Seamus Bradley: Coroner says 1972 Army killing unjustified

Operation Motorman Image copyright Press Association
Image caption Operation Motorman was carried out in Londonderry in 1972

The Army's killing of a member of the IRA in Londonderry in 1972 was unjustified, a coroner has found.

Seamus Bradley, 19, was shot and killed in the Creggan area of the city during Operation Motorman on 31 July 1972.

The Army claimed the teenager was shot while he was in a tree and suffered additional injuries as he fell.

His family alleged he was killed later, claiming he was taken away in an Army Saracen vehicle.

They allege he sustained fatal injuries while being subjected to interrogation.

Image copyright PACEMAKER
Image caption Seamus Bradley was 19 when he was shot dead

Who was Seamus Bradley?

• James Oliver Bradley was born on 16 July 1953 in Derry.

• He was a single man employed as a scaffolder.

• He died, aged 19, on 31 July 1972 some time between 05:15 BST and 06.30 BST.

• The cause of death was laceration of his left femoral artery due to a gunshot wound.

• It was agreed and accepted that he was a Provisional IRA member at the time of his death.


Both those versions of events were rejected by coroner Judge Patrick Kinney at Belfast Coroner's Court on Thursday.

Judge Kinney said he was satisfied Mr Bradley was killed by a soldier who got out of a Saracen vehicle, dropped to one knee and opened fire several times.

"The coroner found that the soldier who shot Seamus Bradley was not justified in opening fire and that the investigation into his death was flawed and inadequate," the summary of the inquest's findings read.

The coroner concluded that:

  • Mr Bradley was running across Bishop's Field away from the Saracen and did not have a weapon;
  • He could not reasonably have been perceived as posing a threat of death or serious injury to the soldiers in the Saracen or anybody else;
  • The use of force by the soldier was "entirely disproportionate to any threat that could have been perceived";
  • No first aid or medical assistance was provided by the soldiers. The coroner said if first aid had been administered, there was a "reasonable prospect" that he would have survived;
  • Mr Bradley was not mistreated by military personnel in the Saracen in the form of physical assault, torture or shooting. "However he was denied even the most basic form of first aid treatment," the coroner said.

Operation Motorman was the name given to a military operation by the Army to reclaim 'no-go areas' set up by republican paramilitaries in towns across Northern Ireland.

In 2012, the Historical Enquiries Team ruled that the soldier that killed Mr Bradley had acted lawfully.

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