Leo Norney’s family finally vindicated:  court finds British soldier went out that night “to waste someone”

Judge Patrick McGurgan today delivered his findings into the death of Leo Norney who was shot and killed by a member of the Black Watch regiment of the British Army on 13 September 1975.

This was one of the legacy inquests which the British government now wants to abolish. The coroner’s findings reveal exactly why the British government and the newly appointed Sir Declan Morgan want to close down inquests into conflict-related killings.

The coroner finds that the now deceased Corporal McKay deliberately killed Leo Norney.  He went out that night to ‘waste someone’.

Other members of the British army patrol covered up for McKay. The Coroner will be contacting the Public Prosecution Service regarding those other soldiers who covered up for McKay and are still alive.

Further, the Coroner said the evidence of M2, one of British soldiers on the patrol, who told inquest that McKay wanted to kill someone that day was credible and he believed he was telling the truth.

In a scathing set of findings, the Coroner said McKay should never have been allowed back into the British army as he had completed a sentence for seriously assaulting someone. He was released from prison only two months before Leo Norney’s murder. The Coroner said army then put McKay in charge of a patrol when he was a clear danger to the public.

In a heartbreaking reflection for his family, Mr McGurgan pointed out that if McKay had been thrown out of the British army Leo Norney would still be alive.

The family reaction is as follows, read out outside the court by Leo’s niece, Linda Norney:

“Today, we, the family of Leo Norney who was shot and killed by the Black Watch Regiment of the British Army, welcome the Coroner’s findings as to how Leo died.

“Leo was only a boy of 17. He had just got out of a taxi and was going to meet his girlfriend.

“Leo was not armed. He did not pose a threat to anyone. He was shot in cold blood and his shooting is unjustified.

“However, the British army did not just kill Leo. They also murdered his good name. Later that night after the soldiers returned to their base, they concocted a false story which blackened Leo’s name for almost 50 years. They said that Leo was a gunman and that Leo had opened fire on them.

“Today, that narrative has been exposed for the deceit and lies that it is, and Leo’s good reputation has been restored. It is sad that it was necessary for my family to have to pursue this for so long, but the British Army left our family with no alternative. Had they had the courage and moral decency to tell the truth in 1975 then this process would not have been necessary.

“Today my family fondly remembers Leo for what he was: an innocent, good hearted, happy go lucky teenage boy.

“We also remember today Leo’s parents; his father Francis died prematurely aged 50 due to the heartbreak he suffered by Leo’s death and his mother, Annie, who campaigned endlessly until her death to clear Leo’s name.

“Thank you.”

Paul Butler of Relatives For Justice, who has supported the family for many years, said:

“This is a particularly damning set of findings about British army brutality. The plain fact is that the authorities knew almost immediately what the true facts of the case were. Yet they, along with the other British soldiers on the ground covered up the truth, that resulted in decades of hardship for the Norney family. The West Belfast community knew that Leo was not armed despite what British soldiers said. They knew that they were not there to protect civilians.

“And these findings are precisely why the British government is stopping inquests through it amnesty bill. Because inquests now have the ability to deliver the truth and establish culpability.”

The Norney family’s solicitor Fearghal Shiels of Madden & Finucane said:

“This is another clear illustration that the inquest system continues to work for families seeking the truth as to how their loved ones died. It is an open and transparent process where documents are scrutinised and witnesses are publicly examined against all of the available independent and objective evidence. Today’s findings are not unique. It is the latest in a series of inquests in which unlawful state killings have been exposed and state cover ups unravelled and no one needs to look any further for the true reason why the British Government is intent in pushing through legislation to end other similar inquests.”