Northern Ireland

Single shot heard up to 20 minutes after SAS ambushed IRA men at Clonoe in Co Tyrone, inquest hears

 The scene at Clonoe in Co Tyrone where four IRA men were shot dead by the British army in February 1992
 The scene at Clonoe in Co Tyrone where four IRA men were shot dead by the British army in February 1992  The scene at Clonoe in Co Tyrone where four IRA men were shot dead by the British army in February 1992

A civilian witness has told an inquest into the British army killing of four IRA members that a single shot was fired up to 20 minutes after the ambush had ended.

Kevin Barry O'Donnell (21), Sean O'Farrell (22), Peter Clancy (21) and Patrick Vincent (20) were shot dead in the grounds of St Patrick's Church at Clonoe, near Coalisland, in February 1992.

Several people were also injured during the incident.

The SAS is believed to have been involved in the suspected ‘shoot-to-kill’ operation.

Read More: IRA men killed in ambush given no 'verbal warning'

Family appeal for information about IRA man killed at Clonoe ambush

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Minutes before the British army ambush an IRA unit had carried out an attack on an RUC station in Coalisland.

In September an inquest heard that it appears no "verbal warning" was given before the IRA men were killed.

At an inquest hearing in Belfast on Tuesday a civilian witness, who gave evidence under the cipher CC28, told coroner Michael Humphreys, who is also a High Court judge, they were stopped by two armed men wearing a mixture of camouflage and civilian clothing at a crossroads near St Patrick’s Church.

The court also heard the witness initially believed the two men were IRA members but has since described them as “soldiers”.

The coroner heard that after being stopped by the men CC28 heard gunfire.

“When I was stopped, to the best of my memory, the shooting was going on whenever I got stopped, there was shooting…and it continued to go for a number of minutes while I was stationary in the car,” the witness said.

The court was told that one of the armed men had stood in front of CC28's car for 15-20 minutes.

The coroner heard that after the witness moved off, they heard a single shot and it was put to them this must have been 15-20 minutes after being stopped.

“I would say it possibly could have been,” the witness said.

From left, Peter Clancy, Kevin Barry O'Donnell and Sean O'Farrell were among the four men shot dead
From left, Peter Clancy, Kevin Barry O'Donnell and Sean O'Farrell were among the four men shot dead From left, Peter Clancy, Kevin Barry O'Donnell and Sean O'Farrell were among the four men shot dead

“From what I can remember, because it took me several, I don’t know how long, it took me a long time to get my car started,” the witness said.

“Every time I started the car my legs were like jelly, I couldn’t move forward, I kept conking out, so it seemed to go on for a long while before I got the car up and running to go on my journey.

“It did seem quite a long time.”

Earlier CC28 the court heard that in the days after the ambush they had gone to Dungannon RUC station to give an account of what they had seen.

CC28 said an officer who took notes did not ask any questions and confirmed no further contact was made by police.

In a statement the witness said that an RUC account of the encounter, which claimed CC28 declined to give a statement, was not accurate.