PRESS RELEASE BY HARTE COYLE COLLINS, SOLICITORS & ADVOCATES, IN RESPECT OF FRESH INQUEST GRANTED INTO THE MURDER OF PATRICK DUFFY
Patricia Coyle, Solicitor of Harte Coyle Collins, Solicitors & Advocates, representing the next of kin of Patrick Duffy, confirmed today that the Attorney General for Northern Ireland, Mr John Larkin Q.C., directed on the 22nd March 2019 that a fresh inquest into the shooting of Mr Duffy by British soldiers 41 years ago.
Patrick Duffy was shot dead at 9.20pm on the 24th November 1978 while in 2 Maureen Avenue, Derry by members of the British army. Mr Duffy was 50 years of age at the time of his death. He was married with 6 children, 4 daughters and 2 sons. One of his daughters, Marguerite was sitting in a car outside the house at the time of the shooting with her 6 month old nephew. Mr Duffy died instantly from his injuries.
Pathology evidence at the original inquest, held on the 9th and 10th December 1980 in Derry, confirmed that Patrick Duffy was shot at least 11 times but possibly up to 14 times. The same evidence confirmed that bullets were fired from his left hand side or behind him into his back with at least 2 of these shots being at close range to the left side of his chest. Mr Duffy was alone and unarmed at the time of the shooting.
During the course of the first inquest 2 members of the British army, anonymised as Soldiers B and C, submitted statements of evidence to the inquest proceedings in which they admitted that they were responsible for shooting Mr Duffy. Both soldiers provided witness statements to police in Northern Ireland when accompanied by a Major attached to Army Legal Services. These witness statements were tendered as evidence at the 1980 inquest. Neither soldier gave oral evidence at the inquest so were not subject to cross examination by the lawyers for the family in 1980.
In their statements Soldiers B and C stated that they were tasked to enter the house at 2 Maureen Avenue where they were initially stationed in an upstairs room at 2 Maureen Avenue, Derry on the 24th November 1978. A further Soldier, Soldier A was stationed in the attic of the house. He did not give evidence at the inquest.
A further witness statement from the Commander of the Unit, Soldier E, who provided a written deposition to the 1980 inquest, confirmed that he deployed Soldiers B and C to the property at 1.00am on the 23rd November 1978 with instructions to enter the property in plain clothes and then change into their uniform. Soldiers B and C alleged that they searched the house, found no illegal weapons and then secreted themselves in the attic.
The inquest documents confirm that as at 2.24am on the 23rd November 1978 no illegal arms, ammunition or explosives were found. On the 23rd November however 2 men entered the property. There is no evidence from the inquest papers that any effort was made to challenge or apprehend the 2 men. A subsequent search of the property by the army at 1.17am on the 24th November 1978 led to illegal weapons and ammunition being found in a wardrobe in the front upstairs bedroom. After the alleged weapons find a further 3 men entered the house, one for a period of an hour from 2am to 3am and 2 workmen at 10.53 am all on the 24th November 1978. None of the men who entered the property before Mr Duffy from the 23rd to 24th November were challenged or apprehended by the military.
The military evidence at the 1980 inquest alleged that Mr Duffy entered the house and upstairs room at 9.20pm on the evening of the 24th November 1978. Soldier B fired at Patrick Duffy, alleging self-defence. Soldier C came behind Solder B and also fired into the room. Both Soldiers alleged that they fired their weapons in automatic mode from outside the room. The pathology evidence confirms that the vast majority of the bullets that struck Mr Duffy entered his back and side. The other bullets fired at close range, entered the left hand side of his chest. The pathologist concluded that the wounds to Mr Duffy were caused by 9mm calibre ammunition. One bullet was recovered from Mr Duffy during the autopsy and delivered to police present at the time.
A senior police detective gave evidence at the 1980 inquest that the wardrobe which held the weapons and ammunition in the upstairs room was locked. No key to the wardrobe was found on either Mr Duffy or in the property.
The 1980 inquest concluded with an open verdict from the jury. The family of Mr Duffy, including his now deceased wife Mrs Moira Duffy, have long campaigned for a fresh inquest to explore the circumstances of his shooting. After the first inquest in 1980, Mrs Duffy wrote to her lawyer setting out her extensive concerns about the inquest procedure and how the Coroner had advised the jury. A copy of this letter was submitted to the Attorney General as a part of the fresh inquest application.
An application to the Attorney General John Larkin QC for a fresh inquest was submitted by Patricia Coyle, Solicitor on the 2nd November 2015. In preparing for the application Harte Coyle Collins, Solicitors searched for civilian witnesses in Derry. At least 4 civilian witnesses came forward who had not given evidence to the original inquest. The application for a fresh inquest included the newly unearthed civilian witness evidence. In addition to new civilian evidence lawyers for the family also lodged thematic submissions to the Attorney General on the pattern of shoot to kill policies and cases in Northern Ireland in the late 1970s.
The direction for a fresh inquest was issued to the Coroner by the Attorney General on the 22nd March 2019. The Attorney General directed the fresh inquest on the basis that Patrick Duffy’s shooting by the military was unjustified and that no reason had been provided by the MOD as to why Soldiers B and C could not now be called to give evidence at a fresh inquest. In his decision letter the Attorney General stated;
“At its core, there is in this case the death by shooting of an unarmed man by, it seems, two soldiers who may have been dressed as civilians. In common with the practice at the time neither of those soldiers gave evidence at the inquest. There does not, on the materials available to me, appear to be any objective justification for shooting Mr Duffy.”
“The MOD has not made any further contact with my Office regarding this case since November 2017 and, with the exception of Soldier E who appears unlikely to be available, I consider that there is at present the potential for military evidence to be considered now that was not previously available.”
Solicitor for the family, Patricia Coyle, said today;
“Patrick Duffy was gunned down while alone and unarmed, peppered with between 11 and 14 bullets and shot at close range at least twice. There was no attempt to stop and question or arrest him. The killing of Patrick Duff, possibly conducted by a plain clothes military unit, was unjustified. It is considered that Mr Duffy’s killing is one of the earliest examples of the use of lethal force by the British army in Northern Ireland when an arrest was possible and such force was not necessary.
During the course of the autopsy which took place on the 25th November 1978 a deformed copper jacketed bullet was removed from Mr Duffy by the pathologist and handed directly to police present at the autopsy. There is no reason why this bullet cannot be made available for up to date ballistic analysis to trace it to the weapon and possibly to the soldier responsible.
The legal restriction on the 1980 inquest which did not permit the compellability of suspects and armed forces personnel to attend to give evidence and be cross-examined rendered that inquest ineffective. Persons suspected of involvement in Mr Duffy’s killing are now compellable witnesses. My clients welcome the Attorney General’s decision to direct a fresh inquest into the killing of their father and look forward to representation before the inquisitorial process. Their priority is to access all information and materials to establish the truth about their father’s death, whether it was pre-planned, which element of the British military was responsible and whether the shooting was directed at political level as part of a shoot to kill policy.”
Mr Duffy’s daughter, Martina Duffy, has preserved the clothes her father wore on the date of the shooting for over 41 years ago in the hope that a fresh investigation might involve independent examination. Those items of clothing, and in particular her father’s coat, will now be available for forensic and ballistic examination by the Coroner’s Service.
Martina Duffy, daughter of Mr Duffy, speaking on behalf of the family said today;
“We wish to thank the Attorney General for this direction for a fresh inquest. In directing the fresh inquest the Attorney General confirmed that there was no objective justification for my father’s killing. The original inquest did not get to the truth of how and who in the MOD was responsible for my father’s terrible death in 1978. His death devastated my mother, me and my 5 brothers and sisters at the time and continues to do so today. We welcome the opportunity to now participate and to be represented before this fresh inquest. It is just a pity that my mother, brother and sister are not alive to see this progress. We appreciate that in many ways this is now only the first step in a long road to establishing the facts and to state accountability.”
Harte Coyle Collins
9-15 Queen Street