Killer soldier to give evidence on his officer's shooting

Click to follow
The Independent Online

A soldier who shot his officer dead in a training ground exercise in Northern Ireland almost 40 years ago has agreed to give evidence at a new inquest into the death, a coroner heard yesterday.

Police had previously stated that Duncan Munro McLuckie, who is currently serving life for murder in England for another killing, was refusing to co-operate with the fresh investigation into the shooting of Ulster Defence Regiment Warrant Officer Bernard Adamson in Co Fermanagh in 1972.

But a barrister representing McLuckie told Northern Ireland's senior coroner John Leckey that he had only declined to speak to officers who visited him in HM Prison Frankland in Durham because he did not have a lawyer present.

As Mr Adamson's widow Patricia Bruce watched during a preliminary hearing in Belfast, Karen Quinlivan made clear that her client was willing to testify when the inquest commences.

"It's our view that this was a tragic accident and there had been an implication that Mr McLuckie was refusing to co-operate because he had something to hide," she said.

"That is not the case."

Ms Quinlivan went on to explain that difficulties obtaining legal aid funding had meant she had been unable to set up a video link with HMP Frankland to fully consult with her client ahead of the hearing.

While the inquest had been due to start later this month, Mr Leckey accepted her application to postpone it until the new year to give her additional time to set up the consultation.

Attorney General Baroness Scotland has ordered a second inquest after Mr Adamson's family raised concerns about the open verdict delivered in the original hearing months after his death.

The 30-year-old father of four from Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, was hit with a live bullet on a firing range during an exercise that was supposed to involve only blank cartridges. He died two weeks later in the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.

No criminal charges were brought against Private McLuckie, who fired the shot from an Army issue SLR rifle.

He was later fined £43 in a military tribunal into the circumstances of the incident at the range in Letterbreen, five miles outside Enniskillen.

Warrant Officer Adamson was playing the role of an enemy target when he was shot in the side.

An initial investigation found that live rounds had somehow got mixed in with the blank cartridges that were to be used.

Senior military officials from England had travelled to Northern Ireland to witness the firearms training and a quantity of live ammunition had been on site in case the top brass had been targeted by republicans.

The decision to hold another inquest represents a highly unusual legal move and comes after a long campaign by Mr Adamson's family.

Mr Leckey said he was very pleased to hear that Mr McLuckie was willing to give evidence.

The Adamson family's lawyer, Ivor McAteer, also welcomed the clarification from Ms Quinlivan.

"I'm delighted to hear that Mr McLuckie is co-operating," he said.

"That's a step forward."

The coroner did, however, express frustration at the delay in obtaining funding from the Legal Services Commission to set up the video link with HMP Frankland.

"This delay is unacceptable bearing in mind that I'm acting in pursuance of an order from the Attorney General in relation to a very tragic death that occurred almost 40 years ago," he said.

Mr Leckey said he would consider writing to Baroness Scotland to raise his concerns on the matter.

The inquest is set to get under way at the end of March. When it does commence, McLuckie will appear by videolink after the court ruled out bringing him across to Belfast to take the stand in person.

The coroner had made inquiries about transporting the prisoner but had been informed that, due to the risk he presented to the public, he would have to travel by private jet at a cost of thousands.

* Source: The Belfast Telegraph