Widow shot on Bloody Sunday was verbally abused by soldiers, court told

Report from the High Court today where Madden & Finucane represent the family of Peggy Deery, widowed mother of 14, shot and seriously wounded on Bloody Sunday.

A widowed mother-of-14 shot on Bloody Sunday was verbally abused by British soldiers declaring she “deserved it”, the High Court heard today.

One paratrooper allegedly said “let the ***** bleed to death” as Peggy Deery was being treated for her wounds.

Aged 38 at the time, Mrs Deery was the only woman to be shot in Derry in January 1972 during what became known as Bloody Sunday.

Her family is suing the Ministry of Defence (MoD) for the injuries they claim contributed to her subsequent death from a heart attack in 1988.

Thirteen unarmed people were killed when members of the Parachute Regiment opened fire on a civil rights march. Another of those wounded on the day died later.

In 2010 the Saville Inquiry into the shootings established the innocence of all of the victims.

Those findings led to David Cameron, the British Prime Minister at the time, issuing a public apology for the soldiers’ actions.

He described the killings as “unjustified and unjustifiable”.

Liability is accepted in legal actions taken against the MoD by those bereaved or injured.

Proceedings instead centre on the level of damages in each case, with more than £3m in total paid out to date.

Opening the family’s case, Barry Macdonald QC said Mrs Deery was shot in the leg by a paratrooper who probably knew she posed no threat.

She was carried into a house on Chamberlain Street to be treated by members of the Knights of Malta.

Citing the Saville report, Mr Macdonald set out how soldiers entered the property and allegedly directed foul language at the widow, stating that she “deserved it” and declaring: “Let the ***** bleed to death.”

Mrs Deery, who lost her husband to cancer months before Bloody Sunday, was raising 14 children aged between eight months and 16-years old.

She spent four months in hospital, developed a chronic kidney disease and was effectively housebound for the rest of her life, the court heard.

Her oldest daughters had to assume responsibility for her care and the rest of the family.

“The upshot was that, at the age of 38, as a single parent with 14 young children, she was seriously incapacitated and remained so until her early death,” Mr Macdonald said.

“All the children were effectively deprived both of their mother’s care and of their own childhoods.

“They all had to leave school early so that they could share the responsibility for attending to her needs and the needs of the younger children.”

One daughter, Helen Deery, told the court how they carried out cooking and cleaning duties in a house with no central heating or washing machine.

“We had to do everything,” she said.

With no help allegedly provided by social services, on one occasion the family was actually fined for non-attendance at school.

Mr Macdonald argued there is now evidence that the renal complications and chronic kidney disease suffered by Mrs Deery contributed to her eventual death.

But David Ringland QC, for the MoD, contended that her heart problems were probably due to a heavy smoking habit of 40 cigarettes a day.

He took issue with the family’s case that she never inhaled.

“The death wasn’t renal failure, the death was a heart attack,” Mr Ringland insisted.

“I haven’t got the slightest idea what the effects on health are of someone who allegedly smokes very heavily, but doesn’t inhale.

“That’s a concept I have never experienced in my life, let alone in any court setting.”

The case continues.

Belfast Telegraph