Thursday, 10 February 2011

Background to the Murder of Manus Deery

Manus Deery

Aged 15

Died 19 May 1972.

May 19, 1972. Manus lived with his parents and his brothers and sisters in Limewood Street, in the Bogside in Derry. He had just started a job at the Thomas French factory in Springtown and had been there two weeks when he was shot. On the evening of his death he had just received his first pay packet.

On Friday 19 May, 1972, Manus came home from work at about 5pm and had tea with his family. He watched television until about 9.15 pm when he got the dog and said he was going out to the chippy. Manus and his friends were regular customers at the chip shop called the "Scooby-Doo" in Meenan Park. On his way there he bumped into his older brother Mickey who warned him not to hang around under the City Walls as there had been a car bombing that day on Queen’s Street in which two soldiers had been injured. It was usual at the time for people to expect there to be revenge shootings on civilians from the Walls when soldiers had been killed or injured.

At about 9.30 he met up with four or five of his friends, a group of boys and girls around the same age, near the Bogside Inn, around the corner from the "Scooby Doo". There was some excitement about the "Marx Brothers" film that was going to be shown that night. Someone from another group of youths called one of Manus’ friends a name and there was a bit of banter until the person apologised. The atmosphere was jovial and easy going. The evening was young, he had money, his own money, in his pocket for the first time, and life seemed full of promise.

Manus and his friends made their way into the yard at the back of the Bogside Inn and stood in a covered open fronted double garage, known locally as the "funnel", a popular place for young people to hang out at the time. Those standing in the "funnel" could be seen clearly from the British Army sandbag post on the corner of the city walls, known locally as "murderer’s corner" or "sniper’s corner". The group in a courtyard were only visible from above; from the city walls in other words.

In the "funnel" they met an older man who was holding an embroidered Long Kesh handkerchief, which he was talking about selling. The youths talked to the man for some time and admired the handy work. After a while the man put the handkerchief away. Shortly after 10 o’clock Manus’ companions heard a crack and saw the flash from a tracer bullet which ricocheted off the wall of the "funnel" and struck Manus on the side of the head. He fell to the ground where he was soon tended to by members of the crowd that had gathered. One of his friends was injured and another one passed out. Just after 10.30pm an ambulance arrived and took Manus to Altnagelvin Hospital where he was admitted at 10:55pm. At 11.10 pm the casualty officer at Altnagelvin pronounced Manus dead.

Two days after the killing, the Official IRA shot dead William James Best, a local boy from Creggan who was home on leave from the British Army. The killing provoked a storm of controversy which eclipsed the killing of Manus Deery. He soon joined the ranks of victims of the troubles who died without adequate investigation or acknowledgement. An anonymous killer and an anonymous death.

July 31 1973. The Derry Coroner held the inquest into the killing. The inquest was told that Manus had died because of lacerations to the brain caused by fragments from a tracer bullet of the type fired from a NATO issue 7.62 rifle. Depositions given by the soldier who fired the shot that killed Manus (Soldier "A") and his companion (Soldier "B"), alleging the presence of a gunman in the "Funnel", were unchallenged. The jury returned an "open verdict". Copies of the soldiers’ depositions to the inquest subsequently given to the Pat Finucane Centre by the Northern Ireland Court Service are illegible.

The witnesses who gave depositions to the Inquest say that they have never been approached by the RUC to have their statements taken. None of the other people who witnessed Manus’ killing were interviewed by the RUC even though their names were made public at the Inquest. The only scene of crime photographs taken were of the sand-bag observation post on the city wall.

The family have subsequently been told in a letter from the DPP that the RUC investigation file given to the DPP contained statements from Manus’ mother, Margaret Anne Deery, and from his cousin James Deery. The mother was called Mary not Margaret and there is no cousin called James. A James Melaugh, who is not related to the family, did in fact identify the body. The family were told that:

"The evidence and information reported together with the recommendations of police was carefully considered by experienced lawyers in this Department. It was concluded that the evidence available was insufficient to afford a reasonable prospect of conviction of any identifiable individual, and accordingly, a direction for no prosecution was issued on 9 November 1972."

The family are adamant that at no stage had their mother been approached by the RUC as part of an investigation into Manus’ death. "At any rate" said Helen Deery "what kind of investigation can it have been if they couldn’t even get my mother’s name right?"

The role of the DPP

The office of the Director of Public Prosecutions has a statutory duty to decide whether to initiate criminal proceedings based on the police investigation file submitted by the RUC. The investigation file was submitted by the RUC on July 14 1972. The date is significant. In correspondence the DPP now claims that this file contained witness statements. These statements were not taken by the RUC. None of the actual witnesses were ever contacted by the RUC. Nor did the RUC interview the soldier who fired the fatal shot or his colleagues. This was done by the military authorities contrary to international legal guidelines. Given the circumstances prevailing in the Free Derry area the DPP had a statutory duty to put the file on ‘hold’ awaiting further investigation as soon as the Bogside area returned to state control, two weeks ago. Instead the DPP accepted a totally inadequate (non) investigation file which was subsequently marked no prosecution.

In the same letter the DPP told the family that it was not in their power to release RUC investigation files held by the office of the DPP. The family were advised to write to the office of the Chief Constable of the RUC. This they did.

April 2001. The RUC told the Deery family, through the Pat Finucane Centre, that their request for the RUC investigation files into the killing of Manus Deery was being dealt with on behalf of the Chief Constable by a senior officer in the crime department.

June 28 2001 The RUC finally granted access to the investigation file and two members of the PFC accompanied Helen Deery, sister of the victim, to Strand Rd RUC where copies of the file were handed over. It emerged that civilian witness statements contained in the file were taken by a local solicitor and then passed on to the RUC.

August 14 2001 The Deery family and eight other Derry families wrote to the Secretary of State Dr Reid and the Director of Public Prosecutions asking how they intended to abide by the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights which ruled that the authorities had violated Article 11 (Right to Life) of the European Convention on Human Rights because of the failure to conduct independent inquiries, provide reasons for the failure to prosecute and hold inquests according to international standards. Some thirty relatives gathered at the Pat Finucane Centre for a ceremony to mark the beginning of this campaign.

November 2001 In a letter to the PFC the DPP declined to provide reasons to the nine families. The office of the DPP had informed families that reasons would be provided within two weeks. This deadline passed with no further news.

January 15 2002 The PFC again wrote to the DPP asking how his office intended abiding by the European ruling which was now domestic law. We set a deadline of two weeks for a response.

January 29 2002 As this deadline expired with no reply from the DPP it was announced at a press conference that legal test cases would be initiated to force compliance with the European judgement. The press conference was attended by relatives of nine women, men and children killed in controversial circumstances by the State, the staff of the PFC and solicitors from Mac Dermott & Mc Gurk and Madden & Finucane.

The European Court Of Human Rights in the cases of Jordan v the United Kingdom (application number 24746/94) and others (application numbers 28883/95, 3005/96 and 37715/97) found that there had been a violation of Article 2 (right to life) of the European Convention on Human Rights concerning the failure to conduct a proper investigation into the circumstances of the deaths in question in all four cases. The court also ruled that there had been a lack of public scrutiny and information to the victim’s families of the reasons for the decision of the DPP not to prosecute those responsible. This judgement is now binding as a result of the Human Rights Act 2000.

Eight major criticisms emerge from the four judgements.

* Lack of independence of the police investigation, which applies to police killings (Jordan, McKerr), army killings (Kelly), and cases of alleged collusion (Shanaghan).

* The refusal of the DPP to give reasons for failing to prosecute.

* Lack of compellability of witnesses suspected of causing death.

* Lack of verdicts at the inquest.

* Absence of legal aid and non-disclosure of witness statements at the inquest.

* Lack of promptness in the inquest proceedings.

* The limited scope of the inquest

* Lack of prompt or effective investigation of the allegations of collusion.

The judgement, in our view, should have led to significant changes to the way such cases are dealt with in the future and to establish proper investigations into the four cases which were the subject of the decisions.

Source: Pat Finucane Centre