Northern Ireland news

Killing of Protestant man blamed on IRA was carried out by British army

A British army situation report giving details of the 1972 killing of Thomas Mills
Connla Young

A PROTESTANT man whose murder was blamed on the IRA for almost 50 years was shot dead by the British army, newly found documents appear to show.

Thomas Mills (50) was shot and killed as he worked as a watchman at a factory in the Ballygomartin Road area of north Belfast on July 18, 1972 - 49 years ago tomorrow.

For decades his death was blamed on the IRA.

However, British army logs discovered by research charity Paper Trail suggest the 50-year-old was killed by a soldier.

Details of the killing have emerged just days after the British government revealed plans for an amnesty for those involved in Troubles related incidents.

Officials also want to end Troubles-linked civil proceedings and inquests.

A coroner was due to open an inquest into the death of Mr Mills, who was from the Highfield estate, later this year.

The victim was shot a short time after the IRA killed Kings Own Regiment soldier James Jones at a sentry post at Vere Foster School, off Springfield Road in west Belfast.

The factory where Mr Mills worked overlooked both Vere Foster School and Henry Taggart Memorial Hall.

Military logs show that soldiers at Vere Foster wrote they had "fired 6 x 7.62 [high velocity rounds] at a gunman seen in Moyard - one hit claimed.”

Another report “Stated that he was holding a pistol that went off. Action: Int[elligence] asked for trace.”

Records show a line was also drawn through the request for intelligence and the letters NT added.

Researchers believe this was a reference to 'no trace' meaning the victim could not be connected to criminality or paramilitarism.

They say Mr Mills was unarmed.

Later log entries suggested that a separate gunman may have been inside the factory compound.

A situation report produced the following day confirmed the death of Mr Mills which "occurred in incident when 6x7.62 at gunman in Finlays factory by OP at Vere Foster".

Solicitor Paul McNickle, of McConnell, Kelly and Co Solicitors, said the victim's family "welcome this material uncovered by Paper Trail".

"Given the developments in British parliament in the last couple of days, the exposure of material such as this underlines the necessity for victims and their families to have proper access to justice and the ability to engage in Article 2-compliant coronial proceedings into the circumstances of their loved one's death," he said.

Ciarán MacAirt from Paper Trail said: "The British Army knew its soldiers killed him but instead blamed it on the IRA.

"Even more frightening, this killing is but one of a number of killings of unarmed civilians by the King's Regiment which...feature in a number of Paper Trail investigations."

The Ministry of Defence was contacted.

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