British soldiers threatened to kill again after shooting dead a 15 year-old boy during Operation Motorman in Derry, a fresh inquest into his death has heard.
Daniel Hegarty was shot twice in the head on July 31, 1972, as British soldiers stormed the Creggan and Bogside ‘no-go’ areas in a pre-arranged operation. During the inquest, which began yesterday at Derry courthouse, evidence is to be heard from several British army personnel, including the soldier who fired the shots which killed Daniel Hegarty.
Major General Brigadier Patrick MacLellan, the British Army Commander in Derry during Operation Motorman and Bloody Sunday, will also give evidence.
Daniel’s sister, Mrs Margaret Brady, told the inquest that a soldier shouted “Get the f****** lights out or there’ll be another corpse” moments after the killing of her older brother at Creggan Heights.
Mrs Brady, who was 14 years-old at the time, also told the coroner’s hearing that the men in army uniforms “destroyed” her family.
She recalled that when a local parish priest came to the family home after the shooting, her mother, Mary Margaret Hegarty, asked for a Mass to be said for the soldier who pulled the trigger as “he would need it more”.
“For the next month after Daniel’s death my mother would still put his dinner out and call him for it,” she said.
A statement from Daniel’s father, the late Alexander Hegarty, outlined how the teenager had often helped him with ‘freelance welfare work’, protecting shops and disorder in Creggan, and “occasionally helped the police”. He said his son was not a member of any republican organisation and had begun work as a labourer.
Counsel for Coroner John Lecky read a newspaper report from several weeks prior to Daniel’s death which stated that the teenager had been rewarded by the British Army for reporting a guns’ find to the police.
The report stated that a British army Lieutenant Colonel was “grateful” to Daniel for turning the find in.
A statement from William Morrin, who carried the body of Daniel into his home, stated that he heard no warning that soldiers intended to open fire before hearing “a burst of automatic fire” outside his home.
The inquest continues today and is due to last at least two weeks.
It was set up after an investigation by the Historical Enquiries Team found that the RUC investigation at the time was “hopelessly inadequate and dreadful”. In 2007, the Ministry of Defence apologised to Daniel’s family for a document which incorrectly described him as a terrorist and claimed he had been armed.
The MoD said it accepted Daniel was innocent and that the reference to him as a terrorist was inaccurate.