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27 August 2010

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British Army lied over Para killing of schoolgirl

A SCHOOLGIRL shot dead by a member of the Parachute Regiment in 1976 was not killed as a result of crossfire, as the British Army has claimed for the past 34 years.

A new report by the PSNI’s Historical Enquiries Team has exposed the British Army’s version of events as another pack of lies which has allowed 3 Para to get away with murder. 

Majella O’Hare was shot in the back by a British paratrooper on patrol in Ballymoyer, south Armagh, in August 1976. The 12-year-old was walking with two other children on her way to Confession when she was killed a short distance from her home and within sight of St Malachy’s Church. 

From the outset, claims by the British Army about the killing were vigorously disputed by local people, many of whom had witnessed the shooting. The military claimed the soldier who had fire the fatal rounds had shouted a warning and opened fire at a gunman he saw in a gap of the hedge. Witnesses insisted there was no warning and no gunman.

Majella’s father, Jim O’Hare, who was cutting grass at a nearby schoolyard, witnessed the shooting and immediately went to assist the victim, only to discover it was his own daughter.

As Majella’s father cradled her in his arms, a paratrooper approached and demanded to know “What the fucking hell are you doing?” As Jim O’Hare’s distress became evident, he was told by the paratrooper to “Close your fucking mouth!”

A nurse, Alice Campbell, who happened to be at the scene, was denied immediate access to the dying child.

Majella was subsequently airlifted to Daisy Hill Hospital by helicopter accompanied by her father and nurse Campbell. The nurse later complained that soldiers had thrown Majella into the helicopter on her wounded side in a way that cut off her air supply. Doctors at the hospital were unable to revive her.

The British paratrooper responsible for the schoolgirl’s death, Michael Williams, was charged with manslaughter but acquitted at trial. The trial judge, Maurice Gibson, presided over a number of cases involving state killings in disputed circumstances and became renowned for acquitting members of the crown forces who stood accused. Gibson was killed by the IRA in 1987.

The HET report was released to the family the day before the 34th anniversary of Majella’s death. Speaking on behalf of the family, Majella’s brother, Michael, said although his father had not lived to see his family vindicated, their long campaign had been fought in his memory.

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