'˜Army report would have changed view on soldier prosecution' says ex-CID man

An ex-RUC man stationed in Londonderry at the time a teenager was shot in May 1972 would have recommended the prosecution of the soldier responsible had he been aware of the contents of an Army report, a court has heard.

Monday, 24th October 2016, 9:17 pm
Updated Tuesday, 25th October 2016, 8:09 pm
Manus Deery, the teenager who was shot dead by a soldier in the Bogside in Londonderry in May 1972

Giving evidence to the inquest into 15-year-old Manus Deery’s death was ex-CID Inspector David McNeill.

He was read the contents of a report which he had submitted about the killing in June, 1972.

In it, Mr McNeill had stated: “Reports from witnesses will say that Manus was unarmed and reports from Soldiers A and B will say that he was carrying a rifle in a trail position.

“I would suggest that on the strength of his statement that Soldier A will say that he was justified in firing.

“Therefore it will be for a higher authority to decide whether or not Soldier A can be prosecuted.”

The court also heard that at the time of the killing, there was an order in force that meant that the police could not independently interview military personnel involved in shooting incidents, and that statements from such personnel were taken by the military authorities, then passed to the RUC.

Gerry McAlinden, senior counsel for the Coroners’ Service, referred to a note contained within MoD documentation that was prepared by Army Legal Services, and forwarded to the Royal Military Police on June 21, 1972.

The MoD had said that whilst it was stated that the person who was shot was carrying a rifle, he was carrying it in a prone position and not preparing it for offensive use.

Therefore, it appeared that Soldier A’s discharging of the round that killed Manus Deery appeared to be in breach of the Army’s ‘Yellow Card’ guidelines on their rules for engagement.

It emerged that the RUC report into the incident was prepared by a Detective Constable Parks, a subordinate of Inspector McNeill and the main investigating officer, and was written up on June 22, 1972 – the day after the MoD note was written.

Asked if Mr Parks had received this note from the MoD before writing his own submission, Mr McNeill told the inquest in Londonderry on Monday: “He can’t have, because the first time I saw this document was two weeks ago.”

The ex-RUC officer was also pressed on a line within his original report that statements from civilian witnesses to the killing “added nothing to the story”.

Mr McAlinden said the soldier’s evidence was that no one else was around the Bogside when the target was identified and shot.

He said that witnesses have given evidence that a significant number of teenagers were in the district at the time and would have been visible to the soldiers on the city’s walls.

“Clearly these statements add something to the story because there were a number of people around and this influences the appropriateness of a shot being fired,” said Mr McAlinden.

In response, David McNeill said: “I’m sorry, I can’t answer that.”

Mr McAlinden also stated that it appeared that the RUC had not attempted to take statements from civilian witnesses at any juncture even after Operation Motorman ended the ‘No Go’ area situation in Londonderry on July 31, 1972.

Mr McNeill responded: “I cannot answer for Detective Constable Parks.”

Senior Counsel for the Deery family, Fiona Doherty, asked if the departure from normal investigative procedures in regard to military personnel was a cause of concern for the for RUC officer.

“Yes, it was. Not just for me but for others as well. That was the formal policy,” said Mr McNeill.

Mr McNeill said he had a vague memory in “this particular case” of speaking to a man from the military’s Special Investigation Branch and directing him to send the statements from Soldiers A and B.

“I told him I wanted them on my table,” he said.

The ex-RUC man said that it was Detective Constable Parks who led the police investigation into the killing of Manus Deery, because at that time he was heading up the RUC investigation into Bloody Sunday.

He said: “There were bombs and bullets each day. It was a city in turmoil.”

Returning to the situation regarding the ‘Yellow Card’, Fiona Doherty asked Mr McNeill whether, had he been aware of the Army Legal Services note to military police that Soldier A had breached the rules of engagement, it have altered his opinion on a recommendation for a prosecution.

In response, the ex-RUC officer said: “Because they say legally, it was outside the ‘Yellow Card’, it would have changed my mind from what I said – I would have recommended a prosecution.”

Mr Martin Wolfe, senior counsel for the MoD and PSNI, asked Mr McNeill when he had first been asked to recall the Manus Deery case.

“I can’t specifically date it, but it was at least five years ago by the Historical Enquiries Team,” said Mr McNeill.

Mr Wolfe also pointed out that police were unable to enter areas such as the Bogside at the time to conduct forensic examinations at incident sites, and also asked if there was any way that police could have forced their way in to conduct examinations.

The witness responded: “We went in sometimes with an Army escort, but that wasn’t very often.”

Returning again to the issue of if he had seen the Army Legal Services memo on the ‘Yellow Card’ rules, Mr Wolfe asked Mr McNeill: “Had you seen it, you would have recommended a prosecution?”

“Yes, I would,” replied the former RUC man.