T he Attorney General has granted a new inquest into the British Army killing of a West Belfast youth in 1975. Leo Norney, aged 17 and from Turf Lodge, was shot dead by a member of the Black Watch regiment on September 13, 1975.
At the time of Leo’s killing, the British Army claimed that they had come under fire from Ardmonagh Gardens in the district. They said they returned fire, hitting the gunman who fell to the ground. The human rights campaigner Father Denis Faul produced a pamphlet at the time which rejected the claims of the army that Leo had been a gunman.
Witnesses spoken to by Fr Faul said that Leo had been a passenger in a black taxi that was searched at a checkpoint by members of the Black Watch on the Whiterock Road. When the teenager got out of the taxi at the top of the Whiterock Road and was making his way across Shepherds Path, which ran from the Whiterock Road to Turf Lodge, he was shot dead.
In 1977, the then Secretary of State Roy Mason, in response to a question from West Belfast MP Gerry Fitt, confirmed that members of the Black Watch regiment who had been involved in the shooting had been later convicted of planting ammunition on civilians. This occurred a short time after the shooting of Leo.
Anne Wiggins, Leo’s sister, said the family are pleased that there will be a new inquest into Leo’s death.
“Our mother campaigned for many years to expose the lies that the British Army and RUC told about Leo and his alleged involvement in a shooting incident,” she said. “The British Army murdered our brother and a new inquest will mean those soldiers who carried out the killing will be compelled to explain their actions before a court of law.”
Relatives for Justice’s Paul Butler said the victims’ rights group has for years supported the Norney family in their campaign to discover the truth.
“As part of our work on the case, we discovered documents in the British Government’s National Archive Centre in Kew London that exposed the attempts by the British state to label Leo Norney as a gunman,” he said. “The documents relate to correspondence between the RUC Chief Constable and the head of the British Army. In their correspondence they attempt to discredit the pamphlet Fr Faul wrote by trying to back up claims that firearms residue was found on Leo’s hands. What is clear from these official records is that both the RUC Chief Constable and the head of the British Army at the time colluded to make Leo Norney out as having been involved in a shooting incident.
“These documents are also an indictment of the HET [Historical Enquiries Team] and its failure to properly investigate state killings. The HET made no efforts to uncover official documents when they were investigating the death of Leo Norney.”
RFJ said they have made the documents available to the Norney family solicitors Madden and Finucane. Fearghal Shields of Madden and Finucane said that the new inquest will be able to cross examine the former soldiers and those in the RUC who were supposed to have investigated the shooting.