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5 December 2002 Edition

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Brits admit shooting victim was unarmed

The British government has admitted that a 16-year-old youth, Daniel Hegarty, who was shot dead by the British Army during Operation Motorman in July 1972, was unarmed when killed.

In a letter to the Hegarty family, NIO Minister Des Browne, the so-called 'Victims' minister', said "I can confirm that Daniel Hegarty was not, and is not, classed as a gunman".

Further on in the letter, Browne said: "As far as we can ascertain, neither the MoD nor the soldier ever suggested that Daniel Hegarty was not armed"

However Daniel's family and the Pat Finucane Centre, who is advising the family on the case, said that Browne's remarks contradicted what the British Secretary of State for Defence in 1972, Lord Carrington and the soldiers who shot the teenager said at the time.

After Operation Motorman Lord Carrington claimed that Hegarty was armed, while in their statement to the inquest into the teenager's death, two soldiers, identified as A and B, claimed that they fired at someone they believed to have a gun.

Indeed Soldier B, whose shots killed Daniel, said in his statement that he shouted a warning to three youths running towards him. Soldier A added that soldier B cocked his gun and fired three rounds at the three "gunmen".

"The implication that Daniel Hegarty was armed - an implication derived from British Army and RUC statements at the time - is one that has caused great pain to his family, who have always known that Daniel was not armed," says the Pat Finucane Centre.

And now the human rights group is saying that Browne has "a moral obligation" to clear the matter up.

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