Coagh ambush inquest — Soldier F refuses to attend

Coagh ambush inquest — Soldier F refuses to attend

A HIGH Court judge has ruled that a certificate of default is to be issued against a British army veteran, known as Soldier F. He has defied a subpoena to attend the tribunal examining the circumstances surrounding a military confrontation in Co. Tyrone that became known as the Coagh Ambush, reports the Belfast Telegraph.

On June 3, 1991, a Provisional IRA unit from the East Tyrone Brigade came under fire from an SAS detachment. The men in the IRA unit, Peter Ryan (37 years old), Lawrence McNally (39) and Tony Doris (21) were suspected of planning to kill a prominent UDR man. Ryan had been on the run from prison for the previous ten years; Doris was a cousin of First Minister Designate of Michelle O’Neill.

Off-duty UDR soldiers, an infantry regiment of the British army based locally in Northern Ireland, were a regular target for the IRA in Tyrone. This fostered a tit-for-tat killing cycle in the county during the latter period of the Troubles.

The UDR soldier who was targeted was believed by the IRA — and others in the nationalist community of being — of being an associate of the UVF.

The stolen car that the three men were using in the operation was intercepted by an SAS. How the plan became known to the SAS is unclear — it was either through an informer in the local IRA brigade, or through surveillance by the security forces

The stolen Vauxhall was being driven by Doris towards Coagh.

Their ‘target’ had been substituted by a decoy SAS man pretending to be their intended victim, sitting in his car at a regular spot — earlier reconnoitred by the IRA — while waiting to pick up a friend on their way to work.

When the stolen car carrying the IRA men approached the scene the SAS detachment opened fire from close range. In sustained automatic fire Doris was immediately hit, and the car spun out of control. The car was raked with over 200 bullets.

Some reports claim that two of the IRA men attempted to exit the crashed car.

Evidence of what happened then is disputed. Other witnesses believed the car exploded on impact, burning the men inside beyond recognition.

Relatives subsequently stated that they had received information from the scene that two of the men had survived the crash, and had fled on foot from the scene, but had been pursued and shot down by British army soldiers in the vicinity. Their bodies, the relatives allege, were taken back to the car to make it appear as if they had died when the car had collided with a wall and a parked car.

The relatives of the deceased have alleged that soldiers unlawfully opened fire and intended to kill.

It has been claimed that the ambush was part of the British army’s official shoot-to-kill policy against IRA

An ongoing inquest into their deaths is examining whether the use of lethal force was justified.

Granted anonymity and referred to as Soldier F, the ex-serviceman helped plan the operation and was one of the soldiers alleged to have discharged his weapon at the scene.

According to the Belfast Telegraph earlier this year the coroner ruled that Soldier F should give oral evidence to the inquest.

Despite providing a witness statement, Soldier F made it clear that he would not appear voluntarily to testify and face cross-examination.

Legal action against him will now proceed through the courts.

NOTE: This Soldier F is not the same person known as Soldier F who is facing two counts of murder over the shooting of 13 civil rights protesters on Bloody Sunday.