Attorney General John Larkin has ordered that a new inquest be held into a controversial British army ‘shoot-to-kill’ case.

The order was his first act since taking up the post on Monday to become Northern Ireland’s first attorney general in 37 years.

The following day he directed the coroner’s office to hold a second inquest into the death of Francis Bradley who was shot in disputed circumstances by the SAS near Toomebridge, Co Antrim, in February 1986.

At the original inquest in Magherafelt, Co Derry, in 1987 the two men who fired the fatal shots were not compelled to give evidence, although other members of the regiment did.

Files including RUC interviews with soldiers involved and potentially important intel-ligence material were withheld.

Mr Bradley (20) was shot eight times. Four of the bullets were fired into his back from close range.

The army claimed he had been moving guns for the IRA. Two rifles were found nearby.

However, Mr Bradley’s family disputed this and the IRA denied that he was a member of the organisation at the time.

The family yesterday welcomed the decision.

They said they had “waited more than 24 years to learn the truth about Francis’s death”.

Mr Larkin wrote to them: “Although my appointment as attorney general only took place yesterday (Monday) I was able in recent weeks to read papers previously provided to Baroness Scotland QC.”

The family’s legal representative, Fearghal Shiels of Madden and Finucane Solicitors, said the order was significant and could affect other cases.

“The effect of this direction by the attorney general is that the persons directly responsible for the death, who did not appear to give evidence at the first inquest, are now as a result of a change in the rules compellable witnesses and will be subject to questioning by the family’s lawyers,” he said.

The family said: “We now look forward to hearing them account for their actions.”