06 Oct 2022

Robert McGuinness killing: ‘He had nothing in his hands, nothing at all’-says witness to British Army shooting

Robert McGuinness 5

Whilst the legal bid to get a new inquest into Robert McGuinness' death has just begun, the search for witnesses to the shooting began around two years ago.

John Curran was 14 in 1973 and said that on the night of the shooting the British Army was cruising the area and acting provocatively in the wake of an IRA booby-trap that killed a soldier the previous night.

He said: “The situation was that the night before a soldier was killed in an explosion at the back of Lecky Road at McConnell’s garage.

“There was a lot of tension in the area the next day. There were a lot of things that happened that day. Friends of mine found parts of the soldier that had been blown up three streets away.

“There was just that much tension about-it was the 70s. As the day went on there was rioting in Creggan and there was a strong army presence in the Brandywell in the dark hours on the night of the incident.

“There were a lot of us gathered in the front street (Brandywell Avenue) carrying on and Robert was part of the group. We were just fellas carrying on.

“We were generally talking about what happened the night before. We were saying to one another ‘did you hear the bang’ and don’t be on your own tonight because these boys are hanging about.’

“It was at a time for tit-for-tat shootings. So we knew not to give anybody the opportunity to do anything to you.

“So, the night drew on.It was after 11 o’clock because McCann’s fish shop had just shut in the front street.My mother came up and said ‘get you down to the house in case there’s bother here.’

“There was a crowd of fellas that always stood at the corner of Brandywell Avenue. When I went down Brandywell Avenue there was a ‘pig’ (British Army Saracen) into the left at Tom Mullan’s house-it was a gap between number six and number eight.

“I went into the house and I could hear another Saracen sitting at the back lane close to Southend Park. The engines were running. They were just sitting there. There were no soldiers out of them. They were just waiting to get someone.

“I was sitting in the house in the only room there was. It was the sitting room, the dining room-everything was in one room.

“I could still hear the Saracen’s because there were only wooden framed windows and you could hear everything out in the street.

“Being nosey, I kept looking out the window and my mother kept telling me to ‘cut it out’. She went upstairs to bed and then I went out to the front door, opened it and turned on the light, which was behind me so I could see what was going on-just to see what they were up to.

“The engine turned off for a couple of minutes and then there was a lot of banging of the back doors of the Saracen. Then the engines started up again. I saw a couple of people walking across the street, up the side of Southend Park.

“The Saracen was at the back of Southend Park and came out onto Brandywell Avenue, across and down onto Brandywell Road. It travelled on a bit, but then you could hear it stop. I knew because of the noise of the brakes.

“Then the Saracen at the side of Tom Mullan’s house, at the side of number six Brandywell Avenue, came out and turned down towards Brandywell football pitch.

“Just at that Robert came around the corner. There were a lot of fellas at the top of the street and they were cat calling as the army pulled out.

“There were two cars parked at the corner at Southend Park. Robert proceeded to walk between the Saracen and the parked cars.

“He had nothing in his hands. Nothing at all. The boys up the street were calling to him. I think he might have shouted something back to them. I can’t be sure because of the noise of the Saracen’s. Just as he got to the back of the Saracen, I heard the bang.

“Then my mother was behind my shouting at me to get away from the door. I said ‘they’ve hit Robert’.

“The Saracen moved off, it didn’t stop. It had been crawling about two miles per hour, then it went up to about five or seven miles per hour and it turned to follow the second Saracen onto Brandywell Road.

“I looked at Robert and the other fellas were running down the street towards him. I said ‘you bastards, you shot him.’

“I don’t know whether it was nerves or what it was. I ran and I jumped at the back of the Saracen to look in. I tried to grab the guy that fired. He had gold-rimmed glasses. He was looking at me.

“Then the Saracen took off at speed. Then a girl came around the corner and grabbed me and pulled me off the Saracen. She and my mother pulled me up the street.

“There was another fella that came out into the street. His name was Peter McCallion. He has since died. The girl grabbed him and told him ‘they’ll shoot you Peter. They’ll shoot you too.

“All the other fellas were shouting about Robert, ‘he’s shot, he’s shot. Then there was a commotion in the street. There was a taxi office at the top of the street. One of the taxis reversed down. I remember well the car was a black K70. It was a car of the time. It was one of the cars they had. “I remember Robert being in the back of the car and I could see the blood all over the back seat when they put him the car.

“I was 14 at the time. I remember the soldier in the back of the Saracen with the gold-rimmed glasses. He was definitely the one that discharged the shots. I remember looking at the rifle and it wasn’t an SLR. It definitely wasn’t an SLR.”

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