Northern Ireland news

'No amnesty' call for British soldiers from Protestant victim's daughter

Ritchie McKinnie's daughter Carol English believes there should be no amnesty for British soldiers suspected of offences during the Troubles. Picture by Hugh Russell
Connla Young

THE daughter of a Protestant man killed by the British army has said there should be no amnesty for soldiers suspected of committing crimes during the Troubles.

Robert Ritchie McKinnie (49), who was a member of the Orange Order, was shot dead by a Parachute Regiment soldier near Belfast's Shankill Road in September 1972.

The British army later claimed that soldiers had shot at a gunman, while some eyewitnesses said Mr McKinnie - known as Ritchie to his family - was ordered to put his car lights out by a soldier before shots rang out.

A draft Historical Enquiries Team report recently given to the victim’s family by the PSNI confirms that the father-of-five was “a totally innocent man”.

Soldier who killed Ritchie McKinnie was present on Bloody Sunday

Mr McKinnie was struck by fragments after a bullet smashed into his steering wheel as he drove along Matchett Street with his brother to collect his wife who was at a nearby shop.

It later emerged that his wife had already left the area in a bid to escape trouble between the UDA and the British army.

Several other people were also shot during rioting including a local first aid worker who was wounded on Matchett Street earlier the same evening.

Another innocent man, Robert Johnston, was killed after being shot in the back at the junction of Weir Street and Berlin Street by the same patrol.

The same unit is also suspected of shooting and injuring two other men in the area.

The HET report reveals that at the time, police took statements from members of the public who alleged mistreatment over a three-day period, including nine people who claimed to have been shot by the Parachute Regiment.

Earlier this month nationalists reacted angrily after it emerged that the British government plans to consult on the introduction of a statute of limitations on prosecuting British soldiers suspected of committing crimes during the Troubles.

Opponents say such a move would amount to an amnesty.

Mr McKinnie’s daughter Carol English added her voice to the criticism last night, saying there should be no amnesty in cases of "deliberate murders of innocent people”.

“I feel I have not received any justice and they are supporting what the British government did all those years back and everything was swiped to the side," she said.

“We were never important and what the British army said went.”

No-one has ever been charged over Mr McKinney’s killing, although the name of the soldier who shot him is known and he is identified as 'Soldier J' in the draft HET report.

He and his unit are also believed to have been in Derry in January 1972 when 13 innocent Catholic men were shot dead by the same regiment.

Another man later died from his injuries.

While the former soldier initially agreed to be interviewed by the HET, it is understood that never materialised.

Ms McKinney now wants her father’s killer to be interviewed by police.

“I want to know why he shot my dad, why he killed him."

She said she wanted to see if he “has any sort of conscience” and to “tell him about the impact on my family”.

Ms English revealed that she has encountered some “resistance” from within her own community because of her campaign to find out the truth.

“Maybe I’m bitter. I believe people should be punished for what they do deliberately,” she said.

She described her father, who worked as a manager at Mackies in west Belfast, as a “family man” and said his death was “devastating”.

The loving father had been expecting to go abroad on business but delayed the trip after a surprise visit from his brother Tom who lived in Canada and who he had not seen for several decades.

“He was very much a family man,” his daughter said.

“My mother totally relied on him, when he died she couldn’t even write a cheque.”

She said her father was not involved in politics.

“He had no interest,” she said.

“He didn’t like Ian Paisley, he had no time for him.”

Her family took no part in an unofficial inquiry that was later held into the events that led to her father’s death, and an inquest in October 1972 returned an open verdict.

In its draft report the HET said the inquest “should not have been held” until after the then Director of Public Prosecutions had decided whether any prosecutions should take place.

The decision not to prosecute wasn’t taken until December 1973.

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