Northern Ireland

Francis Bradley inquest: Witness denies providing information that could have led to SAS victim’s death

Co Derry man shot dead in SAS ambush nearly 40 years ago

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

A witness at the inquest of a Co Derry man shot dead by the SAS in a suspected shoot-to-kill operation almost 40 years ago has denied providing “any information to anyone” that could have led to his death.

The witness, who was given the cipher C3, gave evidence at the inquest of Francis Bradley on Wednesday.

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.

Coroner Peter Irvine listened as C3, a former republican prisoner, provided an account, which at times was emotional, to the court.

In his statement the witness said that he became friends with Mr Bradley in 1983 after he was released from prison after serving seven years “for Troubles related offending”.

He explained how the pair worked together at a local factory.

“We spent a lot of time together and became best friends, he was a friend that I appreciated and loved very much,” he told the court.

The witness later denied passing on any information that could have resulted in the death of Mr Bradley.

“I do not recall anything of significance regarding Francis in the days and weeks leading up to his death,” he said.

“I did not speak to anyone or provide information to anyone about Francis prior to his death.

“I deny entirely any suggestion or inference that I provided any information to anyone that could have led to Francis’s death.”

C3 also referenced an attempt to recruit him as an informer.

“I recall being arrested in June 1985 and whether I would provide information to police if I heard anything regarding shootings in our area,” he said.

“I said I would not do this and police did not follow up on this or otherwise pursue me for information.”

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

The witness recounted hearing how his friend had been killed the next morning.

He explained how he was aware that a shooting had taken place and that a local man came into a house he was visiting and said “‘it doesn’t look good for young Bradley, they’ve taken his car away’”.

“News filtered in throughout the morning that Francis Bradley had been shot dead the previous evening,” C3 added.

Earlier he had revealed that on the night Mr Bradley was killed he and two other men had planned to travel to a motor show in Belfast but that his friend had failed to turn up.

He told the court that he “did not know where Francis was or what he was doing on the evening that he was killed adding that he “did not know about any weapons” and “did not have any reason to believe or suspect that there were weapons there”.

Earlier, the coroner had heard from another witness who had claimed in a signed statement that on the night of Mr Bradley’s death he had driven C3 and the third man to the motor show in Belfast.

He also claimed that C3 had asked to go home via Randalstown and Portglenone – a route that would have avoided returning to Co Derry via the village of Toome, which was a short distance from the ambush scene.

In the statement he suggested that during the journey C3 had “wanted to listen to the news”.

However, during Wenesday’s hearing the witness made changes to his statement claiming that he lived in Antrim at the time and “wasn’t in the car that night going through Randalstown or Portglenone”.

He said he had become confused about events as a result of a meeting with an unnamed person while leaving a bank in Magherafelt around 2011 or 2012.

He claims that person suggested to him it “was wild strange coming home by Randalstown, Portglenone and this is why I was confused by that person saying this to me”.

The witness claimed the unnamed person had “fallen out” with C3.

Under questioning the witness later agreed he also had “a significant fallout” with C3.

He confirmed that he was given a custodial sentence in 2017 for fraud and that he holds C3 “to blame” in relation to the matter.

It emerged the witness also spoke to Mr Bradley’s brother about C3, who said in his statement that this was done “out of spite”.