Northern Ireland news

‘Considerable work' needed before inquest resumes into teenager's hospital death

Laganside Court in Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)
Rebecca Black, PA

There is a “considerable” amount of work to be done ahead of the resumption of an inquest into the death of a teenager who was shot in the grounds of a Belfast hospital almost 50 years ago, a coroner has said.

Efforts include the combing of army records to find potential witnesses to give evidence.

Patrick Crawford, 15, was struck while walking through the grounds of the Royal Victoria Hospital on August 10 1975.

An earlier inquest into his death in December 1979 recorded an open verdict.

But in 2015 Northern Ireland’s former attorney general, John Larkin, granted a fresh inquest into Patrick’s death after representations from his family.

A new inquest opened in March 2022 with preliminary evidence heard.

John Larkin (Paul Faith/PA)
John Larkin (Paul Faith/PA)

This included the setting out of background as a time of unrest with the anniversary of the introduction of internment without trial, and how nurses rushed to the teenager’s aid, but that he died of his injuries in A&E.

A preliminary hearing on Tuesday was told of ongoing work to prepare for future hearings of the inquest.

This includes the request of material from the Ministry of Defence, the approaching of both military and non military witnesses and liaising with a ballistics expert who is to give evidence.

Coroner Judge Philip Gilpin was told they have been informed that one military witness, PC02, has recently died.

In terms of other potential military witnesses identified, statements are expected to be imminent from PC07 and PC08, PC09 has so far failed to engage with the coroner’s service and a signed statement has been received from PC10.

Meanwhile a search of Royal Highland Fusilier personnel records between 1974-76 has yielded 1,131 names, and the coroner’s service is set to identify, trace and contact those who may have served in Northern Ireland in August 1975.

There is also work ongoing with a potential police witness.

Decisions are to be made on requests by witnesses for anonymity and screening, while the preference was voiced to resume the inquest at a venue in Belfast.

Karen Quinlivan KC, for the Crawford family, said they appreciate the preparation process takes time, adding they would be satisfied to receive updates on progress, to allow them “to intervene and make suggestions as appropriate”.

Coroner Gilpin said there is a “considerable amount of work to do” and said he hoped to see progress made at the next preliminary hearing on June 21.

Northern Ireland news