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Inquest findings into death of Derry mother shot by soldier to be sent to prosecution service

Kathleen Thompson was killed by a bullet to the chest in her back garden in Derry in 1971.

Kathleen Thompson with her family.
Kathleen Thompson with her family.
Image: PA

THE FINDINGS OF an inquest into the death of a mother-of-six who was shot by a British soldier in Derry in 1971 are to be referred to Northern Ireland’s prosecution service. 

Kathleen Thompson, 47, was killed by a bullet to the chest on 6 November 1971.

Two bullets were fired by a person identified only as Soldier D into her back garden in Rathlin Drive, Creggan, as he and others were withdrawing from the area, Judge Sandra Crawford said in her inquest findings in June.

She said Thompson was unarmed and had been in her back garden banging a bin lid or other object to alert neighbours to the presence of soldiers in the area.

The judge found Soldier D did not have an honest belief that a gunshot had been fired from the garden of 129 Rathlin Drive and that his life and the lives of others were under immediate threat.

The coroner concluded that the shooting of Thompson breached guidance on the deployment of lethal force provided to soldiers, and that the two shots fired were “in circumstances which were unjustified”.

The Public Prosecution Service said it was aware that the coroner intended to refer her findings under section 35(3) of the Justice (Northern Ireland) Act 2002.

A spokesperson said that when received, the referral “will be considered carefully in order to determine any appropriate action, including whether the matter should be referred to police for investigation”.

Thompson’s daughter Minty welcomed the development.

“Soldier D gave evidence of shooting our mother over the course of four days in court,” she said.

“He demonstrated a very selective memory when doing so. We now expect to see Soldier D face the consequences of his actions and for the Director (of Public Prosecutions) to prosecute him accordingly.”

Fearghal Shiels, of legal firm Madden and Finucane, said his team were engaging with the coroner around Soldier D’s anonymity.

“We hope that the coroner will provide all necessary documents, including statements and transcripts of Soldier D’s evidence to the DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions) to enable him to reach a fully informed decision, and not merely the coroner’s findings,” he said.

“We are still engaging with the coroner in respect of Soldier D’s anonymity, which we contend must now be reviewed in light of the content of her findings.”

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