Coroner – Man shot in back by soldiers in ‘unjustified’ killing

Paddy McElhone, 24, died near his home in Limehill, Pomeroy, Co Tyrone after sustaining a gunshot wound in an incident involving a military patrol.

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Police Stock

The shooting dead of a farmer by the Army in Northern Ireland in 1974 was “unjustified”, a coroner said.

Paddy McElhone, 24, died near his home in Limehill, Pomeroy, Co Tyrone after sustaining a wound through the back fired by a soldier from the First Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Wales.

The inquest into Mr McElhone’s death was the first in a series of coroners’ probes into deaths associated with Northern Ireland’s 30-year conflict.

It was held in Omagh courthouse in Co Tyrone.

Presiding coroner Judge Siobhan Keegan said: “On any version of events the shooting was unjustified.”

She added: “Paddy McElhone was an innocent man shot in cold blood without warning when he was no threat to anyone.”

He was not on any list as associated with the IRA and was an innocent man from a humble background, evidence before the inquest showed.

There is no dispute that he was shot by a soldier and that the person who shot him was Lance Corporal Roy Alun Jones, the coroner said.

The victim had been working in the fields and had just returned home for his dinner when he was asked to go outside with members of an Army patrol.

He was taken to a meadow and shot once, penetrating his chest and killing him instantly.

L/Cpl Jones was charged with murder on August 9 1974 and acquitted of that charge the following year by a judge who sat without a jury.

Ms Keegan said the soldier had intended to shoot the victim and that there was no evidence he was running away.

She added he was not acting in a threatening fashion or any way that justified shooting him.

“This shooting has not been justified by the State.”

She criticised the Army’s reaction at the time.

“Military witnesses wanted to support their colleagues so information was not readily volunteered.”

She praised members of the victim’s family for their dignity.

“Patrick McElhone was a son and brother who tragically lost his life for no valid reason.”

This inquest, the second into Mr McElhone’s death, was directed by the Attorney General for Northern Ireland in December 2018 as a result of an application to him by Mr McElhone’s family.

The coroner said he lived at home with his parents and was a quiet young man with a social life.

She said the regiment was in the area to look for “anything or anyone” suspicious as part of general operations.

Military witnesses’ evidence suggested a soldier wanted to question him and a cement lorry driver, who had just pulled up, together so sent his more junior colleague to get Mr McElhone back when the shooting happened.

There was no evidence the victim’s name was on any list of those associated with the IRA.

He and his family were described by contemporaneous police accounts as law abiding.

Another member of the Army patrol who saw Mr McElhone earlier in the day in a field said he was a “pleasant young man” who did not arise suspicions.

The coroner said she could find no valid reason why the soldier who shot him once and the unarmed victim were in the field.

She added he was not acting in accordance with “yellow card” rules which governed the Army’s engagements.

She made no finding on whether foul language and cheering was displayed by soldiers after the incident.

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