A witness has retracted part of his evidence during the second inquest into the British Army killing of a teenage boy in Derry 44 years ago.
Giving evidence to the inquiry surrounding the death of Manus Deery was Noel Duddy, who had in statements given to the Coroners Service just this summer had contended the 15-year-old victim was carrying a stick at the time he was struck by the ricochet of a lone round fired by deceased soldier William Glasgow.
Duddy had contended that the stick could have been construed by the soldiers on the city’s walls as having been a weapon and this may have been the reason they fired some 200 metres into the Bogside as darkness fell on May 19, 1972.
It emerged in court that Noel Duddy only came forward in June and again in July this year, 44 years after the death of Manus Deery and given two statements, claiming that he was there with the victim at the time of the shooting, that Deery had been carrying a stick and that he also made a gesture towards the Army observation post thereby drawing the soldiers to his attention.
On the first day of the inquest when asked about Noel Duddy’s presence some other witnesses including the other man wounded in the incident, Edward Divin, said they had no recollection of Duddy being there at all on the night in question.
The witness first said that he “was only a matter of feet away from Manus when he was shot” and pointed out his apparent position in the tunnelled area of the Bogside on contemporary photographs of the scene over four decades ago.
He also submitted a rough sketch map of the area drawn by himself and exemplified his and others that were present positions represented by a series of X marks.
Noel Duddy also said that he did not observe and Official or Provisional IRA roadblocks in the area at the time nor anyone in the district that night carrying a rifle or anything that could have been construed as a weapon.
However he admitted attending a meeting of the Official IRA’s youth wing that night close to the scene of the shooting at Meenan Square before later meeting Manus Deery and other acquaintances in the vicinity later on. He stated categorically that Manus Derry did not attend the Na Fianna Eireann meeting and that meeting up with the victim was a matter of chance and not designed.
When pressed on his attendance at the youth IRA meeting by Martin Wolfe, senior counsel for the Ministry of Defence and the PSNI, Mr Duddy said that it was attended by around 30-40 young people between the ages of 13-15. He also refuted Mr Wolfe’s question about the presence of weapons at the meeting and that only military style drilling took place.
He also admitted being a member of the junior Official IRA. At this point Lord Justice Colton, the Presiding Coroner interjected and advised the witness that he was under no obligation to answer any further questions from Mr Wolfe on his republican activities as a youth.
“There were no guns there that night,” said Duddy.
The witness also told the court that he recalled an atmosphere of trepidation in the Bogside that night as a bomb that had exploded earlier that day in the Clarendon Street area had injured soldiers.
He said: “There was always the chance the Army would try to take revenge. I have may have discussed that view, but I can’t remember.”
When told that the statements of both Soldier A, William Glasgow and Soldier B made no mention of anyone making a gesture towards there observation post on the Walls, Duddy responded: “It could be that I am mistaken.”
At this stage when asked if he wished to make any amendments to the portion of his statement relating to his contention that Manus Deery was carrying a long stick prior to him being shot, the witness then retracted it.
“I feel really foolish about this. He wasn’t carrying a stick,” he said
When asked by barrister Martin Wolfe if anyone else in the area was carrying a stick, Noel Duddy replied: “Not that I can remember.”
The witness was also cross examined by senior counsel for the Deery family, Miss Fiona Doherty who said to Noel Duddy: “You are making it quite clear that you are retracting that evidence about the stick and secondly what about this gesture you say that Manus made towards the soldiers on the Walls?”
In response the witness said: “That’s what I remember. I can’t say with 100 per cent accuracy as it is so long ago, but that’s what I remember.”
Miss Doherty then asked Duddy if he would equate his memory of the issue about Manus Deery supposedly carrying a stick with his memory of Manus Deery making a gesture towards the British Army.
In replying Noel Duddy said: “Now you put it like that, I probably would. I could have made it up to cover myself. Your mind plays tricks. Maybe I made up some excuse, some reason as to why it happened.”
In response Miss Doherty finally asked the witness: “Where you there at all?”
Duddy replied: “Yes, I was there.”
The Manus Deery inquest will resume on Thursday morning at 10.30am when evidence will be given by Soldier B who will be screened from view.
Evidence will also be given by Trevor Wilson, the commanding officer of both soldiers involved in the shooting incident.