Northern Ireland

Francis Bradley inquest: British army chiefs challenged over SAS shooting video

Concerns raised after existence of suspected shoot-to-kill video emerged during inquest

Francis Bradley, 20, was killed in disputed circumstances in an incident involving soldiers near Toomebridge on February 18 1986
Francis Bradley was shot dead by the SAS in 1986 (PA/PA)

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has been challenged to clarify when it became aware of a British army video that may show the moment the SAS shot dead a Co Derry man.

The existence of the video emerged last week during an inquest into the suspected shoot-to-kill operation that resulted in the death of Francis Bradley.

The 20-year-old was shot close to an arms dump near Toome in February 1986 and his name was later added to the IRA’s roll of honour.

The inquest, which opened last year, previously heard that he had told of being threatened by police before he was killed.

During a hearing last week coroner Peter Irvine, who is also a Crown Court judge, was told that a former British soldier, known as Soldier U, has claimed in a statement that a helicopter captured a video of the shooting, which he later viewed.

Mr Irvine was also told that Soldier U “sets out what it captured and certainly the first clip he said captured two or three soldiers running forward from the railway line towards the farmhouse, this may be in the engagement in which Francis Bradley died”.

During a hearing on Monday, Karen Quinlivan KC, who acts for the Bradley family, raised concerns about when the British military became aware of the video’s existence.

“Just to be clear about it, on what date did the MoD became aware of the existence of the video and what steps they have taken prior to now to obtain that video?” she asked.

“The witness signed his statement on the 19th of March, he undoubtedly gave instructions about the video at least on some date prior to the 19th of March and one would have thought that is something the Coroners Service should have been alerted to independently of the statement taking process, because it’s obviously an important matter.

“And also, we’d like to think that searches started and commenced immediately on that.”

Francis Bradley shot dead by the SAS in February 1986
The area where Francis Bradley was shot dead by the British army in February 1986

During the hearing Mr Irvine said the “first time I was ever made aware of this was on Thursday morning and in fact hadn’t even read this statement or seen this statement”.

Ms Quinlivan added that several parties to the inquest are in a similar position.

“I think we are all in the same potion bar the MoD,” she said.

“It is surprising, last Thursday wasn’t the 19th of March, so if they have had statement since the 19th of March I don’t know why it wasn’t served on your team immediately because redaction issues don’t apply to your team.

“But it is also apparent they must have known about this before the 19th of March and it is completely unsatisfactory…a proper explanation of those issues does need to be forthcoming.”

Earlier a lawyer for the MoD said “enquiries are being made to give some assurance to your honour that we are doing what can be done” adding that he intended to consult with the MoD on Monday.

“I will consult with the people who deal with these matters to see where we stand, what has been done, what could be done to identify that video tape,” he said.

Francis Bradley shot dead by the SAS in February 1986
A checkpoint near the spot where Francis Bradley was shot dead