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THE Ballymurphy Inquest has heard how the body of Joan Connolly was thrown head first into the back of an army vehicle “like a sack of spuds” after being shot dead by British soldiers.
Agnes Keenan was a witness to the incident being investigated as part of an inquest into the deaths of 10 people killed by paratroopers in the Ballymurphy area of west Belfast in August 1971.
She described looking out of the back window of her house overlooking waste ground on Springfield Park when she claimed to have seen the body of Ms Connolly tossed into the back of an army jeep “like a sack of potatoes.”
She told the court: “It’s hateful. They just threw her in. It’s rotten to say, I’d like another way to say it. They just quickly bundled her up and left.”
A former paratrooper known only as M1374 earlier told the court his recollection of events.
He explained he had seen Ms Connolly’s body carried into the Henry Taggart military base after shots had been fired.
He said Ms Connolly – who had been shot in the face – was dead and covered in blood.
M1374 recalled her body being brought into the base over the shoulder of a lieutenant and taken to a medical room.
As M1374 left he made eye contact with the lieutenant.
A barrister for the Connolly family asked if this communication signalled: “Oh my God, we’ve shot a woman... we need to get our story straight.”
He denied this was the case.
Thursday’s evidence drew a close to the latest hearings in the inquest which comes nearly 50 years after the killings took place.
The quest for justice has been hampered amid allegations of a cover-up, with key pieces of evidence going missing and funding for the hearing blocked by the Democratic Unionist Party.
The events – known as the Ballymurphy Massacre – are less known than the killings of Bloody Sunday in Derry which took place just months later and involved some of the soldiers from the same regiment that went on the rampage in west Belfast.
Just one soldier is to be charged with two counts of murder for the Bloody Sunday killings in which British soldiers shot dead 13 unarmed civilians taking part in a peaceful civil rights march.
Many believe that the Ballymurphy Massacre paved the way for the Derry killings in January 1972.
The inquest continues.
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