Police detective in bid to get statements on SAS shootings

Willie Fleming and Danny Doherty were gunned down in the grounds of Gransha in December 1984.
Willie Fleming and Danny Doherty were gunned down in the grounds of Gransha in December 1984.

A senior detective has been appointed in a bid to obtain fresh statements from six SAS soldiers involved in the ambush and killing of two IRA men in Derry almost 30 years ago.

Daniel Doherty (23) and William Fleming (19) were shot dead in the grounds of Gransha Hospital in December 1984.

It was alleged the pair were planning to carry out an attack on an off-duty UDR soldier when the SAS opened fire.

An inquest was held two years after the shootings but, in 2010, Northern Ireland’s Attorney General John Larkin ordered another hearing after finding that police documents had been withheld from the coroner at the time.

Relatives of the two men have also claimed the SAS soldiers did not provide full details on the ambush when interviewed by RUC detectives in the wake of the killings.

A preliminary hearing in Belfast ahead of a fresh inquest was told that PSNI chief Matt Baggott has now asked a detective chief inspector to head efforts to take new statements from security force personnel involved in the incident.

While that potentially includes the soldiers who carried out the operation, a lawyer for the Ministry of Defence told coroner Jim Kitson that the Army couldn’t compel former servicemen to make statements for the purposes of an inquest.

Pete Coll said: “It is for those ex-soldiers whether they are prepared to engage with the police in the provision of fresh statements.

“The MoD can’t compel them, even if they were still serving.”

The coroner said he would wait to see how the detective got on before examining the potential implications of statements not being made directly to police.

Brenda Campbell, family representative, said it was important the process of collecting new statements was “open and transparent”.

Earlier, Dr Tony McGleenan, on behalf of the PSNI, said the detective did intend to take statements from two former police officers who were involved in the planning and control of the operation.

A date of December 12 was set for the next hearing in the case.