'We were told there were very naughty people in the Bogside' ~ says military witness in Deery inquest
The second soldier involved in the fatal shooting of a Derry teenager in the city in 1972, today took the stand at Derry's courthouse.
The soldier referred to only as Soldier B was present at a British Army observation post on the city's walls on May 19, 1972 when his deceased colleague, now identified as Private William Glasgow, discharged the lone shot around 10.25pm on the night in question.
The public gallery and press bench of the courtroom was cleared on Thursday morning whilst the anonymous ex-soldier was shepherded into the witness box. However three relatives of Manus Deery, including his sister Helen, were positioned in the courtroom and allowed to see Soldier B whilst he was questioned.
Senior Counsel for the Coroners Service, Mr Gerry McAlinden read out the statement given by Soldier B at the time of the incident 44 years ago. In this statement the former soldier said he saw a gunman dressed in dark clothing and approximately five and a half feet in height enter the tunnelled area where Manus Deery was eventually fatally wounded.
However he said that the weapon was being carried in what was referred to as the 'trail position ' ~ that it was being carried horizontally and at hip level. He also said that he had received no training in firing at targets at a range of possibly 300 metres in an urban environment either in elevated positions or downward positions.
The former soldier accepted that at no point did the alleged gunman take up an offensive or firing position and that in order to have done so would have meant altering body position in order to fire. Soldier B said that he observed this over a period of just a few seconds via a telescope, that he then consulted with Private William Glasgow, who did not use any sighting equipment but who "then let go a round."
Under further questioning by Miss Fiona Doherty, Senior Counsel for the Deery family, Soldier B said William Glasgow had entered the observation post at around 10pm to relieve a colleague and that Glasgow had done so with a round already in the weapon's firing chamber and that the weapon was already cocked.
The soldier also admitted that specific training about the nature of the population and the situation in the Bogside was virtually non- existent before his regiment, the Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters, arrived in Derry.
Asked by Miss Doherty what he knew about the Bogside he said, "I knew we weren't allowed to go in there."
Pressed again by Miss Doherty about the specific nature of the situation in the Bogside he replied: "We were told there were some very naughty people in there, or should I say some dodgy people", in reference to the presence of known IRA gunmen and bombers in the area at the time.
"It was like a police thing, to arrest wanted people and look out for suspect cars," he continued.
Soldier B was also quizzed by Mr McAlinden on a variety of potential rifle scopes including night sites in use by the British Army at the time. The witness was shown four different pieces of equipment and said that none of them had been attached to either his nor William Glasgow's weapon's on the night in question.
The anonymous witness was also questioned on the British Army's rules of engagement in Northern Ireland, referred to as the 'Yellow Card.' This set out the instances in which it was thought appropriate to fire at a suspected target. The witness told Mr McAlinden that soldiers were formally trained on its contents.
Later questioned on the 'Yellow Card' by Fiona Doherty he was asked if soldiers took the document "seriously", to which he replied "yes". Asked if he had ever breached or saw any other soldier breach the rules of engagement he responded "no."
Soldier B was also asked by Miss Doherty if in the intervening years he had been contacted by any other parties in relation to the incident including the former Historical Enquiries Team. He replied that he had not, but that two representatives of the Ministry of Defence had visited his home and asked him about the case.
Also asked if anyone was else was present at that time, he said his wife was at home but was sleeping in bed because she had been working night shifts. Finally, asked if anyone from the Ministry of Defence had contacted him after that point, he replied "no."
The questioning of Soldier B consumed the entirety of the proceedings at Derry courthouse today.
The witness said that he had joined the British Army in 1969 and was discharged in May, 1973 ~ meaning that he had been in service around three years when the death of Manus Deery took place. He also said that William Glasgow had joined the Army the day after him and that they were in the same platoon. When deployed to Derry in March, 1972 it was the first tour of duty he had undertaken anywhere and that when the 1st Battalion of the Worchestershire and Sherwood Foresters left Derry on June 9, 1972 he did not return to Northern Ireland again.
Senior Counsel for the Coroners Service, Gerry McAlinden, told the court that documents revealed that the company commander produced a report at the end of the tour which revealed he believed that emphasis needed to be placed on training soldiers to be proficient in 'snap shooting' at targets in excess of 150 meters.
Asked what this meant Soldier B replied that it meant training on ranges where targets 'popped up' and then they had to shoot at them. Training prior to this did not cover shooting incidents in Northern Ireland where it was established by 1972 that targets often presented themselves at a range in excess of 300 meters. The company commander, in his report, also expressed a need for training at shooting at both elevated and depressed targets.
Asked if there was a difference in engaging in firing at both elevated and depressed targets and targets at ground level, Soldier B said: "There is a great difference if you have never done it before."
The nature of the of the telescopic sighting equipment used by both soldiers on the night in question was also broached during the proceedings. Mr McAliden first showed Soldier B an example of the standard issue rifle used by the British Army in that era-the SLR, a high velocity weapon which discharged a 7.62 mm round.
Shown four examples of telescopic sights that could have been fitted to the SLR, Soldier B contended that in his time in the Army did he see a scope fitted to a standard SLR and the he personally had never used one. The various scopes shown included the Starlight Scope used for night sighting. Again, Soldier B said that neither he nor William Glasgow had such equipment at any stage and that their weapons were fitted with the standard 'iron sights' normally associated with the weapon in question. These are simply small pieces of metal elevated on the barrel of the SLR and do not have any capacity for magnification.
When shown images of three types of binoculars in common use at the time with varying standards of magnification, Mr McAlinden asked the witness did he recall using any of them whilst on active service.
In response Soldier B said: "They could have been, I can't remember."
The soldier was also queried upon types of 'free-standing' scopes in use at the time in Northern Ireland. In particular he was asked about the 'Stereoscopic Periscope' type in operation at the time. Asked if he recognized this piece of equipment Soldier B said: "I have seen something similar, yes."
Counsel for the Coroners Service then produced a photograph of a member of C Company of the Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters with a Starlight Scope fitted to their SLR during their tour in the Brandywell area in 1972.
Soldier B said: "I have never seen one."
Mr McAlinden responded: "But, it seems someone in your Company had this scope fitted in Brandywell in 1972, but you have not had any training in the use of night scopes or fitting a telescope to a rifle and how to align it appropriately?
Soldier B replied: "No."
Soldier B confirmed that during his tour in Derry, he had only been stationed either on the city walls or in the Brandywell district.
The military witness was also shown pictures of the outlook post on the walls, known as Observation Post Kilo, taken on May 25, 1972. When asked if he had a recollection if this is what the post looked like, he replied: "No."
When pressed Soldier B could also not recall the amount of time that was spent by each soldier on observation duty, but said when asked that it was not as long as eight hours at a time.
"It varied," he said. "some people patrolled the streets and some where on the walls, they were shift patterns," he continued.
Whilst under questioning he also said that the observation post contained a file holding photographs of people who were wanted and registration numbers of cars that were suspect.
Asked which equipment enabled him to carrying out this type of observation he said: "A telescope or binoculars-whatever happened to be in the sanger at the time."
Soldier B was also queried on the fact that he had said in an original statement that whilst he could not recall the weather conditions on the night of May 19, 1972 he did recall that he had a clear view into the Bogside. He also said he couldn't recall whether or not the street lights in the Bogside were on at the time of the shooting incident.
Mr McAlinden put it to Soldier B that: "You say the gunman entered the archway, beside a derelict car on the right hand side. That meant he ran across the entrance of the archway from the direction of the Bogside Inn and doubled back on himself to the right hand wall."
"I can't remember. I don't remember exactly where he ended up. Whilst he was running, I was talking to Soldier A," said Soldier B.
Then Lord Justice Colton, the Coroner intervened and said: "What do you mean ~ that he halted by the right hand wall?
In response Soldier B said: "I just can't remember, everything went so fast."
Mr McAlinden then resumed his questioning and said: "When you saw someone running across, you say you consulted with Soldier A, or did you let the man continue on and then ask Soldier A to take a look?"
In response the witness said: "Soldier A was only a few feet away. I said to him, there appears to be a gunman running across there."
Mr McAlinden said: "It would have been a fleeting observation-a second or so. Was it with the naked eye?"
To this question Soldier B said: "It wasn't very long and no, it was through the scope."
"It was a very short time, said Mr McAlinden. "You couldn't possibly have confirmed that it was a rifle, but you thought it was ~ it was a long, thin object. You say you were calling colleague-you wouldn't have had time," he continued.
"That's why I called Soldier A," the witness said.
Mr McAlinden responded: "So when Soldier A was looking through the scope you weren't looking through a scope or binoculars?"
Solider B replied: "There was no other equipment."
"What did Soldier A say?", asked Mr McAlinden.
Soldier B said: "He said it looks like a person with a rifle and let a round go."
It also emerged that Soldier B was looking over William Glasgow's shoulder when he fired the fatal round into the Bogside. The witness claimed that this was because of a lack of room in the outlook post.
He also said that he did not see any other people in the vicinity of the tunnelled area at the time apart from the gunman he said he saw.
Mr McAlinden said: "Looking through the scope you were able to see the presence of this individual in the front of the archway so you would have been able to other young people there."
Soldier B said: "I never saw anyone else."
When questioned by Fiona Doherty, Senior Counsel for the Deery family, it emerged that no other form of communication apart from a radio, such a notebook was kept by the soldiers in the observation post.
Soldier B said: "After the incident, other soldiers came to the bunker and took over. I was taken to a kind of Portacabin over there at Derry Walls car park to make a statement. I was taken away just a few minutes after the incident. I can't remember the exact time but I was on my own."
Fiona Doherty stated: "Well the evidence says that the statement was taken next day on May 20."
"Well, I was taken that night and I gave a statement to a man in plain clothes," said Soldier B.
He also confirmed to Miss Doherty that he gave only a single statement.
"That stuck in my mind," he said.
The witness also stated that William Glasgow was not with him when he made his statement and he was not prompted in any way to give a particular version of the events surrounding the killing. Soldier B had earlier said he was aware that someone had been hit because he heard screaming from the Bogside and saw the arrival of an ambulance but never considered that anyone apart from the gunman had been struck by the round fired by William Glasgow.
It was not until sometime later he said that he was informed that Manus Deery had been hit.
"How did you feel when told that that a 15-year-old boy had been killed", asked Miss Doherty.
Soldier B said: "In my own head I thought, how did a 15-year-old get in the way of that. I thought the person running around was a grown man."
Fiona Doherty said: "The civilian witnesses this inquest have heard from say there was no gunman."
"Well, I saw one. There appeared to be one," replied Soldier B.
Asked also where Soldier A had his rifle at the time Soldier B spotted the gunman he said: "He always had his rifle in his hands. I didn't have mine in my hands. I couldn't look through the scope and hold a weapon at the same time."
Mr Martin Wolfe, Senior Counsel for the Ministry of Defence and the PSNI at the inquest also questioned Soldier B.
He asked the witness: "Was Soldier A, a hot-headed or aggressive soldier?"
Soldier B responded by saying: "I never saw him like that."
Mr Wolfe then asked Soldier B if it was possible that the statement he gave on the night in question could have taken so long that this was why it was dated May 20, as opposed to May 19 ~ the night of the killing.
Soldier B replied: "I don't think so, it may have been going towards it at that point, but the statement was taken straight afterwards in a Portacabin."
It has already been established in court that the shooting occurred shortly after 10.25pm on the night in question.
When asked about the implementation of the 'Yellow Card' rules by Mr Wolfe and whether he perceived that Private William Glasgow had breached those rules, Soldier B responded: "If a person is there with a rifle about to fire at someone, then whether I think he's going to fire at us or someone else, he is out to do no good, then I don't think he breached the 'Yellow Card'."
The Manus Deery inquest will resume tomorrow, Friday, October 21 at 12 noon when the commanding officer based at the outlook post on the city walls in 1972, Mr Trevor Wilson will take the stand.