Springhill Inquest Monday 6th March 2023

At the opening of the inquest it was stated that all of the counsels represented at the inquest agreed that a general warning should be given to civilian witnesses regarding whether they have information about persons being members of the IRA or in possession of firearms.  The warning will be given when or if they are being cross examined about membership of illegal organizations or if they had seen gunmen. Mr. Justice Scoffield said that witnesses will still have the right to invoke their privilege regarding self-incrimination.  In other words they can refuse to answer questions about whether they knew persons were members of illegal organizations.

Theresa McManus was the first witness on the stand, she was known as Theresa McShane in 1972. She was 17-year-old at the time and lived in Westrock Gardens. She said that she and her friend Theresa McGuinness had been in Ballymurphy that day. They decided to make their way towards the Pettigrew’s house as a man told them to, “get down as they were shooting at anyone that moved.” She recalled crawling along the ground because of the shooting and seeing bullets hitting the concrete fence posts and clumps of grass coming up off the ground. She said that she had been told that the shooting was coming from Corry’s timberyard.

When she got to the Pettigrew house she recalled seeing that Brian Pettigrew had been shot. She gave first aid to him by putting pressure on the wound to try and stem the flow of blood. A hole was made in the wall of the house next door to get to the injured Brian Pettigrew as it was too dangerous to come into the house  from the outside due to the intensity of the gunfire.  Some people put Brian Pettigrew on a makeshift stretcher to get him out through the hole in the wall.

Joseph Aiken counsel for the MoD in cross examining  Theresa McManus asked her if she knew of anybody that was a member of the IRA, Cumann na mBan or Fianna Éireann in 1972.  He also asked her if she would tell the coroner if she knew of members of those illegal organizations. Mr. Justice Scoffield warned her about answering the question that was put to her by Mr. Aiken and informed her that it could be an offence if you did not pass that information on to the police. She said she would be prepared to tell the coroner if she knew of anyone in those organizations but stated that she did not know anyone in those groups.

The next civilian witness on the stand was Theresa McGuinness, who was known as Theresa McCann in 1972. She was 16 years old at the time and lived in Westrock Drive.  She had been with her friend Theresa McManus that day and she remembered seeing three bodies outside the Pettigrew house, which she was later told were the bodies of Paddy Butler, Father Noel Fitzpatrick and David McCafferty. She said she was in the Pettigrew house when they came through the wall of Campbell’s house to get the injured Brian Pettigrew out of the house.

Joseph Aiken asked Theresa McGuinness if she knew of members of the IRA, Cumann na mBan or Fianna Eireann and if so would she be prepared to tell the coroner? Theresa McCann says she did not want to answer the question. Mr. Aiken pressed her on whether she knew if any of the Pettigrew family were members of illegal organizations. After being given a warning  she said she did not want to answer the question either.

The inquest continues on Tuesday 7th March 2023