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18 November 1999 Edition

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Lee Clegg a liar but the farce continues

By Laura Friel

Paratrooper Lee Clegg is a liar, a Belfast court heard again this week. The British soldier had lied about his role in the fatal shooting of two West Belfast teenagers, said prosecution lawyer Reginald Weir. In 1990, Karen Reilly (18) and Martin Peake (17) were shot dead by members of the British paratroop regiment when the stolen car in which the teenagers were travelling was riddled with bullets. A third schoolgirl (16) travelling in the vehicle was seriously injured but survived.

Lee Clegg was one of a 16-man patrol involved in the killings. The soldiers initially claimed that they had opened fire after the stolen vehicle drove through a checkpoint and injured one of their patrol. Eye witnesses insisted there was no road block and no soldiers were injured. Their testimony confirmed the survivor's account.

An RUC officer accompanying the patrol initially conspired with the soldiers in their fabrication but later admitted that one soldier had been deliberately injured by a fellow paratrooper in an attempt to cover up the true circumstances of the double killing. Six paratroopers were later charged with murder and Lee Clegg was subsequently convicted.

From the outset, the case has been a travesty of justice. Lee Clegg was jailed for life in 1993 but released on licence in July 1995 after a vigorous media campaign orchestrated by the British military establishment, which demanded his release. In March last year Clegg was acquitted of the murder of Karen Reilly but the judge upheld a conviction for unlawful wounding.

Last week, Clegg was back in court to contest the appeal judge's decision. The outcome of the appeal may be a significant factor in deciding Clegg's future in the British Army. If the conviction is upheld, the paratrooper could face dismissal. Shortly after the killings, British documentary makers filming inside Holywood Barracks discovered a papier maché mock up of the car, together with a blood stained head, carrying the slogan ``Built by robots. driven by joyriders, stopped by A company.''
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