Soldier gets life term for joyrider murder: RUC constable provided key evidence of west Belfast shooting

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A PRIVATE in the Parachute Regiment was yesterday found guilty of the murder of an 18-year-old woman shot dead in a joyriding incident in west Belfast in 1990.

Another private was found guilty of attempted murder and of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. The court was told that a colleague had stamped on his leg to make it look as though he had been struck by the joyriders' car.

The key evidence against the soldiers came from an RUC constable who accompanied their patrol in September 1990.

He first agreed that soldiers had only opened fire after the stolen car had hit one of them, but later made another statement saying no soldier had been struck and that the soldiers had invented a story to justify opening fire.

Two people, Karen Reilly and 17- year-old Martin Peake, were killed when paratroopers fired 36 shots at the car driven by Peake. No charge of murder was brought in relation to Peake because the bullet that killed him could not be identified.

Private Lee Clegg, 23, who fired four shots at the car, was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder. Private Barry Aindow was sentenced to seven years for attempting to murder Miss Reilly. Charges against four other soldiers, including a lieutenant who has since been promoted to captain, were dismissed.

Although there have been several controversial shooting incidents involving troops in Northern Ireland, this was only the second case in which a soldier has been convicted of murder while on duty.

In 1984, a soldier was convicted of murder and given a life sentence after shooting dead a man in west Belfast. Controversy ensued after it was discovered that within a few years he had been quietly released from prison and taken back into the Army.

Karen Reilly's father, Sean, said he was delighted and relieved at the outcome of the case.

He added: 'It's not going to bring Karen back but at least justice is seen to be done in this case. I sat in court every day and listened to all the evidence and to me there could not have been any other verdict.'

Dr Joe Hendron, the Social Democratic and Labour Party MP for West Belfast, said there was no place in Northern Ireland for the Parachute Regiment, whose members had gloated over the deaths.

Sinn Fein said many people doubted whether the two paratroopers would spend much time in prison.

After the shooting paratroopers built a large model of the car, together with a papier-mache model of a bloodstained head. A notice read: 'Vauxhall Astra. Built by robots. Driven by joyriders. Stopped by 'A' Company.'

(Photograph omitted)