Undercover soldier gives evidence in Coalisland RUC station bomb case
AN undercover soldier has told a court that he opened fired on two terrorist suspects as he believed his "life was in immediate danger'' seconds after a bomb attack on an RUC station.
'Soldier A' gave evidence from behind a curtain at the Belfast Crown Court trial of Paul Campbell.
The 41-year-old, of The Mills, Coalisland, Co Tyrone, denies causing an explosion likely to endanger life and possessing an improvised explosive device with intent to endanger life on March 26 1997.
The prosecution claim he was one of two men who launched the attack, that he was shot by a soldier as he fled from the scene, and that he jumped into a priest's car that was parked nearby.
It is also the Crown's case that his DNA was found in the back seat of the car.
A co-accused, Gareth Doris, who was also shot, was later sentenced to 10 years in prison.
The military witness told the trial that on the day of the attack he was a soldier attached to 'Headquarters Northern Ireland' and was told to carry out a "surveillance operation in Coalisland against a known terrorist''.
He told Judge David McFarland, who is trying the case without a jury, that five vehicles were deployed to the village containing seven soldiers.
He said as he was carrying out his surveillance operation from his parked car, he "saw two individuals running, not sprinting, and carefully carrying something in their right hands but I couldn't see what that was. They were wearing dark clothing and their faces were obscured.''
Soldier A said he noticed the two suspects running down an alleyway which led to the police station.
"It was at this point I decided to get out of my car and see what was going on. My intention was to go to the alleyway but I didn't get that far. When I got to the entrance to the heritage centre I heard a couple of explosions... two loud explosions and a flash of light.''
He told the court that "within a matter of seconds, two individuals came sprinting out of the alleyway and were making good their escape''.
"I shouted very clearly 'Army, Army, Army'. The two individuals separated and the individual, Mr Doris, continued to run towards me.
"The second individual ran to the right. I drew my Browning 9mm pistol and identified myself clearly I was a soldier.
"While they were running they were both rummaging in their waistbands. I believed they were both pulling weapons from their waistbands.
"I clearly believed my life was in immediate danger. I believed I was about to be attacked with the weapons and they would try and take my weapon off me and murder me and murder other people in the future. I fired two warning shots over their heads.
"I shouted 'Army, Army, Army'. Mr Doris was sprinting towards me even though I had identified myself as a soldier and had fired warning shots.
"I fired two shots and hit Mr Doris in the upper right quadrant of his body towards his shoulder and he fell down.''
He said he saw the second individual "sprinting away'' and shouted "Stop, Stop. But he didn't stop.''
Soldier A said he recalled seeing this suspect running towards a parked white car and fired "one or two rounds'' at him before he got into the back of the car which "made good its escape'', adding: "I was not aware if I had hit him.''
The judge heard that a second member of the surveillance team arrived a few minutes later.
As they waited for an ambulance and police to arrive, Soldier A said a "large crowd had formed of between 70-100 people, some of whom were drunk''.
He said at that moment he recalled the events of 1988 in west Belfast when Corporals Derek Wood and David Howes "were pulled from their car and brutally murdered''.
"That was in my mind. We continued to identify ourselves as army and at one stage the crowd started to surge forward. We believed we were about to be attacked and fired warning shots in the air."
He told the hearing that "the crowd were trying to stop us from leaving the area and I deployed flash bangs to disperse the crowd... in my mind I didn't want them doing anything silly. We then exited the area.''
Defence counsel Orlando Pownall QC put it to the witness that his recollection of events was not totally clear given that his statement was made 11 months afterwards.
Soldier A replied: "Some things are absolutely seared in my mind.''
Mr Pownall asked: "When you fired those shots, was it your intention to kill them?''
Soldier A replied: "I was stopping that from happening. My intention was not to kill Mr Doris. He would have died if that had happened.''