By Ursula Duddy
Three forensic ballistics experts at inquest into the death of a Derry woman shot by a British soldier have agreed she was shot by a high velocity bullet while bent down and that they ‘can’t rule out’ she was shot by a weapon positioned through a gap in the fence into her garden.
Kathleen Thompson, a 47-year-old mother-of-six, was a killed at her Rathlin Drive home in Creggan home by a bullet fired by a British soldier on November 6, 1971.
Following a raid on a house in her street, Mrs Thompson was discovered by her husband, Patrick, and daughter, Minty, who was 12-years-old at the time.
The soldier responsible for firing the fatal shot, known only as Soldier D, concluded his evidence today. He gave his testimony while screened off from the court, however, the Thompson family were permitted to watch him.
Soldier B conceded on Tuesday that he was, in all likelihood, responsible for Mrs Thompson’s death given the fact that he had admitted discharging eight bullets on the night in question – two of which were into the Thompson garden – and that he was the only one that fired shots that night.
He also wept in the dock and nodded when asked if he had regretted his actions that night.
However, today in court, Soldier D said: “There is no evidence to show my weapon was responsible for killing Kathleen Thompson.”
Karen Quinlivan QC, barrister for the Thompson family, said: “There is a stream of coincidences, there were two shots fired by you into the garden, there are marks that suggest two bullets hit the wall, one killed Kathleen Thompson, causing injuries consistent with the weapon you used and there is no evidence anyone else shot Kathleen Thompson – you were the only person that shot at the time.
“The evidence points very squarely at you having shot Kathleen Thompson, there’s not a shred of evidence that it was anyone else. You did fire the shot that killed Kathleen Thompson.”
Soldier D replied: “You’re really saying I did shoot Kathleen Thompson, I’m not sure you should be allowed to make those accusations.
“I’m not too sure my two bullets, any one of which, struck her, but I do accept the probability…possibility rather.
“Truth is, I don’t remember exactly, and I was trying to figure out how these angles could have been achieved.”
Ms Quinlivan suggested to Soldier D that he had changed his account of events from the night in question because he was lying.
She said: “I suggest you have changed your account from 1971 and on each occasion, you changed it to exculpate you and give you credence and justification for what happened in 1971.”
A map provided by Soldier D’s superiors marked his position that night at a point within the range where he could have fired the fatal shot. This was supported by ballistic experts. However, Soldier D disputes that he was in this area.
Later, when Kevin Rooney QC, representative for the Ministry of Defence, asked Soldier D if he thought one of his bullets might have killed Mrs Thompson even though he claims he didn’t see her when he shot, he said: “I have to accept that as a possibility.”
When asked how he would feel if this was the case, he replied: “I would be devastated.”
Ann Kiernan, a forensic ballistics expert, began her evidence later in the afternoon and outlined agreed points between her and two other expert ballistic witnesses, who have yet to give evidence.
Ms Kiernan confirmed that all three experts agreed that Mrs Thompson was shot by a high velocity bullet and that she was crouching when she was shot. There has been evidence given by other witnesses present on the night that Mrs Thompson was believed to have been in her garden banging a bin lid on the ground as was common practice at the time to alert the community that soldiers were raiding in the area.
Ms Kiernan also said the experts said it ‘cannot be excluded that a weapon was fired within one or more gaps of the wooden fence’ and that they ‘can’t rule out the weapon was positioned’ through one of the gaps in the fence that would have been twice the width of the muzzle of the gun.
The inquest continues.
There will be updates online here at Derry Now and there will be a comprehensive report in Monday’s edition of the Derry News.
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