Stanislaus Carberry – known as Stan – was killed shortly after mid-day on 13th November 1972 on the Falls Road, Belfast. He was shot dead by British soldiers from the 3 Royal Green Jackets regiment who had spotted him near where Daly’s garage is now as they drove city-wards down the Falls Road in their militarised vehicles. Stan was in a car that he had hi-jacked 20 minutes earlier, along with a young colleague. They were both IRA volunteers on active service.
The patrol had been told to look out for the stolen car and apprehend the occupants. Instead, they got out of their vehicles and opened fire as the car drove away towards Donegall Road. It rolled to a halt at the junction of La Salle Drive. The soldiers claimed that there was shooting from the car, though no soldier was injured nor were weapons recovered. Their shots, however, killed Stan; his colleague escaped. The autopsy revealed three wounds in Stan’s back. Civilian eye-witnesses contradicted the soldiers’ account, though these were not collected into the official investigation at the time.
The British Royal Military Police took the soldiers’ statements. The only civilian witness was the man whose car was hi-jacked at gunpoint. He said that Stan got into the driver’s side while his colleague got into the passenger seat.
The inquest was held in October 1974 and returned an open verdict. The soldiers did not attend though their statements were read into the record. Their account has Stan in the passenger seat firing at them, implausibly, out of the car’s open door. Yet eye-witnesses say he was exiting the driver’s door after he was shot. The contradictions in the evidence were not explored.
There the matter rested until the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) began looking at the case in 2009. Stan Carberry’s children were unimpressed with the HET approach which accepted the army version of the killing without proper scrutiny. Challenged by the Carberry family, the HET had begun to interview the soldiers when serious concerns began to be raised by an official inspection into the HET; it discovered that deaths caused by the British army were being treated with kid gloves. As a result, the HET was closed down.
An appeal in the Andersonstown News by Mr Carberry’s son (also called Stan) and Relatives For Justice yielded a new statement from a woman who was the first to get to Stan after he exited the car on the driver’s side and collapsed, wounded and incapacitated, in the middle of the Falls Road. Her account confirms that Stan was in the driver’s seat when he was shot and that he had no weapon, thus suggesting that the British soldiers account is false. This witness was a school girl in St Louisa’s Secondary School who had been going home for her lunch when the incident happened.
In a bid to secure some accountability from the British state, Stan Jnr decided to launch civil proceedings again the PSNI, the Ministry of Defence and the British Government. After prolonged efforts at extracting disclosure from the PSNI and MoD, in the course of which delay and prevarication was the order of the day, the case will finally come to hearing in the High Court in Belfast next Wednesday, the 24th February.
The court will consider:
- The new evidence provided in response to RFJ’s witness appeal;
- Material from a former soldier in the same unit as those who killed Stan, though he was in the barracks at the time of the incident who has come forward to provide relevant information;
- Expert testimony that has been commissioned in preparation for the trial assessing the position of the various elements in the incident compared with the soldiers’ account; and
- Legal argument from Stan Jnr’s legal team (Frank O’Donoghue QC and Eugene McKenna) and lead barrister for the British Crown (David Dunlop QC).
It is understood that the British Ministry of Defence has no witnesses.
The court must decide, on the balance of probabilities, whether the soldiers’ actions – and their account of them – 48 years ago were lawful – and accurate – and, if they were not, what compensation the Carberry family should receive for the great loss and trauma they have suffered in consequence.
Stan Carberry said: “My family has been waiting a very long time to try and put the record straight. My father was shot dead without justification. He was shot in the back and was completely defenceless. They deprived my mother of her husband and her breadwinner and she had to manage a large family on her own. They deprived me of a proper childhood and a father’s love and care. I believe he was targeted as he had been arrested a short while before he was shot dead. His killing was unjustified and wrong.”