'˜Troubles' legacy: Re-enactment of the shooting of Manus Deery being planned

Plans are being put in motion to conduct a re-enactment of the shooting of a teenage boy by the British Army in Derry, 44 years to the day that he was killed.

Friday, 4th March 2016, 7:30 am
15-year-old Manus Deery was shot dead by the British Army in May, 1972.

At around 9.30pm on the evening of May 19, 1972 15-year-old Manus Deery from Limewood Street was struck in the head by a bullet fired from the city’s walls. He was standing at Meenan Square, close to the Bogside Inn, with some friends and was eating chips bought with the money he had received in his first wage packet that day.

The fatal shot was fired by a man known only as ‘Soldier A’, who has since died. Another ex-soldier, known as ‘Soldier B’ was also present at the elevated firing position at the time the fatal round was discharged. Both soldiers were members of C Company of the 1st Battalion of the Royal Welch Fusiliers.For over 40 years, they have maintained they spotted a gunman in the area and fired at him.

Over a period of two weeks in January past, a series of assessments of the readiness of ‘Troubles’ legacy cases to proceed to fresh inquests were heard by Lord Justice Reg Weir. Belfast Court heard that whilst the case of Manus Deery was at a very advanced stage in terms of proceeding there was an issue surrounding the presence, or not, of telescopic sighting equipment that would have been used to direct fire towards the group of young people at Meenan Square.

Helen Deery, sister of Manus Deery with a picture of her brother wo was 15 when he was shot dead by the British Army on May 19, 1972.

At the January hearing it emerged that it was believed that ‘Soldier A’ did not have a telescopic sight, for example a snipers sight, mounted on his rifle, but that instead that ‘Soldier B’ used a free-standing scope to pinpoint and then verbally direct the ‘shooter’ towards the group of teenagers.

However, counsel for the Coroners Service, Mr McAlinden told the court that despite repeated requests to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to provide an example of the type of scope used and manuals containing information on it, neither had been provided by the Crown. At this point Crown counsel, Mr Martin Wolfe appealed to Lord Justice Weir that the MoD be allowed a further month to locate the requested material. In response, Lord Justice Weir said he found it hard to believe that the British Army did not have a museum full of the types of scope used at the time and appeared unable to provide one for examination.

“You were asked for these in November (2015). Are these manuals being delivered from Taiwan. You have one week to produce these manuals,” Justice Weir said.

Yet, despite the clear direction from the Court bench to produce the material it has now emerged that the Crown have still not done so. Lawyers acting for the Deery family have now written to the Crown Solicitors Office seeking further comments on what he believed took place on the evening Manus Deery was shot dead by his colleague ‘Soldier A’.

Helen Deery, sister of Manus Deery with a picture of her brother wo was 15 when he was shot dead by the British Army on May 19, 1972.

Crown barrister, Martin Wolfe told Belfast Court in January that ‘Soldier B’ had been asked to describe the telescopic sight used to pinpoint the teenage victim but contended that ‘Soldier B’s’ “memory is frail and he has had difficulty remembering the type of scope used.”

Despite the apparent delays emanating from the MoD, legal representatives for the family of Manus Deery have told the ‘Journal’ that they will move ahead in terms of getting a new inquest up and running at Derry Court as soon as possible as well as going forward with a re-enactment of the events of May 19, 1972 leading to the 15-years-old death.

Initial suggestions at the Court hearing in January were that tests based around establishing lighting conditions and visibility at the time of the shooting would help set down what both soldiers could actually see. Weather reports for the area for that night in Derry have also been sought from the Met Office archives.

Richard Campbell of Quigley, Grant and Kyle Solicitors in Derry told the ‘Journal’ said that it his firm’s belief that because a Coroner has not yet been appointed to the case that this would cause delays of a further year in that carrying out the re-enactment would then have to wait until May, 2017.

He also said they believe that the Crown “would inevitably make arguments stating that a lone Coroner attend at the site inspection and therefore a lone Coroner should hear the inquest by himself.”

In a letter sent to the Deery family, Quigley, Grant and Kyle said: “We would not be able to secure a jury to be sworn and then have a site inspection in May and thereafter have to have a jury await a possible hearing date some months later. Therefore I have been in contact with your junior and senior barrister and we would be of the opinion that the main importance at this juncture is to no longer delay the inquest proceedings and press on with the sight inspection in the absence of the jury and the Coroner. The reason for doing this is that the most importantperson to be at the sight and inspect same will be the expert obtained by the Coroner Service who will be giving evidence at the inquest.

Richard Campbell said: “We are going for the re-enactment on May 19 this year. The same day that Manus Deery was killed. The people present will be myself, our counsel, the expert from the Coroners Service and lawyers from the Ministry of Defence.

“This will be a very useful thing to take place. Ideally, we would want a Coroner there and a jury and we would take them from the Courthouse on to Derry Walls to give an impression of the atmosphere on the night itself. But, since a Coroner has not yet been appointed and a jury therefore will not be sworn in on time for May this year we are not prepared to wait until the same time the following year. As I said, it is not ideal, but we will make the best of a bad situation and the most important thing is to have the expert witness there.”

The ‘Journal’ understands that the expert witness contracted by the Coroners Service will come from a Belfast firm called TBM Consultants. They are a company of civil engineers who have specialised in giving expert opinion to court cases since the early 1980s. They possess expertise in criminal cases and give their opinion on murder, attempted murder and serious assault incidents. Amongst the services they can provide to the case of Manus Deery will be identification of evidence analysis to include night-time views and lighting, analysis of sight lines and mapping and timing of routes.