Operation Motorman: New evidence in Troubles killing

Funeral of Seamus Bradley
Funeral of Seamus Bradley
  • Operation Motorman, known as Operation Carcan in Derry took place on July 31, 1972
  • The incursion into Derry’s ‘no-go’ areas resulted in the deaths of two teenagers
  • A date for a hnew inquest into Seamus Bradley’s killing has yet to be set

POST death colour images of a 19-year-old Creggan man, shot dead in controversial circumstances by the British Army 43 years ago, have emerged lending support to his family’s contention that he was tortured after he had been shot.

*Please be advised this story contains a graphic image*

On July 31, 1972, the British Army launched Operation Motorman to put an end to the ‘no-go’ areas of Free Derry in Creggan, Brandywell and the Bogside. Two teenagers were shot by the British Army during their incursion into Creggan. They were 15-year-old Daniel Hegarty and 19-year-old IRA man, Seamus Bradley.

The state version of events has always contended that Seamus Bradley was perched in a tree and was carrying a Thompson sub-machine gun. However, it has long been contended by the Bradley family that after shooting Seamus Bradley, the Royal Scots regiment the Army took him away and tortured him.

At the original inquest into the killing on October 16, 1973, counsel for the British Crown dismissed suggestions that Seamus Bradley had been tortured. Black and white images shown to the inquest jury did not reveal abrasions to his neck and therefore the claim that the 19-year-old had a rope placed about his neck as part of the alleged torture was dismissed.

In 2013, a fresh inquest into his death and the circumstances surrouding it was ordered. Yet no date for the new inquiry has been set.

Abrasions on Seamus Bradley's neck which it is claimed were not visible in black and white images.

Abrasions on Seamus Bradley's neck which it is claimed were not visible in black and white images.

Solicitor for the Bradley family, Mr. Richard Campbell has told the ‘Journal’ that the situation has left Mr Bradley’s family “in limbo” and is highly “unsatisfactory” and that they have been so far “met with a wall of silence from the Ministry of Defence.

At the original inquest into the killing in 1973, black and white images were shown to the jury which did not reveal the presence of abrasions around Seamus Bradley’s neck. Now, a series of colour photographs have been submitted to the investigation by the former RUC photographer who pictured the Creggan teenager after his death.

Richard Campbell has told the ‘Journal’ that the process of reaching the point of a fresh inquest has been hampered by the long-term illness of the coroner presiding over the case.

“There is no suggestion that these pictures were intentionally withheld from the original inquest, but there were not shown at it,” said Mr. Campbell.

We have been met with a wall of silence from the Ministry of Defence-solicitor Richard Campbell

“The first we saw of these pictures was at a Case Management meeting which are necessary in order to progress the case that we have.

“A Sergeant Samuel Rosspenny, who was an RUC photographer for such instances, has submitted them to the Inquiry,” confirmed the solicitor.

“We have handled the Seamus Bradley case for a decade and this is the first time we have seen these photographs.

“In the colour pictures it is easy to see vertical abrasions on the neck that were not able to be seen in the black and white images.

“These photographs have now been disclosed to all parties involved in the Inquiry - ourselves as legal representatives, Seamus Bradley’s brother Danny as the victim’s next of kin, the Coroner’s Office and the solicitors and barristers for the Ministry of Defence (MoD),” he continued.

Mr Campbell also said that he would urge the MoD to move the process along by beginning to co-operate, although he did point out that the only obligation they have is to deal with the Coroner’s Office and because of the current illness of the Coroner himself, it has caused another possible impasse to progess.

“There may well be more disclosures in terms of images.

“Nine black and white photographs of Seamus Bradley after his death are available and now 11 colour ones. But in comparable cases we would have expected 30-40 images to have been taken.”

Seamus Bradley’s brother, Danny, maintains that his brother was tortured by the British Army having been taken prisoner by them after he was wounded by gunfire. He believes the army felt they could act with impunity following the discovery of a memo at the Public Records Office stating that military personnel had been given assurances that they would not be prosecuted for the actions in large-scale operations such as Operation Motorman.

“Forth-three years on, at the age of 59, I owe this to my father and my brother to get the truth.

“I have not given up and I still seek the truth,” insisted Danny.