Northern Ireland

Ballymurphy inquest: Paratrooper recalls finding body of grandmother

Ten people were killed in the shootings
Image caption Ten people were killed in the shootings

A former paratrooper has said finding the body of a grandmother who had been shot dead in Ballymurphy was "one of the most horrific" things he had seen.

Appearing at the inquest into the 1971 killings by videolink, M155 said he was a private in B Company 2 Para and was a bodyguard for the Company Commander.

Four people were shot dead on waste ground opposite the Henry Taggart base in west Belfast on 8 August 1971.

They were Joan Connolly, Noel Phillips, Joseph Murphy and Daniel Teggart.

Ms Connolly, 44, was a mother of eight whose eldest daughter was married to a British soldier serving in Belfast at the time.

M155 said finding her body was "one of the most horrific things I have ever seen".

Image copyright Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker Press
Image caption Families of those killed in the Ballymurphy massacre

The soldier said he remembers taking cover behind a Humber Pig armoured vehicle outside the Henry Taggart Hall Army base when the shooting started.

He told the court he later volunteered to help recover casualties from the waste ground.

The former private recalled going to the area in an armoured vehicle with an officer, a driver and one other soldier, and reversing up to the casualties.

M155 said Ms Connolly was lying face down with a large hole in her thigh, but when he turned her over he saw that her face had been shot off.

Image caption Soldiers from the Parachute Regiment were based at Henry Taggart Army base

He decided to leave her where she was because she was already dead.

M155 described recovering five badly wounded male casualties and helping bring them back to the Henry Taggart Hall.

"Seeing someone in that state immediately put us into a humanitarian mode", he said.

He added that there was sporadic gunfire during the time that his vehicle was recovering the casualties.

'No interview record'

M155 said he had not fired his own weapon that day, and did not see any of the casualties being abused by soldiers while in the hall.

He said that later he heard other soldiers being briefed to go and recover Ms Connolly's body.

M155 told the court he was certain that he had made a statement to the PSNI's Historical Enquiries Team (HET) but had never seen a copy of it.

Although HET records show that he was contacted, the court heard that there is no record of an interview with him.

Later, a barrister for three of the victims asked if M155 had seen the casualties being maltreated or shot while still in the field.

M155 said he had not.

'Not covering for anyone'

Some witnesses have claimed the wounded were shot where they lay in the field by a unit sent to recover them.

M155 also denied that he was covering for anyone else.

"I'm not covering for anyone." he said.

"I genuinely don't remember many things that happened in those days, and that is the truth." he added.

M155 did confirm that he had not found any weapons with the casualties he found or recovered.

The barrister asked him if he had any sense of unease about who had been shot.

"No one said: 'Oh dear, we've shot the wrong people'?" he asked.

"No." M155 replied.

M155 also insisted he could not identify any of the soldiers who had fired at the waste ground.

He said he had been taking cover behind a vehicle and could not see who was firing from the sangars at the base.

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