Family of Derry boy shot dead by soldier says ‘dark cloud’ has lifted

Former British army member to be prosecuted for killing Daniel Hegarty in 1972

Operation Motorman: Daniel Hegarty (15) was shot twice in the head by a soldier near his home in Creggan. Photograph: The Derry Journal

Operation Motorman: Daniel Hegarty (15) was shot twice in the head by a soldier near his home in Creggan. Photograph: The Derry Journal

 

A woman whose teenage brother was shot dead in Derry by a British soldier in 1972 says he can now “rest in peace” as someone is to be charged with his murder.

Daniel Hegarty (15) died after twice being shot in the head by a member of an army patrol in the Creggan area of the city on July 31st, 1972. The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) announced on Monday that the soldier – known as Soldier B – is to be charged with his murder.

Margaret Brady, who has campaigned with her family for decades to have Daniel’s name cleared and the soldier responsible prosecuted, said she felt a weight had been lifted when she heard the news. Mrs Brady said she believed Daniel and her late parents would be praying for the soldier.

“We went up to the graveyard and told Daniel,” Mrs Brady said of the family’s response to the news.

“We said, ‘you can rest in peace now son’, and then we went and we told my Ma and Da, ‘you can rest now in peace, and may God forgive that soldier’.

“We were able to go up and tell Daniel, ‘they’ll say nothing more bad about you’.”

Soldier B will also be charged with wounding with intent in relation to the shooting of Daniel’s 17-year-old cousin, Christopher Hegarty, during the same incident.

The two were shot during Operation Motorman, a military initiative to reclaim places deemed to be “no-go” areas in Derry. Daniel and Christopher had gone out to look at the tanks and the army later claimed that Daniel had been holding a weapon. A 2011 inquest found that Daniel had been unarmed and was posing no threat when shot.

‘Just shock’

The Hegarty family met the PPS in Derry on Monday and the North’s Director of Public Prosecutions, Stephen Herron, told them he had given particular consideration to Soldier B’s ill health, but that the evidential and the public interest test for prosecution had been met.

“It was shock, just shock,” said Mrs Brady. “We went there not knowing what was going to happen or what they were going to say, and it felt like a big dark cloud had lifted off us.

“We’re glad now that the PPS has taken on board that he was murdered, and we were telling the truth all the time and that Daniel posed a threat to nobody. But we’re just totally sad that our younger sister, who passed away 12 weeks ago, wasn’t here to see this. It’s just a pity it took that length of time.”

The PPS announced last month that a former British army’s parachute regiment member, Soldier F, would face charges of murder and attempted murder in connection with the deaths of two men and the wounding of two others in Derry on Bloody Sunday, January 30th, 1972.

Mrs Brady said she hoped the decision to prosecute Soldier B would give hope to other families in similar situations.

‘Bit of hope’

“We couldn’t have allowed Daniel’s name to be blackened. We did put our faith in the system, they let us down quite a few times, but today they have given us back that bit of faith and that bit of hope,” she said.

“I hope that all families who are seeking justice will get justice.

“Just because you wear a uniform, you shouldn’t get off with murder. Should you be the pope or the Queen of England, if you commit murder, you should stand trial. Nobody should be above the law.”

Mrs Brady added: “We always forgave the soldier... This was never a witch-hunt. It’s not about hatred, it’s not about anger. Regardless of who or what did the killing, the law has to be upheld.”