British soldier was unjustified in killing IRA member Seamus Bradley as he ran across Londonderry field in 1972, coroner rules
- Seamus Bradley, 19, was killed by soldiers from the Royal Scots Regiment in 1972
- British Army claimed the teenager was armed and was shot while he was in a tree
- Family allege he was killed while sustaining fatal injuries during an interrogation
- Coroner rejected both versions of events but ruled Mr Bradley was ‘not a threat’
Seamus Bradley (pictured) was killed by soldiers from the Royal Scots Regiment during Operation Motorman in 1972
The killing of IRA member Seamus Bradley who was shot by a British soldier as he ran across a field in Londonderry in 1972 was unjustified, a coroner has ruled.
The shooting of Seamus Bradley, 19, has long been a matter of dispute after he was killed by soldiers from the Royal Scots Regiment during Operation Motorman.
The mission was part of an attempt to gain control of republican areas in Belfast and Derry that had previously been considered no-go zones for security forces.
Coroner Judge Patrick Kinney said he had not been able to confirm the identity of the soldier who fired the shots, but said Mr Bradley was not posing a threat.
The British Army claimed the teenager was armed and was shot while he was in a tree and suffered additional injuries as he fell.
His family allege he was killed later, claiming he was taken away in an army vehicle and that he sustained fatal injuries while being subjected to interrogation.
But the coroner rejected both those versions of events as he ruled at Belfast Coroner’s Court.
He said he was satisfied Mr Bradley was killed by a solider who got out of a Saracen vehicle, dropped to one knee and opened fire.
‘He was running across an open area of ground, he had no weapon and he was clearly visible,’ the coroner added.
Pictured: An armoured vehicle patrols Londonderry during Operation Motorman in Northern Ireland’s Troubles
‘The use of force by the solder was entirely disproportionate to any threat that might have been perceived.’
The coroner criticised the first aid provided to Mr Bradley and said he could have survived his injuries if he had been treated properly.
‘I find that if basic first aid had been provided to Seamus Bradley by the soldiers who collected him, and he was transported swiftly to hospital, he may well have survived his injuries,’ he said.
The coroner said the initial investigation of the shooting was ‘flawed and inadequate’.
Judge Kinney said he would send a report on the case to Northern Ireland’s Director of Public Prosecutions to consider.
Outside court, Mr Bradley’s family welcomed the verdict.
His brother Danny, who has long campaigned for a fresh inquest, said he had faced down a threat from the IRA in Derry to pursue the inquest.
‘I am happy with the verdict, very happy with the verdict,’ he said.
Daniel Hegarty (pictured) was killed in Londonderry where he was shot twice in the head aged just 15 years old
‘As the judge said, it’s 47 years (later) but it’s a lot better than the last (inquest) verdict. I am happy that I went forward, even with threats from the IRA, and got this situation heard today.’
Kate Nash, whose brother William was killed by Paratroopers on Bloody Sunday, was among those who attended the hearing.
Today’s hearing comes a few months after it was announced that a British soldier wold be charged for the murder of another teenager during Operation Motorman.
The veteran, known only as Soldier B, has been accused of shooting 15-year-old Daniel Hegarty twice in the head near his Londonderry home.
The former soldier will also be charged with wounding with intent after Daniel’s cousin Christopher Hegarty, then aged 17, was shot and injured in the incident.
Last year the Hegarty family won the right to seek the prosecution of the soldier after the High Court quashed a PPS decision not to bring criminal charges against him.
It comes amid public outcry following last month’s announcement when a former paratrooper known as Soldier F faced murder charges over the Bloody Sunday massacre in Bogside – which took place the same year.
What was Operation Motorman?
The operation was the British Army’s largest since the Suez Crisis of 1956 and was aimed at retaking ‘no-go areas’, which were usually controlled by republican paramilitaries.
As well as Daniel Hegarty dying, 19-year-old Provisional IRA member Seamus Bradley bled to death after being shot.
Operation Motorman began on July 31, 1972, and about 4,000 extra soldiers were drafted in for the job, bringing the total involved to about 22,000.
Pictured: A stop-and-search is conducted near Craigavon bridge in the aftermath of Operation Motorman
About 5,300 soldiers from the Ulster Defence Regiment were also deployed as the barriers marking out ‘no-go zones’ were bulldozed.
This was the only time that the British Army deployed armoured vehicles in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.
The operation lasted just a matter of hours and focused on areas included the so-called Free Derry, named as such to connote independence from the British.
Troops flooded into the no-go areas after the bulldozing and the IRA did not have the numbers or ammunition to engage in open battle against such a force.
The republicans did not try to hold their ground and by the end of the day both Derry and Belfast were cleared of no-go zones.