The Attorney General for Northern Ireland, John F. Larkin QC, has directed that the Senior Coroner for Northern Ireland hold new inquests into the deaths of Danny Doherty and Gerard Casey.
Danny Doherty was shot dead by members of the SAS in the grounds of Gransha Hospital in Derry on 6 December 1984, with another man William Fleming. Danny Doherty was riding a motorcycle which was rammed by undercover soldiers. A total of 59 shots were fired at the two men and Danny Doherty was struck 19 times. Forensic evidence suggests that six shots were fired into his body as he lay wounded on the ground. Both men also received gunshot wounds to the head in circumstances where they were wearing crash helmets.
Gerard Casey was shot dead by the UFF as he slept in bed with his wife at Rasharkin, Co Antrim, on 4 April 1989. Allegations of collusion between Loyalist paramilitaries and the security forces were made in relation to Mr Casey’s murder. Gerard Casey had been arrested and detained in Castlereagh Holding Centre on a number of occasions since 1985, the last occasion upon which he was detained was in October 1988, and he alleged that RUC officers had threatened him and specifically stated that they would see that he was shot. On that occasion Mr Casey’s home was searched, a legally held shotgun was removed from Mr Casey and was never returned and police took a sketch map of the interior of his home during the course of the house search.
Madden & Finucane Solicitors brought successful judicial review challenges on behalf of the families of both men (and also the family of Francis Bradley (1), shot dead near Toome on 18 February 1986) in 2007 in which it became known that the RUC withheld significant documents from the Coroner conducting the Inquests, in clear breach of its statutory obligations to provide the Coroner with all written documents in their possession.
The withheld documents included potentially crucial eye witness accounts, intelligence reports, army log sheets and in the case of Danny Doherty, details of the Royal Military Police investigations.
As a result of a change in the rules governing inquests, brought about by a successful judicial review by Madden & Finucane Solicitors in the context of the inquest into the death of Pearse Jordan, shot dead by the RUC in 1992, the soldiers responsible for shooting Danny Doherty must now give evidence at the inquest.
Fearghal Shiels, of Madden & Finucane Solicitors today welcomed the Attorney General’s decisions and said:
“The RUC showed a blatant disregard for its statutory obligations in terms of the documents it should have provided to the Coroner for the original inquests. This formed the basis of the applications to the Attorney General to order new inquests.
The soldiers who shot Danny Doherty evaded giving evidence at the first inquest held in 1986. They must now attend to give evidence and somehow explain why nineteen shots were fired at him, mostly from behind when he posed no threat, and again whilst he lay mortally wounded on the ground. They must further explain how he sustained a gunshot wound to the head in circumstances where he wore a crash helmet. Their self-serving accounts were not probed or tested sufficiently by the RUC and they will now be subject to cross examination by the legal representatives for the family.”
Julie Doherty, wife of Danny Doherty said:
“I am happy with the Attorney General’s direction. The State has to be held accountable for their actions.”
In relation to the death of Gerard Casey, Mr Shiels said:
“Gerard Casey was subjected to an intense campaign of harassment by the RUC and was threatened in Castlereagh in October 1988 that he would be shot. The vast number of documents not provided may have had a significant impact on the conduct of the Inquest and might well have impacted on the jury’s verdict.”
(1) The Attorney General directed a new inquest be held into the death of Francis Bradley in May 2010.