Northern Ireland

Coagh inquest: No prospect of hearing evidence from jailed SAS man

Former British soldier sentenced to six months for contempt of court

Three IRA men were shot dead by the SAS in Coagh, Co Tyrone, in June 1991
Three IRA men were shot dead by the SAS in Coagh, Co Tyrone, in June 1991

A coroner has heard that there is “no prospect” of a former SAS member, sentenced to six months in prison for contempt of court, giving evidence at an inquest into the British army killing of three IRA men.

The ex-squaddie, known as Soldier F, was sentenced at Edinburgh Court of Session last month.

He will remain free until after a reclaiming motion, in effect an appeal, is heard in Scotland.

A petition was made to the Scottish court by the presiding coroner in the north, Michael Humphreys, who is also hearing the Coagh inquest and is a High Court judge.

Nothing can published that identifies Soldier F, who was involved in planning the ambush and who fired shots.

(l-r) Tony Doris, Peter Ryan and Lawrence McNally died in an SAS ambush in 1991 
(l-r) Tony Doris, Peter Ryan and Lawrence McNally died in an SAS ambush in 1991 

East Tyrone IRA members Pete Ryan, Lawrence McNally and Tony Doris died after an SAS team raked their car with gunfire in Coagh, Co Tyrone, in June 1991.

The three IRA men are believed to have been on their way to shoot a UDR soldier before they were shot.

Relatives of the dead believe their loved ones were the victims of a shoot-to-kill operation.

Soldier F had been called to give evidence at the inquest into the killing of the three IRA men but refused to attend.

Despite providing a witness statement, Soldier F said he would not appear voluntarily to testify and face cross-examination.

He denies any wrongdoing but expressed concern that he could be referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions and ultimately face criminal proceedings.

The coroner later requested that a certificate of default be transmitted to the Court of Session in Edinburgh over Soldier F’s refusal to comply with a subpoena.

At an inquest hearing in Belfast on Tuesday, Mr Humphreys heard that “given the continuing proceedings in Scotland there prospect of F giving evidence in these proceedings”.

Mr Humphreys said Soldier F has been given “every opportunity” to present his evidence.

“As far as the position with Soldier F is concerned then, I think we’ve probably reached the end of the line,” he said.

“Every opportunity has been afforded to him and obviously action has been taken with the hope of a change of mind.

“That hasn’t been forthcoming and given the timescales we are working to I think it’s necessary for us to bring the evidence to a conclusion in this inquest.”

The coroner said he had no power to force people to attend the inquest.

“That’s regrettable and it would have been helpful to hear from Soldier F but my powers, whilst they’re in one sense draconian, and they don’t extend to forcing people into the witness box from outside the jurisdiction.

“That’s I think is the realistic position.”

Mr Humpreys said Soldier F’s statement will be read into the record at a hearing scheduled for next week.

He added set an indicative date for his provisional findings is April 11.