-examination of the case by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET), which included a review of ballistics and forensic evidence, Attorney General John Larkin ordered a new inquest.

During yesterday's preliminary hearing, Judge David McFarland heard that all but one of the British soldiers in the eight-man unit on patrol in the Roden Street area on the day had been identified, although two had not yet been traced.

The court heard there had been "some progress" tracing civilian witnesses, but a search for an Elizabeth McManus, who lived in the area at the time, had so far been fruitless.

The inquest was also told that two files found during a National Archives search concerning the murder of 24-year-old Jean Smith in Andersonstown the day before Ms Brown's murder may have potential relevance to the inquest hearing.

Judge McFarland threatened to hold an MoD official in contempt of court if a new deadline to hand over material relating to the investigation was missed.

"I just want the name of an officer who is responsible in the hierarchy for the compliance of this," he said.

Mark Robinson, barrister for the MoD and PSNI, said matters were "ongoing" and material would be provided in two weeks.

A further preliminary hearing will take place on February 23 before a full inquest due to begin on March 27.

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