Springhill Inquest Wednesday 1st March

The inquest heard evidence from Thomas Reid and Martin Pettigrew. They are first civilian witness to give evidence to the inquest. Thomas Reid, who was aged 11 at the time, recalled how he heard four or five shots in the Westrock area on 9 August 1972. He described how he saw three bodies lying outside a house, which later he found out were those of Father Noel Fitzpatrick, Patrick Butler and David McCafferty. He said local people were trying to go towards the bodies but “they were getting shot at”. Mr Reid said nuns were among those who were trying to help the victims at the scene. He also said he witnessed John Dougal and Brian Pettigrew being shot. He described John Dougal being shot as “like an explosion.”

Thomas Reid went on to tell the inquest that he believed the shots were coming from the British Army position in Corry’s Timberyard. He said there was “no shooting at the Army” on the day the five victims were killed. He told the inquest that the only trouble he was aware of on the 9th July 1972 was in Lenadoon where an IRA ceasefire had ended. He said that the IRA returned fire at the British Army in Corry’s Timberyard the following day, 10th July 1972, and “the firing went on all day”.

He further stated that he believed that the IRA was using “a Lewis submachine gun” located at a local house where sandbags had been placed at a window. Under cross examination by counsel for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) Joseph Aiken, Thomas Reid recalled seeing a digger being used a few months earlier in an attempt to remove an army post from Corry’s Timberyard. He said “they tried to pull the wall down, and the sangar”.

The inquest heard how Roger Corry, director of Corry’s Timberyard had expressed dissatisfaction afterwards, complaining that the Army did not take action in response to this and other attacks on the yard.  These incidents included petrol bomb attacks, rioting and an attempt to kill British soldiers building an army observation post at the timberyard.

Thomas Reid recalled that “youths, crowds and youngsters” had been throwing petrol bombs at Corry’s Timberyard.

The issue of whether civilian witnesses have knowledge of who was in the IRA was subsequently referred to by the coroner, Mr Justice Scoffield, who said it could potentially raise issues about self-incrimination. He said that clarity was required as to whether someone might be aware of IRA membership or if their knowledge may be based on “tittle tattle”. The Coroners’ Court is to consider the issue before the inquest resumes.

The second witness at the inquest was Martin Pettigrew, who was 10 years of age at the time of the shooting. He described how he saw bullets “bouncing off the road”. Mr Pettigrew, whose brother Brian Pettigrew was shot and injured, said he and his friends were told to “run for your lives or they’ll kill you”. He described how over the next few days  he and his family slept under the bed due to the intensity of the gunfire coming from Corry’s Timberyard. He said the events of that day are “embedded in my mind, morning, noon and night”.