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British squaddies ‘had a licence to kill and licence to lie,’ Ballymurphy Massacre inquest hears

BRITISH soldiers “had a licence to kill and a licence to lie,” a Belfast court heard today as the army was accused of covering up the truth about innocent civilians shot dead in a three-day killing spree nearly 50 years ago.

The final day of a lengthy and much-delayed inquest into the deaths of 10 people gunned down in the Ballymurphy area of West Belfast in August 1971 heard statements from the legal teams of both the families and Britain’s Ministry of Defence.

The families of the victims and survivors have led a dignified quest for justice, hampered by the loss of key evidence and refusals to testify while they and their loved ones were falsely smeared as “terrorists.”

Michael Mansfield QC for the families insisted that the Paratroop Regiment “deliberately killed” 19-year-old Noel Philips and tried to plant bullets on 44-year-old Danny Teggart.

Mr Mansfield quizzed the MoD, asking if the victims were suspected members of the IRA why didn’t their names appear on army lists.

And Fiona Doherty QC spoke of the horrific killing of mother-of-eight Joan Connolly, shot five times in the face and left alone in a field for hours to die a slow and painful death.

“There followed an attempted cover-up of an unjustified killing of a woman,” she charged.

The inquest has heard shocking details of British soldiers “out of control” as they went on the rampage following the introduction of internment without trial — perceived as targeting Belfast’s Catholic minority.

Soldier Harry Gow has previously reported that part of Henry Thornton’s skull was used as an ashtray by soldiers after the 28-year-old was shot dead on Springfield Road.

He also described a sickening competition in which money was thrown into a pot, with the soldier claiming the first kill taking the kitty to spend “on a piss-up.”

The court will deliver its verdict on the killings at a later date.

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