Northern Ireland news

Mother of 11-year-old shooting victim Francis Rowntree has died

11 year old Francis Rowntree who was shot by a rubber bullet in April 1972. Picture by Mark Marlow

THE mother of an 11-year-old boy who was killed after he was hit by a rubber bullet in west Belfast almost 45 years ago has died.

Theresa Rowntree died in Our Lady's Nursing Home in the city on Tuesday surrounded by her family.

Her son Francis died two days after he was hit on the head by a rubber bullet while walking through the Divis Flats complex close to the Falls Road in April 1972.

The case is mired in controversy with disputed claims on whether Francis was hit directly or injured by a ricochet, and if the rubber bullet had been doctored to make it potentially cause more harm.

An investigation by the PSNI's now defunct Historical Enquiries Team concluded Francis was an innocent bystander.

An inquest into Francis's death was completed last year but the coroner has not yet given his findings.

John Teggart, who represents the families of victims of the 1971 Ballymurphy shootings, said he was saddened to learn of Mrs Rowntree's death.

"She has gone to her grave without proper answers about Francis. It's very sad," he said.

Speaking after a victims' protest at Stormont yesterday, Mr Teggart said the impasse over funding for Troubles-era inquests needs to be resolved immediately.

"So many families are in the same position - relatives dying, eyewitnesses dying," he said.

"We believe that the inquests should stand alone, they should be de-coupled from the talks (aimed at restoring power-sharing). There's a sectarian veto over (the funding) and that should not be allowed. It wouldn't be allowed in any inquests across the water."

Requiem Mass for Mrs Rowntree will be celebrated at St Peter's Cathedral at 10am on Saturday followed by burial at Milltown Cemetery.

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