Jurors at the inquest into the 1972 British Army killing of Derry teenager Daniel Hegarty are to begin considering their verdict this afternoon.
Coroner Mr John Lecky is to address the jury at noon following the hearing of evidence on the fatal shooting of the 15 year-old boy during Operation Motorman in Derry. Evidence in what was one of the most controversial killings of the Troubles was heard at Derry courthouse over the last four days. Daniel Hegarty was wounded twice in the head at Creggan Heights in the company of his cousins Thomas (15) and Christopher (17), who was also wounded in the incident, in the early hours of July 31, 1972.
The final statement read to the inquest yesterday was from the commander of the British Army (8th Infantry Brigade) in Derry during Operation Motorman, the largest British Army operation to be mounted since the Suez Crisis in 1956. Major General Brigadier Patrick MacLellan outlined the thinking behind the operation, which was known as Operation Carcan in Derry and said it was designed to “restore law and order” to Creggan and the Bogside.
The inquest also heard from a forensic scientist and ballistics expert, Leo Rossi, who said that Daniel - who the court heard earlier was 5’3” in height and of thin build - was shot from as little as eight feet away.
Mr Rossi said he had made an assessment of the evidence with regards to the ballistics of the case and that he had visited the scene of the shooting in 2010.
He said that Daniel had been shot by rounds from a General Purpose Machine Gun, a weapon capable of firing 800 rounds per minute.
The court heard that some of the soldiers in the Platoon stated that the gun was mounted on the pavement on a bipod and that the soldier who had fired the shots, who was identified as ‘Soldier B’, had fired from the ground. Mr Rossi said that the angle of the wounds on Daniel Hegarty meant that the gun “would have had to be positioned higher than at ground level”. Mr. Rossi suggested that the gun was fired either from the soldier’s hip or resting on top of a hedge.
A statement from ‘Soldier B’, which was read to the court, said he saw one of the three youths with something in his right hand which he thought could be a revolver or a nail bomb and that he fired from a range of about 25 yards.
Mr Rossi concluded that the fatal shots were fired from “an unknown distance which is thought to be approximately eight feet from the deceased”.
The inquest is the second into Daniel Hegarty’s death. It was set up after an investigation by the Historical Enquiries Team found that the RUC investigation in 1972 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. (See Page 13)