‘We just want the truth’ - say Thompson family

November 1971... Kathleen Thompson's husband, Patrick (far right), and her sons follow her funeral cortege through the Creggan Estate. [Derry Journal Archive]
November 1971... Kathleen Thompson's husband, Patrick (far right), and her sons follow her funeral cortege through the Creggan Estate. [Derry Journal Archive]

A son of murdered Creggan mum Kathleen Thompson says it is vital to establish the truth - not just for his own brothers and sisters, but for generations to come.

Erne Thompson was just six years-old when his mother was shot dead by the British Army in her own back garden on November 6, 1971. He revealed that it was actually an inquisitive son who prompted older family members to revisit old wounds and seek answers.

“It was All-Souls Day and my oldest boy came in from school asking who was dead in the house. We explained about his granny being shot. He thought about it, then said he’d better not mention his granny as too many questions would be asked,” Erne explained.

“We said to him, ‘no - it’s about time we started asking questions’, and that’s when I first went to the Pat Finucane Centre for advice.”

That was back in 2000 and the family remain determined. “I’d hate to think that 20 years from now my sons are doing the same thing,” Erne said. “It’s up to us to get this sorted in our lifetime and to set the record straight.”

On Tuesday past, Madden & Finucane Solicitors received the letter confirming that the Attorney General for Northern Ireland, John F Larkin QC, has ordered a new inquest. In the immediate aftermath, the British Army claimed that two shots were fired at them, but there was no evidence of this. No proper investigation was ever carried out by the RUC and no soldiers were ever prosecuted. “If you can’t be safe in your own home, where can you be safe?” asks Patricia.

Almost ten years after Mrs Thompson’s murder, the family were awarded just £84.07p in compensation - a cheque Mr Thompson immediately tore up. They also recall how patrolling British Army soldiers would taunt them as children.

“They’d shout at us in the street, things like ‘who’s making your dinner tonight?’ or “no mammy in your house?’. It became normality to us...”

“We were being raided morning, noon and night because we were now top of their list,” sister Minty added. “It was very, very difficult when I think back now. but thank God we had a very good extended family around us.”

The PFC’s Paul O’Connor has been working alongside the family for years and said: “The British Army didn’t even think Kathleen’s death important enough to mention it on their Daily Record Sheets - the 24-hour record sheet of what was happening here that was sent to the Secretary of State. It didn’t even merit a mention... They still insist there is no file either, so whatever does or doesn’t exist, this inquest will hopefully find that out.”

Speaking of their late father, Patrick, who died 21 years ago without ever knowing the truth, daughter Minty reflected: “My father was 47 years-of-age and left with six children to rear from the ages of 6 to 17. It must have been horrendous for him. It must have been the loneliest life...

“We just want the truth. If my mother was alive today, and this was my father we were talking about, she would never give up. Never.”