THE family of a 16-year-old Ballymurphy boy who was shot in the back by a British army sniper 37 years ago have appealed for witnesses to come forward as his anniversary approaches.
Paul McWilliams was shot and killed in controversial circumstances on the morning of August 9 1977 near Corry’s timber yard close to the family home in Springhill Avenue.
A statement issued by the British army shortly after the killing claimed Paul had been throwing petrol bombs near the timber yard during serious rioting and that he was shot after being warned twice by British soldiers – a claim strongly denied by the McWilliams family.
Speaking to the Andersonstown News, Thomas McWilliams, who was only 10 when his brother Paul was killed said the family were left wholly “dissatisfied” by the investigation into his brother’s death by the now defunct Historical Enquiries Team (HET) and now hopes for a fresh inquest into the circumstances surrounding the killing.
“Our family spoke to the Andersonstown News around two years ago, when we had been engaging with the HET – since then it has been suspended and the family are still waiting on a summarised report into Paul’s death. These people promised us no stone would be left unturned, that they would get to the truth. As time went on the family felt they were skating over things, they were minimising things and we started to lose faith and trust in them. We kept saying let’s wait until we get a summary report, it never came and I doubt it ever will.”
The family say that since their last interview with the Andersonstown News they are now aware of the identity of the soldier who shot Paul.
“We came across that information by pure accident, by pure chance,” said Thomas. “We were waiting so long on a summarised report from the HET and we’ve now decided since all military cases have been suspended not to wait any longer. We’ve been in touch with our legal team and are now in the process of requesting a fresh inquest into Paul’s death through the Attorney General’s office.”
The 1979 inquest into Paul’s death returned an open verdict.
“We believe the first inquest was seriously flawed,” said Thomas. “None of the soldiers involved in the death attended the inquest, a military representative just read out statements from them. We’ve been speaking to several witnesses since then and new evidence has come to light, which we believe will help our case, and we believe we have grounds to secure that. We believe we have a case, a civil case against the soldier and the Ministry of Defence, especially if there is evidence to suggest these soldiers committed a crime then regardless of how long ago it happened they should be brought to justice.”
“The soldier who shot Paul has always claimed he was acting according to the rules of the British army’s ‘Yellow Card’, their rules of engagement and that states quite clearly that the perpetrator must be a direct threat to that soldier involved. The evidence needs to speak for itself here, Paul was shot in the back, he was a small boy, he was unarmed and with my other brother at the time.”
Thomas spoke of how the ambulance carrying Paul to hospital was delayed for several crucial minutes on its way to the Royal Victoria Hospital.
“A short time after the shooting the ambulance arrived to take Paul to the Royal. It was stopped at the bottom of the Whiterock Road by a party of RUC members and army officers who checked the vehicle, delaying it for several minutes. Paul died before he got to the hospital.”
Thomas said there was no evidence of flammable liquid on Paul, this is despite the British army claiming Paul had thrown 20 petrol bombs. He added the family wanted to contact the Andersonstown News to keep momentum going round the case.
“We have to do something with the evidence that we have and act on it. We just wanted to highlight the case and hopefully if there is someone out there who saw, remembered something to please come forward to Relatives for Justice who have been supporting us tremendously.
“The soldier involved says he is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress and has not engaged with the HET. We have given this man ample opportunities to speak about what happened that morning but yet there has been nothing.
“Paul was well known in the community, people still talk about him to this day, he was just five feet two inches tall and seven stone in weight when he was killed, anyone could see he was just a boy. There was no evidence of serious rioting that morning in 1977, it was around 8am when he was shot.”
Anyone who has information on the shooting of Paul McWilliams is asked to contact Thomas McWilliams on 07803541554.