Derry mother-of-six was shot dead by British soldier in ‘unjustified’ circumstances

The soldier who shot Kathleen Thompson did not have an honest belief his life and the lives of others were under immediate threat, a coroner said.
Derry mother-of-six was shot dead by British soldier in ‘unjustified’ circumstances

By Aine Fox, PA

A mother-of-six was shot dead by a British soldier in her back garden in circumstances which were “unjustified”, a coroner has ruled.

Kathleen Thompson, a 47-year-old housewife, was killed by a bullet to the chest in Derry on November 6th, 1971, an inquest heard.

Two bullets were fired by someone identified only as soldier D into her garden in Rathlin Drive, Creggan, as he and others were withdrawing from the area, Judge Sandra Crawford said.

 

She said Mrs Thompson was unarmed and had been in her back garden banging a bin lid or other object to alert neighbours to the presence of soldiers in the area.

The shooting of Mrs Thompson, whose children were aged between seven and 18 at the time, breached guidance on the deployment of lethal force provided to soldiers, the coroner said.

Giving a summary of her findings on Wednesday, the coroner said: “Her death was caused by a high-velocity shot fired by soldier D from a position on Southway, Derry, as he and other soldiers were withdrawing from the area.

“Soldier D did not have an honest belief that a gunshot had been fired from the garden of 129 Rathlin Drive and that his life and the lives of others were under immediate threat.”

David Thompson (left) and his brother Erne Thompson outside Laganside Courts in Belfast for a previous inquest hearing into the death of their mother (Rebecca Black/PA)
David and Erne Thompson outside Laganside Courts in Belfast for a previous inquest hearing. Photo: Rebecca Black/PA

She said “shooting into a dark garden in a residential area in such circumstances” breached guidance on soldiers’ use of lethal force.

She found that the soldier had fired two shots into Mrs Thompson’s back garden “in circumstances which were unjustified”.

The coroner said no proper investigation had been carried out into the death.

A previous inquest into Mrs Thompson’s death, held in 1972, returned an open verdict.

A new inquest was ordered in September 2013 and began in 2018.

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