Coroner to name British soldier who shot south Armagh man

Henry Thornton
Henry Thornton

A CORONER has ruled that a British soldier who shot dead a Co Armagh man more than 45 years ago should be identified.

South Armagh man Henry Thornton was killed as he travelled along Belfast’s Springfield Road in August 1971.

The 28-year-old died almost instantly when a British soldier, known only as Soldier A, fired twice at the van he was driving close to the former Springfield Road RUC station.

The father-of-six from Silverbridge, who had been working in Belfast, been had been living temporarily in the city when he was killed.

He and another man Arthur Murphy had been driving to work when their van backfired prompting Soldier A to run after it and fire two shots killing Mr Thornton.

At a hearing last year Mr Sherrard found that the shooting of Mr Thornton was “neither a necessary nor a reasonable nor a proportionate response to the situation Soldier A either actually encountered or thought that he encountered".

Coroner Brian Sherrard had earlier been asked to review a decision to name the soldier responsible, who has since died.

He said that “on reflection I see no reason to change the original decision issued” and added that “in each and every case these decisions have to be made on their own basis”.

It is understood the dead soldier’s family had objected to his name being made public.

Mr Sherrard is due to deliver his “final findings” next week meaning that any appeal of his decision will have to be lodged before then.

Mr Thornton’s widow Mary said it is “very important that he (the soldier) is named”.

Her solicitor Pádraig Ó Muirigh said the coroner’s decision may be challenged.

“If that’s the case we will be prepared to represent the family in support of the decision of the coroner,” he said.