Inquiry finds woman shot dead in Derry 35 years ago was murdered

Tue, Oct 19, 2010, 01:00

AN INVESTIGATION carried out by the North’s Historical Enquiries Team (HET) has concluded that a 22-year-old woman shot dead in Derry 35 years ago was murdered.

Bernadette Friel, who was engaged to a British soldier, died as a result of a gunshot wound to her head after she was shot in a house in the Carnhill estate in Derry by a former soldier who lived in the house.

Following the shooting on October 19th, 1975, RUC and British army press officers told journalists Ms Friel was shot while playing Russian roulette with Thomas Ramsay.

The former soldier, who is now living in England, was later jailed for one year after he admitted her manslaughter. He also received a concurrent sentence in relation to a number of firearms found in his house. Yesterday Ms Friel’s five brothers, two sisters, her son Tony and her granddaughter Rachael told reporters at the Pat Finucane Centre in Derry that the report’s findings were released on what would have been her 57th birthday and just one day before the anniversary of her death. The report stated: “Ramsay was an ex-British soldier who would therefore be in no doubt about the dangers associated with such reckless use of firearms. His explanation clearly lacks credibility. Whilst it is clear that Ramsay fired the single shot which killed Bernadette, the reasons and the exact circumstances remain in doubt. HET believes Ramsay deliberately shot Bernadette and fabricated the Russian roulette story, one of a sequence of lies he gave investigators.”

Speaking on behalf of the Friel family, Bernadette’s brother Leo said they had always believed their sister’s killer was an agent.

“This report confirms what we have known for 35 years, that Bernadette was murdered. But we still have many questions to ask. Why was Ramsay only charged with manslaughter by the DPP when the then RUC recommended a murder charge? Why was Ramsay allowed to accompany her in an ambulance to hospital? Why was he debriefed by the military for several hours before he was handed over to the RUC? And the most important question of all, why was no inquest ever held into the circumstances surrounding her death?” he said.

“Bernadette wasn’t supposed to be in Derry the day she was killed. She was engaged to a British soldier and was to have visited him in England but his return from Cyprus was delayed by one week, so she stayed at home and was killed.

“When Ramsay was jailed he served his sentence in solitary confinement, he was protected in Crumlin Road prison – why?

“There are still so many unanswered questions,” he added.

Maggie O’Connor of the Pat Finucane Centre said: “This case highlights the need to deal with the past and provide answers to families.”