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British soldiers to be charged over Belfast shootings

Four former British soldiers are to be charged in connection with a series of shootings in west Belfast in 1972, including one who is to face a charge of murder.

The announcement was made by the Public Prosecution Service in Northern Ireland this morning.

A former soldier – Soldier F – will face a murder charge in respect of the fatal shooting of Patrick McVeigh, a 44-year-old father of six.

He will also be charged with the attempted murder of four other people who were wounded in the same incident.

Mr McVeigh was shot dead from a passing car containing soldiers as he talked to friends at Riverdale Park on 13 May 1972.

Four others were injured.

Soldier F and three others known as Soldiers B, C and D will also face charges of the attempted murder of two victims during a shooting incident at Slievegallion Drive on 12 May 1972.

The PPS said the ciphers ascribed to the soldiers referred only to these incidents and they were not the same individuals involved in any previous or ongoing prosecutions relating to events in Northern Ireland in 1972.

A file was sent to the PPS several years ago following a PSNI investigation into a series of shootings in the spring and summer that year.

The investigation came on the back of a BBC documentary in 2013 which broadcast claims by former soldiers that their unit had killed unarmed people while on operations in Belfast.

Seven months after the interviews the PSNI said it had begun an investigation into the allegations.

The probe was focused on a series of shootings in west Belfast between April and September 1972 which resulted in two deaths and 17 injuries.

It included the killing of two men, Mr McVeigh and 18-year-old Daniel Rooney.

The soldiers involved were members of the Military Reaction Force, a shadowy undercover unit which operated in plain clothes and used civilian cars.

Lost Lives – the book which chronicles all those who died in the Troubles – records that Patrick McVeigh, an ex-serviceman, had been chatting to friends when they were fired on.

At a later inquest the soldiers in the car claimed they had been fired on, something rejected at the inquest.

Assistant Director at Northern Ireland’s public prosecution service Martin Hardy said all the victims and their families had been informed of the decisions today.

“We in the PPS recognise that this is a painful day for all victims and families involved and that they have waited a long time to reach this stage of the process.

“Where a decision to prosecute has been taken, I would emphasise that criminal proceedings will commence in due course and there should be no reporting, commentary or sharing of information which could in any way prejudice these proceedings.”

The PPS decided there should be no prosecution in respect of the killing of 18-year-old Daniel Rooney.

He was shot dead at St James’ Road on 26 September 1972. Another man was injured.

This incident involved a second, separate MRF unit.

Two former soldiers were reported to the PPS for the potential charge of murder and attempted murder.

The PPS decided that there was insufficient evidence to sustain a charge. The reasons included difficulties about the admissibility of the soldiers’ statements at the time and issues over potential forensic evidence.

The PSNI Legacy Investigation Branch also looked into the circumstances of a shooting on the Glen Road on 6 May 1972 in which one victim was injured.

No prosecutorial decision was issued in that case because all of the suspects who had fired their weapons are now dead.

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