THE Attorney General has directed that a fresh inquest be carried out into the killing of an unarmed Pomeroy man who was shot in the back by a British soldier in August 1974.
In the killing that shocked the community, Patrick (Paddy) McElhone, aged in his 20s and who had a severe learning disability, was taken from his home and shot dead by Lance Corporal Roy Alun Jones of the 1st Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Wales, in a field near to Limehill Road.
Jones returned to army duty several months after his trial in a Diplock court. He died in 2002.
In a correspondence to human rights solicitor Patrick Fahy, the Attorney General for Northern Ireland, John F Larkin QC states that there was “nothing that could plausibly have justified the deliberate taking of Mr McElhone’s life.”
In a statement to the Historical Enquiry Team (HET) team in 2013, British soldier, Private Bedford, who was at the scene of the killing, re-iterated the statement he gave in the aftermath of the killing, in which he described seeing Jones and Paddy McElhone walking along a road before they disappeared from view.
Shortly afterwards he heard a single shot. The report stated, “The HET cannot understand why this soldier (Private Bedford) was not called to the trial of L/Cpl Jones or to Patrick’s inquest.”
As he said to investigators 24 years ago, Private Bedford told the HET, that Jones said to him, “Keep your mouth shut, I’ve heard what you said in your statement and I’ll be in the s**t,” to which he replied, “You’re already in the s**t and I’m telling the truth.”
However that evidence was not put before Justice McDermott during the murder trial.
He also stated that he was treated “appallingly afterwards by some of the soldiers in the regiment and told to “keep my mouth shut and go with the flow”.
Raising the killing with the Attorney General, solicitor Mr Fahy who represents the McElhone family, stated it was “blatantly clear that the evidence which could have convicted Jones was withheld from the court.”
Mr Fahy has now received correspondence from Mr Larkin indicating he has directed the Presiding Coroner to hold an inquest into the killing.
Mr Larkin stated, “On the available material, there was no conceivable justification for shooting Mr McElhone.”
He also said, “Evidence gathered by the HET, in particular that of former Private Bedford, makes it clear that there was an attempt to conceal what happened to Mr McElhone.”
The Attorney General went on to indicate that if former L/Cpl Jones were still alive, he would have written to the Public Prosecution Service with a view to establishing if the conditions for re-opening Jones’ acquittal existed.
Regarding a fresh inquest, the Attorney General stated, “…it will be possible for a narrative verdict to confirm that Mr McElhone did nothing wrong immediately before his death, and certainly nothing that could plausibly have justified the deliberate taking of life.”
Mr Larkin concludes the correspondence by expressing his sympathy with the McElhone family, adding, “My hope is that an inquest may offer them the truth which I believe it is possible to obtain at an inquest.”
Human rights solicitor Patrick Fahy welcomed the statement from the Attorney General.
He said, “It was horrific that state forces pushed Mr McElhone into a field by the back of the head and shot him dead.”