Northern Ireland news

Bodies of Ballymurphy massacre victims 'thrown like animals' into back of army Saracen

Families of the Ballymurphy Massacre victims outside court in Belfast for the inqust. Picture by Hugh Russell

MOTHER-of-eight Joan Connolly shouted "I'm hit in eye", after being struck when the British Army opened fire as concerned parents searched the streets for their missing children, an inquest into the Ballymurphy massacre has heard.

Coroner Mrs Justice Siobhan Keenan was hearing evidence presented at the original inquests into the August1971 killings of 10 people over three days in west Belfast.

Desmond Crone had told how he had met Mrs Connolly while he and his wife's cousin Joseph Murphy searched for his son Raymond Crone on the Springfield Road during the chaos that accompanied the introduction of internment.

The inquest heard Mrs Connolly was last seen by her husband Dennis at 7.30pm on August 9 when she "went out to look for two of our children".

Mr Crone, who has since died, said there had been no shooting by the British Army when they first passed Henry Taggart Memorial Hall, but as they stood along with a number of other men, talking to Mrs Connolly, who they had met close by, "the army... opened fire".

Daniel Teggart (44), who was among those in the group, "went to run towards the river", and then could be heard shouting "he had got hit".

"There was a lot of firing," Mr Crone told the 1972 inquest.

"Joseph Murphy shouted `Dessie, I'm hit on the head'," he said, describing how another man, David Callaghan, tried to pull the 41-year-old "out of the line of fire and David got hit".

"David Callaghan was just lying there as we could not pull him in.

"Mrs Joan Connolly was with us, she started to run towards the nearby spring. I heard her shouting, `I'm hit in the eye'. I recognised it was Mrs Connolly's voice as she was the only woman in the field.

"Due to the (gun)fire I couldn't get out to get her."

Read More: John Laverty and John McKerr remembered in final Ballymurphy family testimonies

Mr Crone said an military Saracen (armoured personnel carrier) arrived and "gathered up all the injured people".

"I think they put five bodies, Mrs Connolly, Daniel Teggart, Joseph Murphy, David Callaghan and some other person.

"I did actually see them put five bodies into the Saracen, I heard a soldier say `I have got five'.

"...When they threw the bodies into the Saracen, one of the soldiers shouted `Kill the bastards' and they threw them into the back like animals."

The inquest also heard that a forensic examination of 19-year-old Noel Phillips found "no lead detected" from swabs taken of his hands, indicating he had not fired a gun.

Read more: Ballymurphy inquest hears of priest's `very heavily bloodstained vest'

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