Kathleen Thompson inquest: ‘Patrolling Creggan in 1971 could severely damage your health’, says ex-soldier

Patrolling in the Creggan area of Derry in 1971 ‘could severely damage your health’, a former British soldier has told a legacy inquest into the death of a Derry mum-of-six.

NOVEMBER 1971... The Thompson family’s garden at Rathlin Gardens.
NOVEMBER 1971... The Thompson family’s garden at Rathlin Gardens.

The ex-soldier was giving evidence on Thursday into the death of Kathleen Thompson (47) who was shot dead outside her home at Rathlin Drive in November 1971.

The witness told the Coroner’s Court that he was on an army operation in the Creggan Estate on the night Mrs Thompson was killed.

The former soldier - referred to as KTM 381 - said he remembered being on this particular operation as it was the only time while on a training course that he was involved in actual actions.

The late Kathleen Thompson.

He said that, normally, the training course would involve patrolling in parts of Co. Down, referred to by soldiers, he said, as ‘cake and buns’ country as the locals provided them with tea and cake.

The witness added: “You didn’t get a cup of tea in Rathlin Drive, believe me.”

He said that, on the Creggan operation, he was assigned to provide cover and took up a firing position at the corner of an alleyway.

The inquest was told that, during the operation - which the witness believed lasted about 30 minutes - KTM 381 did not observe any ‘soldiers or anyone firing any rounds.’

At a debrief the following day, he said they were told the operation had been ‘unsuccessful and there had been a death’ but insisted he knew nothing about Kathleen Thompson’s death until contacted by the Coroner’s Service.

KTM 381 said he had not been interviewed by the RMP and assumed this was because he had not been a witness to anything.

He was asked by Ian Skelt QC, counsel for the Coroner, if he knew at the time that the death was due to British Army fire. He said he didn’t.

The inquest later heard that there were potentially 9 or 10 more witnesses to be heard and the next hearing was scheduled for June 21.

Mr Skelt also told the hearing that an historical diary belonging to the Royal Green Jackets had been made available by the Ministry of Defence on February 19.

Mr Skelt said this could be useful in helping to identify who was performing what role in November 1971.

The hearing was then adjourned.