18 February 2006. Thanks to A.
2 February 2006
Dear friends, Those who know me know of my commitment and dedication in standing at the forefront against injustice, bigotry and discrimination from whatever quarter it comes from, this around Belfast city, Nationally, and Internationally - over the last decade or so.
My involvement in such comes from a fire in my heart that sees me drive forward on such essential issues with others.
Being a Black kid and having grown up in a 'White community' within the heart of the Irish conflict, West Belfast, I had seen many injustices inflicted upon myself and those around me. One of those injustices is written about below, and the facts told. It is written by my Mother-in-Law, a sounder person one could not have hoped to meet, and with not a bad bone in her body. She, like her mother, brought her children up to see all people as people and not to judge on religion or colour, not an easy thing to do living within the heart of the Irish War at its height.
Yet the job her mother had done in that regard I had found in first meeting Marie (Senior) truly reflected that. And indeed what a job she had done herself I had thought on first meeting her daughter who was to become my friend, my companion, and now my wife.
This is an account of a family, my family's, continued struggle for truth and justice and the murder of a child by a state. Ironically on the very day that Brian was being murdered in Turf Lodge, I was celebrating my 6th birthday in Ballymurphy estate just across the road.
I ask of you, but three things. Firstly to circulate it amongst those of interest and relevance, as well as more widely as so all can read it. Secondly if one has any, any, information, to please forward it on. And thirdly to bring to bear and use all influence one can, to deliver us truth and justice.
This new Historical Enquiries Team (HET) I believe will not deliver us the truth and the justice we, like many other families in similar circumstances need for closure.
For the mother (now passed on) of a murdered child, for the sister of a murdered brother, for the niece of a murdered uncle, and for all the extended family we ask for your help in this regard. There will be no closure for us until we get the truth and the justice as Marie outlines below.
And on that Marie gives the account of the murder of Brian Stewart.
- Davy Carlin
This long overdue story is in response to my Mother's dying wish of clearing my murdered brother's name. His name was Brian and he was thirteen on the day he was murdered. He was buried on his fourteenth birthday.
On the 13th October 1963 Brian Stewart was born, the fifth child in our family of eight, four girls and four boys. Our father was a dockworker in Belfast whilst our mum always remained at home to care for us, her children were her world. Brian had blonde hair, freckles and the most beautiful big blue eyes I have ever seen. Brian was always smiling, telling jokes and playing the clown. We lived in a poor working class, mostly unemployed area with very few amenities. However our neighbours had a great sense of community spirit, sadly missing in many communities to-day. We lived at the foot of the Black Mountain, Brian's favourite past time was playing in these fields, a free spirit, at one with nature.
On the 4th October 1976 at about 6:10pm, when I came home from work my mother was helping Brian to do his homework. I told my mum to go and make the dinner and that I would help him. Knowing that Brian had trouble with his spelling I sat and helped him. My mum called me to the kitchen for a cup of tea. It could not have been more than 3 or 4 minutes later that a young boy on a bike shouted up our hall that "your Brian has been shot". When I discovered that he was not in the front room I ran to the scene, convinced that it could not be Brian as we had been together only minutes before. Some young boys told me that Brian had been carried into Mrs. Mulvenna's house.
However you can imagine my horror to find my wee brother on their sofa thrashing around in great distress. He was vomiting up the dinner he had just eaten at home. A Mr. Frank Diamond was trying to bring some comfort to Brian. My brother was not aware of anything around him. When the ambulance man picked him up his wee head hung over the man's arm as he passed by me, his head was level with mine, it is a memory forever etched in my mind. Brian's big blue eyes were staring blankly into mine. I immediately was sick as I knew in my heart Brian was gone. He survived on life support until 10th October 1976. We buried Brian on his fourteenth birthday, 13th October 1976.
Brian had been standing outside the shop talking to two teenage girls, with his back to the King's Own Scottish Border's foot patrol which was making its way down the street, in full battle gear, guns et al, a normal daily occurrence in Catholic working class areas of Belfast at that time. Brian was not aware that he was experiencing the final conscious moments of his young life. Brian was shot in the head with a plastic bullet which I believe was manufactured in Scotland at Brocks Fireworks of Sandquhar, Dumfriesshire, Scotland.
The soldier who fired the bullet which killed my brother was a member of the Kings Own Scottish Borders. The name he gave in court was Pte Charles Andrew Smith from Edinburgh. A young man himself who was born on 21st. of April 1952. This young man took his orders to fire the fatal shot from a Lt. O'Brien. A Major Timothy Patrick Toyne Sewell, an English officer was standing on the road taking photographs. He was beside Pte.Andrew Smith, The army continually claim that Brian was throwing missiles at the soldiers and yet the official autopsy report states that he was struck on the left side of his skull. This caused an 8cm. hole which left his brain extensively fractured, lacerated and bruised. An artery in his head was also shredded. Considering the position that the soldier stated he fired from this proves that Brian had his back to Pvt. Smith.
We discovered later that two hours earlier, Lt. O'Brien had told a young boy, (Jim Irvine, RIP 16 years old) who looked like Brian that he was "going to get him". Unfortunately Brian was standing outside a shop 4 yards from this young man's home when the fatal shot was ordered. Brian fell to the ground when the bullet smashed his skull; another soldier in the foot patrol proceeded to drag Brian down the street by the ankles, banging his head off the ground whilst doing so, despite his massive head injury. Later at the court case, this soldier Pt. Aitchison perjured himself and claimed he was attempting to render first aid! The young eyewitness who gave evidence during the civil case was castigated as a vicious liar by Judge Brown, when she gave evidence that this British soldier had dragged the child by the ankles after he was shot. Three other witnesses confirmed that this is in fact what happened. The official autopsy report bore this out by stating that Brian had extensive bruising on his ankles.
Brian arrived at the hospital accompanied by my younger sister and a neighbour. While the doctors vainly battled to save Brian's life, his little body was surrounded by army personnel in combats. My sister who had accompanied Brian was not allowed to be with him until the soldiers had surveyed the consequences of their dreadful deed. Not only had Brian's young life been stolen but he was denied the comfort of someone close to him - just to hold his hand - please remember my brother was a thirteen year old boy - the horror of this thought haunts my sister until this day.
The day following the shooting, while Brian was in hospital fighting for his life, Major Timothy Patrick Toyne Sewell (the officer who had been taking photographs) gave a television interview stating that Brian had been leading a riot of 500 people that Brian had been " observed for a considerable time, was specifically targeted and he got what he deserved". You can imagine the distress this caused our family as we tried to come to terms with the fact that Brian's brain was so badly damaged that he was not going to survive. I do not believe that anyone of sane mind could imagine a 4ft 9inch, childish thirteen year old could lead such a threatening crowd or deserve a death sentence.
At Brian's inquest Major Sewell, who was the only representative from the British army who gave evidence, changed the story of 500 rioters; however, he again perjured himself by claiming Brian was leading 20 rioters. This is quite a dramatic change from his original story. No one in authority asked where the mythical 480 rioters went. This Major Sewell went on to perjury himself further by claiming that the intended target had been a boy dressed in a blue and white stripped jersey. He went on to say, "We would not have aimed at a boy of Brian's stature "Major Sewell claimed he saw the baton round gun being fired from the shoulder aimed to hit a direct target. He made no mention of Pvt. Smith's aim being deflected by the same Pvt. Smith being hit by a missile.
Video footage of his interview would have allowed our legal team to point to his perjury. We were refused the use of the video evidence by Cecil N Taylor the BBC's Head of Programmes. Ormeau Avenue Belfast. The facts were that there was only Brian and two young girls, standing on the corner talking. At this time there was no riot in progress. Lt.O' Brien may have suspected that my wee brother Brian was the boy he had two hours earlier "threatened to get" and he gave the order to fire based on this assumption. This is the only version of this controversial shooting that makes sense in my opinion.
The very next morning a local television crew filmed the narrow street where Brian, was wounded, there was no rubble on the ground, there were no broken windows, damaged cars or any evidence that even a minor incident
Had occurred where Brian was shot. The statements made by the reporter on this broadcast indicated that there was no evidence of a riot.
This would have been in direct contradiction of the statement made by Lt. General Sir David House and put out by the Northern Ireland Press Office. This Lt.General Sir David House was the man in charge of the entire British Army in Northern Ireland. The statement he issued through the Press Office described an extremely aggressive group of rioters 500 strong in which one of the most active bottle throwers was shot in the head the evening before.
Despite repeated requests by our family and a few sympathetic English Members of Parliament, this footage was never released to be used as evidence. Major Sewell did not produce any of the photographs he had taken before and after the fatal shot was fired. If he had been interested the truth these photographs would have proved inconclusively that my brother was an innocent child standing in his own neighbourhood.
When my mother finally initiated a civil action in order to find out the truth of my brother's death, Mayor Sewell did not even appear to give evidence; apparently he was not under the jurisdiction of the British Army or the British Courts. Under whose command was this mysterious officer? Why was he walking about with an armed patrol taking photographs? Charles Andrew Smith, the soldier who shot my brother never denied that he calmly walked past me and sniggered when a little girl pointed him out as the man who shot my brother. I was five months pregnant at the time, I was close enough to this soldier to touch him, regardless of the circumstances I would not have put my future child's life in danger (A boy, born 07/03/77, named Bryan in memory of my brother). There was no riot going on in that street, major, minor or otherwise.
In early March 1982 the appeal against the ruling of Judge Brown started. In court during this appeal Charles Andrew Smith, the soldier who fired the fatal shot perjured himself by stating that he was hit on the shoulder with a stone which deflected his aim. This conflicted with his initial statement given on 5th Oct. 1976 to a David Kennedy 178 Provost Company RMP/SIB. Here was a soldier, who six years earlier had murdered a thirteen year old child with a lethal weapon, admitting in court, that he still did not know the regulations for the use of the plastic bullet gun. His honesty on this point both amazed and horrified me. He perjured himself because he knew that firing plastic bullets at someone's head can be fatal. How could you take the life of a thirteen year old child and still not feel the need to inform yourself on the firing instructions of a lethal weapon you would still be using on a daily basis.
Lord Justice Jones in his summation of the case stated; "and so I come to the last question, namely did Cpl. Smith (promoted for his heroic act) act with reasonable care in firing. Of course he had to exercise reasonable care. Indeed he had to be very careful, in my opinion, because the baton gun is a potentially lethal weapon. The use of which must be judged against a high standard of care. Cpl. Smith was trained and experienced operator with this weapon." (This is the same Cpl. Smith that in the same judges court and under oath admitted that he did not know the firing instructions) Lord Justice Jones went on to say" No doubt he did not give any warning, that is a factor to be taken into account but cases vary" he continued" in others might not be of any material significance". Obviously the Learned Lord Justice Jones was totally unaware of the British Army's detailed instructions on firing or he arrogantly chose to ignore them. Just as he had totally ignored the personal testimony of all the civilian witnesses. Who were upstanding citizens with no reason to fabricate their statements During the court case the army representative claimed that the record of dispatches between the foot patrol and their base at Fort Monagh had been destroyed, somewhat negligent in such a serious case and says a lot about the R.U.C's rigorous investigation that they made no effort to get it into their possession days after the fatal controversial shooting. To compensate for the records destruction the army introduced the log sheet which records communications between foot patrols and their central base (included) as you can see there was no communication between 1350 hours and 1834 hours .
If these soldiers where in such life threatening danger they felt compelled to fire a lethal shot without warning, why had they not reported this situation? Why had they not requested assistance? Furthermore, the ambulance had been called at 18 minutes past 6pm this indicates to me that at least 16 minutes elapsed between the fatal shot being fired and the first mention of a riot.1834 hours.
This damning evidence proves conclusively what all the civilian witnesses claimed; including the ambulance assistant, there was no riot taking place when Brian was shot. In less than 10 minutes a riot was staged 150 yards from the site of the shooting. This was created by the same foot patrol returning with reinforcements to the junction of Norglen Gardens and Norglen Road firing plastic bullets at random. This action was part of their attempt to instigate a riot in order to cover up their fatal shooting. I personally witnessed this as I watched the ambulance attempt to negotiate its way through the soldiers who had formed a line along the top of this street. I returned home another route along Norglen Parade to comfort my mum who was distraught.
In any civilized country in the world if someone is murdered there is a thorough investigation into the circumstances and rightly so. If the victim is a child or a vulnerable person then their right to life should be protected by everyone with a moral conscience. My brother was a thirteen year old boy, three minutes from his own home; he was a threat to no-one. He died because he was a catholic living in a working class area of Belfast during 'the troubles'.
The actions of the British authorities before and after my brother's death indicate that he did not count. He died on the whim of an English Officer and a Scottish soldier. This soldier will claim that he was only following orders. Is this not the same claim that the Nazis made during the Second World War. It was not accepted by the same British government then, nor should it be now. The British army, the British Government, and the law colluded in covering up the murder of this innocent boy, they should have been honour bound to protect him. The RUC did not attempt to investigate Brian's death (interviewing witnesses etc.), until our local housing community group phoned the police station on behalf of my mum, informing them she would phone newspapers if they did not attempt to investigate. This was about five months after Brian's death. My mum was told the investigating officer was off sick. A force that exceeds twelve thousand people. Why did they not appoint someone else?
Detective Constable R. Peacock, then based at Springfield Road was supposed to be the investigating officer, a Cont. Mulholland his assistant? They began taking statements on the 1st March 1977. The British Army, the British Government, their court system and the police colluded in covering up the murder of an innocent boy These people had both a moral and legal obligation to protect him. As far as the law was concerned the only honourable person we came in contact with, in relation to Brian's death, was a young barrister named Norman Shannon. This young man worked tirelessly in Brian's defence. Our family could not have praised his efforts high enough. Mr. Jerry Fitt our local M.P. at that time wrote to the N.I. office on behalf of my mum inquiring why no inquest had yet to be arranged, their explanation was the police investigating Brian's murder had failed to forward the papers concerning their (non-existing) inquiry.
The verdict of the inquest was an open verdict. A letter from the Northern Ireland Office dated 24.7.78 stated; "The circumstances surrounding the death of Brian Stewart were subject of exhaustive police investigation all papers were sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions who decides independently of the Police and Army and there were no grounds for the prosecution of any soldier". A letter from Roy Mason Secretary of State dated 24.7.78 stated; "I, cannot accept, however the views expressed in your letter (my mum, Mrs. K Stewart) that the military lied. It is not, and never has been, denied that Brian died as a result of an incident with the army. What is denied are assertions that the investigations into his death were anything but thorough, painstaking and directed towards uncovering the facts. If the D.P.P. had directed that charges should be brought in the case of Brian Stewart then charges would have been brought. Members of the security forces are expected to act within the law and are subject to the penalties of the law if they do not do so.
Why were most of the soldiers involved in Brian's murder promoted by the time they had to attend court? C.N. Taylor, B.B.C. Head of Programmes refused my mother's and various English politicians requests to have the important video footage of the interview given to David Capper by Major Sewell, although the company did confirm the interview was still in their possession. This interview aired on the Scene around six evening news 5-10-76 and again on 19-10-76 Spotlight I believe. I wonder does anyone remember watching this interview. Lord Avebury who had contacted the British Broadcasting Corporation on my mother's behalf, received a letter from the same British Broadcasting Corporation falsely informing him that this evidence had been passed on to my mum's solicitors.
During the final appeal of the civil action Judge Jones refused to hear the testimony of Mr. David Capper (the reporter who interviewed Major Sewell) therefore suppressing this vital evidence ever being heard in court. In fact he discounted all evidence accept the totally fabricated story presented on behalf of the British army in conjunction with the British Government.
Our Parish Priest Father Mc Killop told my mum he drove by the spot where Brian was shot moments before it happened; he confirmed to her no riot was taking place. Our own Parish Priest knew the truth about Brian's death however he refused to go to court to tell the truth 'that the military lied.
Father Faul told my mum that he had a private confidential conversation with a senior army person who confirmed that our family's version of what occurred was in fact the truth. My mother had a lot of respect for Father Faul however I still fail to see why he failed to stand up and speak the truth knowing how important it was to my mum.
My mum marched on the Shankill with the peace people despite her personal opinion about the origin of that organization. They had a meeting in our community centre the morning Brian's life support machine was turned off. Mairead Corrigan Maguire refused to condemn Brian's murder because she said it was controversial. Her family members died at the hands of a man who had been murdered by the same men, British soldiers, was that not controversial? Members of our tightly knit community chased them away in respect for the grief our family was experiencing. The media broadcast and printed the British army's press release; no-one was moved to do some investigating journalism on behalf of Brian. As a consequence of this adverse media coverage my mum received hate mail concerning Brian during the early days of her grieving. The mail was signed loyalists and Protestants. Coming from a 'mixed' family we knew these ignorant people where the exception rather than the rule but their vile words hurt at that vulnerable time nonetheless. The Taoiseach,Mr. J. Lynch T.D. when contacted by my mum asking for assistance with clearing Brian's name - his advice to her was to consult her legal representative, he obviously did not want to get involved.
A well known local solicitor turned up at my mother's house whilst Brian's coffin was being brought in. He asked my mum to allow him to represent Brian's case. On the day of the inquest Mr. X accidentally bumped into my mum in the High Court in Belfast Mr. X had not only forgotten who she was or that he was supposed to be her legal representative at Brian's inquest. Obviously he was totally unprepared, no statements, no evidence no prepared questions etc., Never having been in a court before we were stunned and despondent.
Mr.X,s final contribution was to fail to follow up on the open verdict. To this day I still wonder how could a newly appointed solicitor involve himself in such an important high profile and controversial case and then totally forget to appear to represent the case. His appearance at the court was a total accident. I am also puzzled as to why my mum had to petition so many people in her vain attempt to secure the vital video evidence which this solicitor could simply have issued a subpoena in order for it to be produced. Eventually my mum got in touch with courts herself to discover that the director of Public Prosecutions felt there was insuffient evidence for a prosecution to take place. I believe this was due to the soldier's lies and this Mr. X's incompetence.
1976 was not a good year to find champions for innocent children no longer with us to tell their own story.
My mother discovered that her only option to have Brian's name cleared and his story told was to initiate a civil action. My mother changed her solicitor and began the proceedings. Civil Actions are the only legal recourse a person has if the D.P.P. decides not to prosecute. My mother had to take this action out against the Ministry of Defence. As my father was working it was estimated his disposable capital was 1,445 pounds per year, this was to support our family of ten. In order to initiate these proceedings my mother had to pay 228 pounds quite a sacrifice for our family at the time. It always seemed sad to me that my mum had to pay British agency hard earned money in order to bring another British agency (which had murdered her young son) to court. Just before the Civil Action was to be heard before Judge Brown, (in a futile attempt to prevent any exposure of the circumstances surrounding the murder of my brother and the subsequent perjury by members of the army involved.)
The Ministry of Defence offered my mother 300 pounds, the maximum available compensation for the death of a child at that time I believe however a condition of this acceptance was that the Ministry of Defence would not accept responsibility for Brian's death. In my mind this offer of compensation confirmed that the British Government knew they were guilty of murdering my brother. My mother naturally turned it down. She had not gone to court for compensation she had gone to court to defend her young son whose life had been stolen. Whose name had been slurred. My mother had gone to court to have Brian's name cleared and to have the truth concerning his death made public.
I have brought my children up to believe that race, creed or colour are not important, values inherited from my mum, it is what you do in life that matters. My brother was a young boy who brought joy into the life of everyone he knew, he deserved to mature into a man who could have contributed a lot to the world we live in. Brian had a large family circle and many friends who were deeply affected by his death, thirty years later the hurt has not healed because the truth about his death has never been told.
When the peace process was being negotiated an inquiry named The Patten report was in progress, even though my mum could barely stand as she had only one more month before she lost her courageous battle with cancer, she personally went and made her submission. My mother's deepest wish was that Brian's name would be cleared and it would be proved that Brian was an innocent child who lost his life unnecessarily. Because of her deep religious convictions my mother did not crave revenge. In fact she campaigned in England during the miners strike to have plastic bullet guns removed from the police stations who were stocking them up to use on protesting minors. She also campaigned with a dedicated group of concerned individuals i.e. Clara Reilly to have the plastic bullet gun removed from use.
As it has not been proved that it was not open to abuse by ignorant or devious individual's and was inaccurate enough to maim and kill innocent bystanders. Another of those campaigners was Mrs Emma Groves, a housewife permanently blinded when a plastic bullet was fired through the front window of her home. My mother's faith in truth and justice never wavered; she always believed until her death that Brian's name would finally be cleared. Clara Reilly had been one of the nine civilian witnesses to Brian's murder. Clara supported our family during the early days of Brian's death. Clara and my mum became friends because of these tragic circumstances. Mrs. Reilly always made herself available to my mum if she needed help or support which was so important in those difficult days. I do not believe it would be a regular occurrence for an unassuming quiet housewife to take on the might of the British Government in defence of her child akin to the David and Goliath story.
Now that the politicians and law makers have decided that anyone involved in any killings that occurred during 'the troubles' will more than likely not be prosecuted or imprisoned. I feel it is time for the truth to be told. There have been a lot of families in Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales who have suffered the same grief as my family, I realise their grief is neither less nor greater than the hurt we still suffer, there is no hierarchy in the grief of families. We have all been the victims of the mismanagement of successive British governments and politicians. I do believe, however, that those in positions of authority have a duty to protect and defend the people they claim to serve; therefore, their behaviour should be beyond reproach. This includes members of the security forces, police and 'activists' from both sides of the political divide who felt compelled to either defend their community or further their political agendas. I believe that all life is sacred. If however, you choose to be a combatant you do so understanding the consequences may incur you being responsible for taking someone's life or indeed losing your own. In the hierarchy of victims I believe the innocent murdered civilians must be taken into consideration first.
On the day my brother was shot there were nine soldiers in the foot-patrol. They were, Lt. O'Brien, Pvt. Charles A. Smith, Major Sewell, Pvt. Aitchison, Sgt.Ravenhill, Lance Corporal Carr, Pvt. McMeona, Pvt.Lee Pvt. Wilson. (A) Pvt Wilson (B). More than likely they returned to a barrack's full of British personnel to relate what really happened to my wee brother. Most of these personnel were from the Kings Own Scottish Border's regiment. Everyone who heard the truth from that patrol must have mothers, fathers, wives, brothers, sister's children and friends. Someone must have heard of a little thirteen year old boy being shot in Belfast during October 1976. I ask you all please search your conscience, come forward with the truth. This government is planning to spend quite lot of money investigating the unresolved murders, if they come clean on those deaths they were involved in, not only would it set an example to other organisations, but some of this money could be re-directed to where it would be better spent on hospitals, schools or those in need.
My understanding is that the British government has control over its military, its police and its courts. There is no question that they have all the relative information in regards to Brian's death, and so there is no need to waste time or money.
I implore anyone who has any information relating to my brothers death to please come forward. There are only so many times' in one's lives, that we given the opportunity to "do the right thing"
There are ways of doing it anonymously.
Thanking you in advance
Marie Duffy, Brian's oldest sister.
* If this testimony affects you I'll be most grateful if you pass it on.