Former soldier denies he ’embellished’ evidence to justify decision to open fire

A former soldier has denied he “embellished” his account of an incident in 1971 to justify his decision to open fire.

The ex-Royal Engineer, who has been granted anonymity, was giving evidence at Belfast Coroner’s Court on Tuesday during an inquest into the death of Eddie Doherty, 31.

The father-of-four died after he was shot close to a barricade in west Belfast on August 10, 1971.

The former soldier, referred to as M3, has given evidence that he fired a single shot at a man who had thrown two petrol bombs at him and had been preparing to throw a third.

He has also claimed that he saw a man with a gun in the area, and fired a “burst of four shots” in his direction.

Eddie Doherty
Eddie Doherty

Counsel for the Doherty family, Fiona Doherty QC put it to M3 that he has embellished his evidence to justify opening fire, pointing to inconsistencies between a number of statements he has made over the years.

“I am going to suggest to you that you are aware the more aggressive and belligerent this person seems to be from your account, the more support there will be for your decision to open fire,” she said.

M3 denied this was the case.

The inquest previously heard M3 say it was possible the shot he fired had not hit the man with the petrol bomb, but a bystander instead.

“It could be,” M3 told the inquest.

Mr Doherty’s family have insisted he was innocent and have spoken of their determination to “clear his name”.

On August 10, 1971 M3 had been tasked to clear a barricade on the Whiterock Road and arrived with a number of soldiers from the Parachute Regiment to a hostile crowd who he said threw missiles at him.

M3 was taken to hospital after the incident during which he received a blow to the head when a missile struck his tractor.

He was not seriously injured.

The incident came during several days of shootings from August 9-11 in the west of the city.

Ten people died in what has become known as the Ballymurphy Massacre.


The shootings took place as the Army moved in to republican strongholds to arrest IRA suspects after the introduction by the Stormont administration of the controversial policy of internment without trial.

Fresh inquests were directed into the deaths of 10 people at Ballymurphy following claims that the original coronial probes were inadequate.

They are the latest in a series of new inquests into incidents which took place during Northern Ireland’s troubled past.

The inquest continues.