Irish teenager Manus Deery was ‘totally innocent’ when killed by British sniper 45 years ago, coroner rules
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Irish teenager Manus Deery was ‘totally innocent’ when killed by British sniper 45 years ago, coroner rules

A BRITISH soldier killed a “totally innocent” teenager when he fired on a crowd of youths in Derry in 1972, a coroner has ruled.

Manus Deery, 15, was killed as he stood in an archway near a chip shop in Derry while socialising with friends in May of that year.

He was struck in the head by fragments of a bullet that ricocheted off a wall.

The fatal shot was fired by a British soldier from a fortified observation tower high above the Bogside area on Derry's historic city walls.

The soldier, Private William Glasgow, has since died. Private Glasgow claimed he had fired at a gunman but missed and hit the wall.

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But coroner Mr Justice Adrian Colton ruled there was no gunman and said: “The discharge of the round was unjustified.”

"Neither Manus nor anyone close to him was acting in a manner that could reasonably have been perceived as posing a threat of death or injury to Private Glasgow or any other person."

However, the coroner said he was unable to determine whether the Royal Welch Fusilier was under an "honest belief" that he had spotted a gunman.

"Even if Private Glasgow had an honest belief that there was a gunman present, the force used was disproportionate to the threat perceived and therefore more than was absolutely necessary in the circumstances," he said.

The killing, one of the most contentious of the Troubles era, occurred just months after the Bloody Sunday shootings in Derry, when British soldiers killed 13 civil rights demonstrators and fatally injured another on the streets of the Bogside.

Justice Colton said Manus Deery’s family pursued a new inquest to address a “perceived stain on his character” after he was linked to paramilitary activity by Private Glasgow.

He told Derry courthouse that he had “no doubt” the boy was blameless.

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“Manus Deery was a totally innocent victim. He didn’t pose a threat to soldiers or anyone else,” he said.

Outside the courthouse, Manus Deery's sister Helen said: "We always knew Manus was innocent. It has been a long drawn-out process and there's been lots of hurdles along the way, but it's been worth it.

"My emotions today are I love my brother, so I am just a bit sentimental and peaceful too. I'll probably go the cemetery at some stage. But this was about Manus and all the witnesses and clearing all their names."

All the civilian witnesses in the case were categorical that Manus did not have a gun or anything else in his hand when he was shot.

Private Glasgow died in 2001 and the only account available from him was the statement he made to Royal Military Police, which was made on May 20, 1972.

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Private Glasgow’s statement said that at about 10.25pm on May 19, 1972 he was told by “Soldier B” who was on duty that he had spotted a gunman.

Soldier B gave evidence at the inquest but Judge Colton considered his evidence to be of “limited value.”

An MOD spokesperson told The Irish Post: "The Army played an essential role in bringing about peace in Northern Ireland in often dangerous conditions, but we deeply regret any harm to innocent people during these necessary operations.

“Our thoughts remain with Manus Deery's family and friends."

The coroner held that:

  • Manus Deery died after being struck by fragments of a bullet fired by Private William Glasgow
  • The shot was fired from an observation post
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  • Neither Manus or anyone close to him was acting in a manner that could reasonably have been perceived as posing a threat of death or injury
  • There was no gunman near the archway in Mennan Square, but Manus and his friends were there and should have been visible to Private Glasgow
  • The force used was disproportionate to the threat perceived
  • The rules of engagement for soldiers in force at the time, namely the yellow card, were not adhered to by Private Glasgow
  • Private Glasgow was not justified in opening fire
  • The investigation into Manus Deery's death was flawed and inadequate