Northern Ireland news

British army claims compounded grief of Daniel Hegarty's family

Daniel Hegarty's mother Margaret and sister, also Margaret, hold a picture of the Derry teenager who was shot dead in 1972
Seamus McKinney

A British army description of Daniel Hegarty as a terrorist always compounded the pain felt by his family, according to the teenager's late father Alex.

On witnessing the success of the Bloody Sunday families in achieving a new inquiry in the late 1990s, Mr Hegarty set out to clear his only son's name through the Pat Finucane Centre.

Daniel was just 15 years old when he was shot dead close to his home in Derry's Creggan early on the morning of July 31 1972.

The teenager had gone with two cousins – Christopher and Thomas Hegarty - to look at the huge British army tanks which were being used clear Derry's 'no-go' areas.

The British soldier who killed Daniel claimed he and his cousins were running towards him and he believed the teenager had a nail bomb.

He claimed he opened fire with a heavy duty machine gun after shouting three separate warnings and that he fired from a distance of 25 metres.

However, at a fresh inquest into Daniel's death in 2011, a jury unanimously accepted the evidence of a ballistics expert that the teenager was no more than 8 feet from the soldier when he was killed.

They also ruled that the soldiers offered no medical assistance to Daniel as he lay dying or to his cousin, Christopher Hegarty who was shot and wounded.

The jury foreman said: “Our further findings are: 1. Daniel, Christopher and Thomas (his cousins) posed no threat to anyone; 2. We believe no soldier shouted sufficient warnings.”

In an unprecedented move, now retired coroner John Leckey wrote to Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory asking him to consider if Soldier B should be prosecuted.

Daniel's sister Margaret Brady – who led the campaign to clear her brother's name – said Soldier B's actions were in stark contrast to her father's.

Six months after Daniel was killed, Alex Hegarty comforted a young British soldier as he lay dying in Creggan.

“Years later I said to my father that the soldier could have been the one who shot our Daniel and he just said ‘If he was or was not, he's still someone's son'," Mrs Brady said at the time.

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