Ballymurphy: Former paratrooper says soldiers ‘were out of control’ | - South Africa News

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The Ballymurphy victims
Image caption An inquest is examining the deaths of 10 people killed in shootings at Ballymurphy in August 1971

A former paratrooper has broken down in tears in the witness box, and told the Ballymurphy inquest that “rogue soldiers” were “out of control” and “shot innocent people”.

The Ballymurphy inquest is looking into the shooting dead of 10 people in west Belfast in 1971.

M597 was a member of A company.

He said he was in the Henry Taggart base shortly after an incident in which four people were fatally shot.

  • Ballymurphy shootings: Who were the victims?

The base was occupied by B company, but M597 said he knew many of the soldiers from their training in Aldershot.

He told the court that many of the paratroopers he knew were honest professional soldiers who did the right thing, but that some were “psychopaths” who were dangerous to be around.

M597 wept briefly as he described seeing three to four bodies in the hall and recalled what the soldiers there told him had happened.

He said the soldiers were on a high, excited, and had clearly enjoyed what they had done.

Image caption Soldiers from the Parachute Regiment were based at Henry Taggart Army base

He said they told him that B company officers had lost control, and that the Army would give them cover for whatever they had done.

M597 said they felt they could “shoot anything that gets in the way”.

He said the soldiers made a joke about the bodies and seemed to show no respect for those they had killed.

“It was a joke to them,” he told the court.

He also said the B Company soldiers had told him that in their view “any man or woman walking the street was in the IRA, or associated with the IRA, and for that reason alone could or would be shot”.

M597 said the soldiers he met “revelled in what happened”.

‘Pat on the back’

He also explained that earlier in the day on 9 August 1971, he had shot and wounded a petrol bomber on the Falls Road in west Belfast, and had accompanied him to hospital.

He said the incident was not properly investigated, but that the battalion adjutant had called him into his office some days later and given him “literally a pat on the back”.

He said the officer had told him `’the only mistake you made was not killing the…” and said that the officer then swore.

M597 said he had no memory of making a proper statement.

He said that many months later in court he agreed to drop the charge of petrol bombing against the man because he had nothing against him.

He also described a separate occasion when he was given photographs of shooting victims by a medic or doctor, but refused to keep them.

He said he thought: “God, these are real people from here.”

Of those weeks in 1971 he said: “It was sheer bravado, rogue soldiers were out of control, killing people in the street and knowing they would be protected.”

Ten people were fatally shot in the Ballymurphy area over a three day period following the introduction of internment.

All their families have insisted that none of them was armed or involved in any terrorist activity.

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