Soldier had role in 16 fatal Troubles shootings
A single British soldier played a key role in eight alleged shoot-to-kill operations during the Troubles.
The officer was involved in a “command position” in a string of shootings resulting in the deaths of 16 people between 1983 and 1991.
Details have been obtained from the MoD by lawyers for the families of two IRA men shot dead in a suspected SAS ambush 30 years ago.
Daniel Doherty (23) and William Fleming (19) were killed as they travelled through the grounds of Derry’s Gransha Hospital on a motorbike in December 1984.
It was reported that they were on their way to shoot a UDR man when an undercover unit struck.
The MoD is seeking public interest immunity certificates in relation to the inquest. If they are granted the MoD cannot be forced to reveal which army unit was responsible.
The men’s families believe they were victims of a deliberate shoot-to-kill operation and their lawyers have been told 13 soldiers were involved.
It has also emerged that some played a part in other controversial lethal operations in counties Antrim, Armagh and Tyrone.
One trooper, identified only as Soldier H, is confirmed as having had a command position in seven other fatal shootings. His role will be closely examined, solicitor Fearghal Shiels said.
“It has now been disclosed for the first time that the officer who planned the operation has been involved in at least seven incidents in which 16 people died. His planning of all of these operations shall be the focus of intense scrutiny at this inquest,” Mr Shiels said.
The documents also reveal that a soldier involved in the Gransha operation had a role in an ambush that saw three IRA men killed in Strabane, Co Tyrone, two months later.
He is believed to be Captain Simon Hayward, a convicted drugs smuggler who was said to have acted as a liaison officer between MI5, the SAS and the RUC’s undercover unit known as E4.
Hayward has denied involvement in the operations.
Soldier’s role in 8 ‘shoot-to-kill’ ops to be scrutinised
THE role of a single British soldier in planning up to eight alleged shoot-to-kill operations is to be the “focus of intense scrutiny” at an inquest into the deaths of two IRA men three decades ago.
Solicitors for the families of Daniel Doherty (23) and William Fleming (19) have obtained documents detailing links between a series of shootings resulting in the deaths of 16 people between 1983 and 1991.
The two Derry men were killed as they travelled through the grounds of Gransha Hospital in the city’s Waterside on a motorbike in December 1984.
It was reported that they were making their way to ambush a UDR man when an undercover SAS unit struck.
It is also suspected that members of the British army’s 14th Intelligence Company, a controversial reconnaissance unit working alongside the SAS, may also have been involved in the operation.
The MoD is seeking public interest immunity certificates in relation to the case.
If the certificates are granted, the MoD cannot be compelled to reveal which unit was responsible.
However, it is understood the coroner in charge of the inquest, Jim Kitson, has been made aware of the identity of the unit or units involved.
The men’s families believe they were the victims of a deliberate shoot-to-kill operation and were given no opportunity to surrender.
The families’ legal team have been told of 13 undercover British soldiers involved in the Derry ambush – the majority also playing a part in other lethal operations.
Four soldiers have yet to be identified, while British army officials are still trying to locate one.
However, one trooper, identified as Soldier H, is confirmed as having had a command role in seven other fatal shootings.
Although the exact military unit of which he was a member has not been identified, it has been confirmed that he spent four years and nine days in Northern Ireland as part of a “special unit”.
It has also been revealed that he was a member of a “specialist unit” between 1983 and 1991.
In documents obtained from the MoD by Fearghal Shiels, of Madden and Finucane Solicitors, each soldier has been identified only by a single letter of the alphabet.
However, while the participation of soldiers in other suspected shoot-to-kill operations has been confirmed, the exact role of the troops in each operation has not been revealed.
Some of the details of the case were discussed at a recent coroner’s court hearing into the Derry killings.
The preliminary hearing was told that three soldiers have declined to be interviewed by the investigating officer appointed to the case and refused to make further statements.
Four others have yet to indicate whether they will give statements.
Mr Shiels said the role of Soldier H will be closely examined.
“This inquest is required to examine the extent to which the operation which resulted in the deaths of Danny Doherty and William Fleming was planned so as to minimise the recourse to lethal force,” he said.
“It has now been disclosed for the first time that the officer who planned the operation has been involved in at least seven incidents in which 16 people died. His planning of all of these operations shall be the focus of intense scrutiny at this inquest.”
The solicitor also said it was important for the exact roles of all the soldiers in each operation to be known.
“In order for this inquest to adequately explore the operation of a shoot to kill policy, and to enable the families to participate effectively in the inquest, the Ministry of Defence have been required to disclose details of the other lethal force incidents in which the military personnel were involved,” he said.
“This obligation extends not only to those who opened fire or were present, but also to those who were involved in the planning of the operation.
“We will be making applications to the coroner for further disclosure of their roles in these incidents and to cross-examine them on their conduct in other fatal shootings when these soldiers appear to give evidence at this inquest.”
Links to 14 other controversial killings
Ministry of Defence documents reveal that some of the soldiers involved in the operation that led to the deaths of Daniel Doherty and William Fleming are linked to 14 other controversial killings during the Troubles:
IRA members Declan Martin (18) and Henry Hogan (21) were shot dead after a gun battle with undercover British soldiers near the village of Dunloy in Co Antrim in February 1984.
It has been claimed members of 14th Intelligence Company were involved in the shoot-out.
Republicans later claimed that the men were surrounded by the SAS before being shot dead, while people said they heard a man calling for help before being “finished off”.
Undercover British soldier Paul Oram also died in the firefight.
It was reported he had killed IRA men George McBrearty and Charles Maguire in Derry in 1981.
Brothers Michael Devine (22) and David Devine (16) died alongside Charles Breslin (20) after an SAS ambush in a field near Strabane in February 1985.
All three were members of the IRA and were making their way to an arms dump after a planned attack on the security forces was abandoned.
Captain Simon Hayward, also believed to have had a role in the ambush that killed Daniel Doherty and William Fleming, was identified by Fr Raymond Murray in his book The SAS in Ireland as a ‘liaison officer’ between the SAS, MI5 and the RUC.
Civilians Peter Thompson (21), Edward Hale (25) and John McNeill (42) were shot dead outside Sean Graham’s bookmakers shop on the corner of Belfast’s Whiterock and Falls Roads in January 1990.
The three men were in the process of robbing the bookmakers when they were targeted by undercover British soldiers.
Members of the 14th Intelligence Company were carrying out surveillance in the area at the time.
Some believe the men were being watched by the security forces and were deliberately targeted.
IPLO member Martin Corrigan (25) from Armagh was shot dead by undercover soldiers as he prepared to attack an RUC reservist in April 1990.
He was the only member of the IPLO to die while taking part in paramilitary activities during the Troubles.
Another man who was with him was arrested.
As a 17-year-old Mr Corrigan saw his father Peter Corrigan, a Sinn Féin activist, shot dead by the UVF.
Strabane man Alexander Patterson (31) is believed to have been shot dead by the SAS in the village of Victoria Bridge during an INLA gun attack on the home of a UDR member in November 1990.
It was later reported that Mr Patterson was an RUC informer who had tipped off security forces about the attack.
Lawrence McNally (38), Peter Ryan (37) and Tony Doris (21) were shot dead by the SAS in the village of Coagh in Co Tyrone in June 1991.
It is believed the three IRA men were making their way to carry out an attack when they drove into an ambush.
The car the men were travelling is reported to have been hit by up to 200 rounds, with the gunfire continuing for 10 minutes.
While the majority of those killed in suspected SAS attacks have been republicans, the fatality list also includes UVF man Brian Robinson who was shot dead by British army special forces in north Belfast in 1989.
His killers, which included a woman, are believed to have been members of 14th Intelligence Company.
Robinson was hit dead minutes after he had shot and killed Catholic man Patrick McKenna close to his home in Ardoyne.
Suspected ambush role
A BRITISH army officer suspected of being involved in the operation which led to the deaths of Daniel Doherty and William Fleming is also thought to have had a role in a second ambush that saw three IRA men killed.
Captain Simon Hayward has been linked to the SAS killings of brothers Michael Devine (22) and David Devine (16) alongside Charles Breslin (20) in a field on the outskirts of Strabane in February 1985.
The Life Guards officer has strongly denied involvement in the ambush.
Documents obtained from the Ministry of Defence show that a trooper identified only as ‘Soldier F’ in the Doherty and Fleming case is also listed as an ‘LO’ in the Strabane attack.
The term ‘LO’ is believed to mean ‘liaison officer’.
In his book The SAS in Ireland, Co Armagh-born priest Fr Raymond Murray refers to reports in British newspapers in the late 1980s claiming that Simon Hayward was a liaison officer between MI5, the SAS and the RUC’s undercover unit known as E4.
Claims about his involvement in secret British army operations in the north emerged during his 1987 trial for smuggling 50 kilos of cannabis into Sweden.
He was subsequently sentenced to five years in prison and released in 1989.
According to the reports from the time, Hayward “masterminded” the Strabane ambush and organised surveillance on the IRA men.
It has been alleged the alleged shootto-kill operation was set up following a tip-off from an IRA informer to the RUC.
The information was then passed on to Hayward.
However, in his own book published in 1989, Hayward said he was posted to the north twice, in 1982 when he was attached to the Coldstream Guards as company operations officer during a four-month emergency tour to south Armagh, and in 1985 during a two-year posting to British army headquarters in Lisburn.
He denied being a member of the SAS and playing a role in the Strabane ambush, claiming he was only posted to the north in June 1985 – several months after the deaths.
Documents obtained by solicitor Fearghal Shiels from the Ministry of Defence provide details of a total of 13 soldiers involved in the Doherty and Fleming ambush.
The papers confirm that three of those soldiers, including the man suspected of being Hayward, were involved in the Strabane operation.
The documents also give details of any subsequent criminal or disciplinary action taken against the soldiers involved in the Doherty and Fleming killings.
However, that information is omitted for soldier F – believed to be Captain Simon Hayward.
Mr Shiels said that if suspicions around Hayward are confirmed he should not be afforded further anonymity.
“He has already been named and if that name is accurate clearly this soldier is in the public domain and doesn’t require his anonymity to be preserved,” he said.