Inquest plea by soldier who shot and killed Londonderry teenager
A SCOTTISH soldier who shot and killed a teenage boy in Londonderry six months after Bloody Sunday has applied to be excused from his inquest on medical grounds.
The man, known as Soldier B, killed Daniel Hegarty, 15, in July 1972 during the controversial Operation Motorman, in which thousands of troops stormed parts of Londonderry and Belfast controlled by the IRA.
Earlier this year, Belfast Coroner's Court heard the soldier suffered health problems. It has now been confirmed he has officially applied to be absented from the new inquest, ordered after failings were identified in the original police investigation.
The hearing had been due to start in Londonderry later this month, but owing to a series of unresolved legal issues – including Soldier B's application – it has been postponed to February.
Solicitor for the inquest Fiona Doherty told a preliminary hearing the soldier did not feel able to appear.
Daniel, who was unarmed, was shot dead and one of his cousins injured when Soldier B fired on them in disputed circumstances in the early hours of 31 July, 1972.
The boy's family have rejected the soldier's version of events that the boys were running at him and his colleagues in the now defunct Royal Scots Regiment and they ignored repeated shouted warnings.
The relatives also claim Daniel had been struck at close range, not from 70ft away as originally alleged by the army.
Coroner John Leckey said he had received two GP letters describing the soldier's condition at length. "They are very detailed and they do raise significant issues on the health of the soldier," he said.
David Heraghty, counsel for Daniel's family, said his clients wanted to see the letters – in redacted form if necessary – to gauge for themselves whether he was well enough to take the stand.
Mr Leckey said he would await the outcome of discussions between counsel on disclosing the letters before making a decision. He also said he would need an update on Soldier B's condition closer to the start of the inquest.
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