Northern Ireland news

Only four military convictions for Troubles' murders

Private Lee Clegg had his convicton for the murder of Karen Reilly overturned on appeal.
Seamus McKinney

A SMALL number of British soldiers have been convicted of murder while on duty during the Troubles.

In 1972, Michael Naan (31) and Andrew Murray (23) were killed in what became known as 'The Pitchfork Murders'. They were stabbed to death by members of a British army foot patrol near Newtownbutler.

It was six years later before it emerged that members of the 1st Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders were responsible for the killings which were described by a pathologist at the time as "frenzied".

Several were subsequently convicted.

Private Ian Thain was sentenced to life in prison in 1984 for the murder of Belfast man, Thomas Reilly (22) a year earlier.

Mr Reilly, a former road manager for pop group, Bananarama, was shot once in the back as he ran away from a disturbance in west Belfast. However, it later emerged that Thain was released from prison without publicity less than three years after receiving his life sentence. He was also re-instated in the army.

In 1993, Lee Clegg received a life sentence for the murder of Belfast teenager, Karen Reilly. Just two years later, the army private was released under licence by then Secretary of State Sir Patrick Mayhew. Following a series of appeals, the charges against Clegg were overturned in January 2000.

Scots Guards, Mark Wright and James Fisher were sentenced to life imprisonment in 1995 for the murder in 1992 of Belfast teenager and father-of-two, Peter McBride. Mr McBride was shot dead as he walked away after being stopped, searched and let go.

Following a high-profile campaign, the pair were released in September 1998. It later emerged they were allowed to resume their military careers because of what an army board described as "exceptional circumstances".

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