The family of a 15-year-old boy shot dead on July 31, 1972 have vowed to bring the British soldier who killed him to justice despite a decision by the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) not to prosecute him.
Daniel Hegarty was struck twice in the head by bullets fired by a member of the Scots Guards from a machine gun during Operation Motorman in Creggan on July 31, 1972.
In 2011 a second inquest into the teenagers death concluded that he posed no risk to the man only known as ‘Soldier B’ and that soldier fired at the boy without warning. The original inquest in 1973 recorded an open verdict leaving lingering and damaging suggestions that Daniel Hegarty was engaging in ‘terrorist activity’.
On Tuesday, the Hegarty family were informed by the PPS that a decision had been taken not to prosecute the ex-soldier on the grounds that any case was unlikely to result in a conviction.
The PPS decision refutes the conclusions of the 2011 inquest where it was stated the teenager posed no risk. The letter sent to the Hegarty family on Tuesday states: “Our assessment remains that there is no reasonable prospect of proving to the criminal standard that Soldier B did not act in self-defence having formed a mistaken but honest belief that he was under imminent attack.”
Margaret Brady, Daniel Hegarty’s sister, told the ‘Journal’: “The PPS have some gall to throw this soldier a lifeline by allowing him to say that he acted on impulse because his life was in danger. I think that when we went for a second inquest, they believed that we were not going to get one. That sent shock waves through the establishment because they also didn’t think that Daniel’s name would be cleared.”
“So, they have four years since that inquest to concoct this story about ‘Soldier B’ saying that he felt he was under attack. They are trying to destroy the outcome of the inquest.”
‘Soldier B’ used claims of ill-health in order not to appear at the 2011 inquest and instead provided a documentary account of his activities in the morning in question, during which he also hit and wounded Christopher Hegarty, Daniel’s cousin. The 2011 inquest proceeded after a report from the now defunct Historical Enquiries Team said that the RUC investigation at the time of the killing was “hopelessly inadequate and dreadful.”
Margaret Brady told the ‘Journal’: “He’s still lying, still shows no remorse, shows no forgiveness and is just sticking to what he wants the people of this island to believe. They are running, they are ducking the past, they don’t want us to see anything, they just want us to shut up and go away. Ask them to use the word ‘murder’ when it comes to soldiers, but they are happy to label everyone else as terrorists.”
The Hegarty family say that they have already spoken to their legal counsel to set in motion a civil action against the perpetrator of Daniel’s killing.
“We will get him into court. Even if he’s kicking and screaming he is going in.
“They came here and terrorised people in their own homes, put people in prison without even a trial, murdered people and got away with it and got a pension for it,” Margaret said.
Asked about the treatment of victims in general within the political and judicial process, Margaret told the ‘Journal’: “They are being used and abused. The British Government do a lot of talking, but not a lot of walking. This should not be called a peace process, it should be called peace without justice.
“I would like to see accountability, because if you don’t then you cannot bring these people, who committed murder to justice.
“So, what kind of message are you sending to young people? You are telling them not to trust the British Government, the British Army, because they will murder you and get away with it.
“These people know what they have done, they know that they’ve murdered. They cry for justice for the British Army, but when it comes to justice for innocent civilians, they do not want to do the time for the crimes they have committed, but they do want their wages, their war pensions and their government to protect them,” said Margaret.
The Hegarty family said that in the 43 years since Daniel’s killing they have never had any indication of the identity of ‘Soldier B’, nor his age or where he is from.
Margaret Brady said: “The PSNI has never once left Northern Ireland in an attempt to arrest or interview this man for the murder of my brother. They went solely on what the Historical Enquiries Team report produced.”
On the day of Operation Motorman another teenager was shot in Creggan. He was 19-year-old IRA member, Seamus Bradley. His death has proven one of the most controversial episodes of the ‘Troubles’. It has been proven that he was unarmed at the time he was picked up by the Scots Guards.
His killing has been recently subject to an assessment for readiness to proceed to a new inquest. The British Army maintained that the teenager was in a tree, assuming a firing position with a Thompson sub-machine gun.
The Bradley family are convinced that after he was initially wounded, he was taken by the army, tortured, shot at least twice more and allowed to bleed to death.
Speaking about the Bradley case, Margaret Brady told the ‘Journal’: “I am curious now to see what they will say about young Seamus Bradley. Are these soldiers going to say they were also involved in self-defence as well?
“Whether he was in the IRA or not, he was unarmed and so he was innocent.
“The British Army are still at it. They were told by the Government, ‘look we employ you, whatever you do we will cover your backs. These people are experts on how to murder, get away with it and how to wangle their way out of prosecution.”