Northern Ireland news

Ballymurphy inquest hears evidence from former soldier who heard dying priest pray

Ballymurphy families attend Laganside Court where the former members of the British Army are giving evidence into the Ballymurphy Massacre. Picture by Mal McCann

A FORMER British soldier has told the Ballymurphy inquest that he heard a dying priest praying in both English and Latin after he was shot by members of the Parachute Regiment .

Witness C4 was a 24-year-old in 1971 and a serving member of the Royal Corps of Signals.

Originally from Gloucestershire he told the coroner's court into the deaths of 10 people in west Belfast in August 1971, that he had married a woman from Ballymurphy and was visiting on leave at the time of the shootings.

C4 said he was present when Fr Hugh Mullan and Francis Quinn were shot and killed on waste ground near Springfield Park.

Explaining he had been pinned down whilst trying to help people to safety across the waste ground, he said he saw two soldiers wearing red berets shooting from the roof of Springmartin flats.

He told how he watched Fr Mullan being shot and heard him scream out, before being hit a second time, after which he said he listened to him pray for a while in both English and Latin, before he died.

The witness also said he heard handguns being fired from Springmartin which he thought came from loyalist paramilitaries.

Telling the inquest that an army major asked him not to testify at the original inquest in 1972, he also said he had been called a traitor by an officer of the Parachute Regiment, and had been threatened.

Families of the Ballymurphy victims attending the inquest this week. Picture by Hugh Russell

A previous television interview he gave was played to the court.

In it he said: "I looked up, I saw them. I could see they were Paras by the berets they were wearing."

In the interview, he said the soldiers later created "ghost gunmen" to justify having opened fire.

During questioning the former soldier said giving evidence was not easy for him.

"My loyalties are being torn apart," he added.

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