An IRA man was already dead or dying when he was shot on the ground from close range by an SAS soldier, a pathologist told a Belfast inquest.
Dessie Grew, 37, was one of two IRA men gunned down near sheds under surveillance by special forces for terrorist activity near Loughgall, Co Armagh, in 1990.
Seventy-two bullets were discharged at Martin McCaughey, 23, and Grew, and a lawyer for their families has accused a special forces member of finishing them off while they were lying defenceless on the ground.
Pathologist Dr Nat Cary said: “You could not assume he (Grew) was dead but you could assume he was dying of his other wounds. Even when people are critically injured they may last a few minutes.”
The inquest regards one of several so-called security force “shoot-to-kill” incidents which have sparked controversy and a series of official investigations.
Soldier D admitted firing the final two shots at Grew, claiming he moved as he opened a barn door, causing the former corporal to instinctively reach for his gun.
Dr Cary reiterated: “I also would suggest that he was likely to be unsalvageable because of the other wounds. If he was not already dead he was simply dying. It is possible that noise could have come out in any case.”
Soldier D denied firing a third bullet from close range at McCaughey’s head while he was lying on the ground.
Dr Cary reviewed the initial pathological findings and said that, given the number of bullets discharged and the nature of the injuries, it was highly likely that Grew and McCaughey received some shots whilst on the ground or partially so.
He added a shot at McCaughey’s head may have been fired from the direction of the mushroom shed, which Soldier D had advanced to after the initial burst of gunfire.
The bodies were initially examined by Dr Derek Carson, the retired deputy state pathologist for Northern Ireland, at Craigavon area hospital but he did not order X-rays to help track the bullets’ progress. This would be more common now, 20 years later.
He counted 48 wounds in Grew consisting of entrance and exit bullet injuries. He said the cause of death was multiple injuries due to multiple high velocity bullet wounds to the trunk and limbs.
Dr Carson said McCaughey died from lacerations of the brain due to bullet wounds to the head, causing immediate death.
The inquest continues.