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BRITISH soldiers in Belfast competed to win a cash prize for the one with the “most confirmed kills” at the end of the week, the Ballymurphy inquiry heard today.
The shocking revelation stunned relatives at the hearing, which is looking at the fatal shooting of 10 unarmed civilians during a three-day killing spree in west Belfast’s Ballymurphy area in August 1971.
Anger followed the admission by Harry Gow, a trained barrister and former soldier, SAS member and police officer, that British troops had a twisted contest with cash prizes for killing the most people in Ballymurphy.
Members of his company, 2 Para, ran a sweepstake to see who would be the first to make a kill.
Cash was paid into a kitty to be collected by the winning squaddie at the end of the week and spent on a boozy celebration.
David Voyle, whose relative Joan Connolly was one of those shot by British paratroopers, branded Mr Gow an “evil, sick bastard.”
Soldiers swept through the streets, rounding up republicans during Operation Demetrius, which started hours after the introduction of internment without trial – a draconian measure seen as targeting Belfast’s Catholic minority.
Mr Gow told the hearing: “On the day of internment, everybody on the street was an enemy.”
Many refer to the killings as Belfast’s Bloody Sunday, a reference to the slaughter of 13 unarmed civilians by many of the same Parachute Regiment units on the streets of Derry just months later.
Those killed in Ballymurphy included Father Hugh Mullan, a Catholic priest who was gunned down while giving the last rites to a dying man.
The court heard previously that mother of eight Ms Connolly had been threatened by British soldiers who said they had a bullet especially for her while pointing at their rifles in the weeks before the Ballymurphy massacre.
Former Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams paid tribute to the “courage and steadfastness“ of the Ballymurphy victims’ families for their long campaign to expose the truth.
“Ballymurphy never went to war, the war came to Ballymurphy,” he said.
Mr Voyle said: “This bastard Harry Gow has just admitted … the soldiers in Ballymurphy put money into a kitty and, at the end of the week, the soldier with the most confirmed kills got the money in the pot for a piss-up.
“Evil, evil, sick bastard.”
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