Fresh inquest into Patsy Duffy killing

Relatives, local representatives and gathering to mark the 40th anniversary of the death of IRA volunteer Patsy Duffy.
Relatives, local representatives and gathering to mark the 40th anniversary of the death of IRA volunteer Patsy Duffy.

The Attorney General has directed a fresh inquest into the killing of Patsy Duffy in Derry over 40 years ago.

Mr Duffy was shot dead on November 24, 1978, after entering a house in Maureen Avenue.

He was struck by up to 14 bullets in the back and died instantly from his injuries, while his daughter and grandchild were waiting outside the house in a car. The father of six was described as a victim of Britain’s ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy by the late Bishop of Derry, Dr. Edward Daly.

During the original inquest in 1980, two soldiers submitted statements of evidence in which they admitted that they were responsible for shooting Mr Duffy. These witness statements were tendered as evidence at the 1980 inquest, which concluded with an open verdict, and neither soldier gave oral evidence or were subject to cross examination by the lawyers for the family.

The Duffy family, including Patsy’s now deceased wife Moira, have long campaigned for a fresh inquest to explore the circumstances of his shooting.

An application for a fresh inquest was submitted to the Attorney General John Larkin QC in November 2015.

Directing the fresh inquest in March, the Attorney General said: “At its core, there is in this case the death by shooting of an unarmed man by, it seems, two soldiers who may have been dressed as civilians. In common with the practice at the time neither of those soldiers gave evidence at the inquest. There does not, on the materials available to me, appear to be any objective justification for shooting Mr Duffy.”

Mr Larkin added: “I consider that there is at present the potential for military evidence to be considered now that was not previously available.”

Solicitor for the family, Patricia Coyle, said: “The killing of Patrick Duffy, possibly conducted by a plain clothes military unit, was unjustified. It is considered that Mr Duffy’s killing is one of the earliest examples of the use of lethal force by the British army in Northern Ireland when an arrest was possible and such force was not necessary.”

She said that a bullet removed from Mr Duffy could be made available for up-to-date ballistic analysis to trace it to the weapon and possibly to the soldier responsible. His clothes have also been preserved by the family and are available for examination.

The solicitor added that armed forces personnel could be compelled to give evidence and be cross-examined.

“My clients welcome the Attorney General’s decision to direct a fresh inquest into the killing of their father and look forward to representation before the inquisitorial process. Their priority is to access all information and materials to establish the truth about their father’s death, whether it was pre-planned, which element of the British military was responsible and whether the shooting was directed at political level as part of a shoot to kill policy.”

Martina Duffy, daughter of Mr Duffy, welcomed the Attorney General’s direction for a fresh inquest.

“The original inquest did not get to the truth of how and who in the MOD was responsible for my father’s terrible death in 1978. His death devastated my mother, me and my five brothers and sisters at the time and continues to do so today. We welcome the opportunity to now participate and to be represented before this fresh inquest. It is just a pity that my mother, brother and sister are not alive to see this progress. We appreciate that in many ways this is now only the first step in a long road to establishing the facts and to state accountability.”