Northern Ireland

Relatives for Justice publish booklet into British army shooting of John Copeland

Eddie Copeland, his mother Carol and sister Linda pictured at the launch of a booklet about the British army killing of his father John in 1971
Eddie Copeland, his mother Carol and sister Linda pictured at the launch of a booklet about the British army killing of his father John in 1971

CAMPAIGNERS launched a report yesterday into the British army killing of a Catholic man in north Belfast almost 50 years ago.

John Copeland was gunned down as he walked to his Ladbrook Drive home in Ardoyne in October 1971.

The unarmed father-of-two was shot by a soldier from the Royal Green Jackets and died two days later in hospital.

He was one of six civilians killed in Ardoyne by the military unit between January and October 1971.

During the same period five members of the Royal Green Jackets were shot dead by republicans.

Just before Mr Copeland was killed another Ardoyne man, Michael McLarnon, was shot by troops in nearby Etna Drive and died a short time later.

An inquest into the killing in 1972 returned an open verdict.

Support group Relatives for Justice (RfJ) has now compiled a detailed report about the circumstances of Mr Copeland’s death.

The document was launched yesterday in Ardoyne with members of the Copeland family present, including his son Eddie, who is a prominent republican.

Those taking part in the event included RfJ director Mark Thompson and the family’s solicitor Kevin Winters, of KRW Law.

The soldier who fired the shots, known by the cypher ‘Soldier A’, is believed to have later written a book under an assumed name called 'Faith and Duty - the true story of a soldier’s war in Northern Ireland’.

In March 2014 Attorney General John Larkin refused a request to order a fresh inquest.

However, after the release of a draft Historical Enquiries Team (HET) by the PSNI into the killing, KRW Law asked Mr Larkin to revisit his original decision.

In response to the request Mr Larkin has now written to the PPS asking them to direct the PSNI to investigate the shooting.

Mr Thompson said: “It is clear from the HET findings, not that we needed them, that John was unarmed and there was no justification.”