Former soldier to face murder charge over death of 15-year-old boy

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A former soldier is to be prosecuted for the murder of a teenage boy who was shot dead in 1972, Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service (PPS) has announced.

The veteran, identified as Soldier B, will face the charge of murdering 15-year-old Daniel Hegarty.

He was shot and killed by a member of an Army patrol on duty in the Creggan area of Londonderry on July 31 1972, during what was known as Operation Motorman.

Daniel died after being shot twice in the head by Soldier B.

The former soldier will also be charged with wounding with intent after Daniel’s cousin Christopher Hegarty, then aged 17, was also shot and injured in the incident.

Last year the Hegarty family won the right to seek the prosecution of the soldier after the High Court quashed a PPS decision not to bring criminal charges against him.

Director of the PPS Stephen Herron met with members of the Hegarty family to inform them of the decision at a private meeting in Londonderry on Monday.

The Hegarty family welcomed the decision.

In a statement they said: “This has been a long journey. We have lost our parents along the way and, recently, our sister Philomena.

“Daniel was a 15-year-old child, full of life, shot twice in the head at close range and left for dead by Soldier B during what has been called Operation Motorman.

“It has taken 47 years to finally get the State to do the right thing.

“We understand that the criminal process must now be allowed to take its own course.

“We will respect that in the same way we have respected the legal process that has brought us to this day.

“We offer our support to other families seeking justice. Stick with it. Difficult as it is, engage with your solicitor and follow the legal route in a patient and dignified way in the memory of the loved one you seek justice for.

“What is the alternative? No system of justice is perfect. We urge anyone fighting for justice to never give up. Even during those dark days.

“We know that further patience and resilience is going to be required moving forward.

“But we are here now, for Daniel, for our mother and father and our sister, Philomena.

“We wish Soldier B no ill will. We have not and do not seek revenge or retribution.

“We just want the criminal trial to begin.

“We have waited long enough for this day of justice for Daniel.

“We know from the support of others that it is never too late for justice, not only seen to be done but being seen to be believed.”

Mr Herron said: “Following the ruling of the Divisional Court last year I conducted a review of this case.

“I have given careful consideration to all of the available evidence.

“This has included material obtained in the course of the initial investigation, by a later investigation carried out by the Historical Enquiries Team, material generated by inquest proceedings and a number of expert forensic reports, the most recent of which was provided after the court ruling in 2018.

“I have concluded that the evidence which can be presented at court is sufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction and that the evidential test for prosecution is met.

“As with all cases, I have also carefully considered whether the public interest requires prosecution through the courts.

“Particular consideration was given to Soldier B’s ill health, regarding which an updated medical report was obtained.

“In line with our Code for Prosecutors, I have concluded, given the seriousness of the charges, that the public interest test for prosecution is also met.

“I have therefore taken the decision to prosecute an individual identified as soldier B for the offence of murder in relation to the death of Daniel Hegarty and for the wounding of Christopher Hegarty.

“This decision has been reached following an objective and impartial application of the test for prosecution which was conducted in accordance with the Code for Prosecutors and with the benefit of advice from senior counsel.”

A Government spokeswoman said: “We note today’s decision taken by the Northern Ireland Public Prosecution Service, and we will offer full legal and pastoral support to the individual affected.”

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