Co Tyrone farmer shot in cold blood by British soldier ‘exonerated’

Co Tyrone farmer shot in cold blood by British soldier ‘exonerated’
Michael McElhone holds a photograph of his late brother Paddy (Brian Lawless/PA)

A farmer shot dead in cold blood by the Army during the Northern Ireland conflict has been exonerated, his family said.

Paddy McElhone, 24, died instantly near his home in Pomeroy, Co Tyrone, in 1974 after he was fired on by a soldier from the First Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Wales.

A judge ruled the discharge of a single shot from behind through the heart was unjustified and against the military’s rule book on engagements.

She said he was innocent and was not on any list associating him with the IRA.

Mr McElhone’s family said their parents had gone to their graves brokenhearted and without an explanation or apology.

They added: “As a family we feel that today Judge Keegan at this inquest has at long last exonerated Paddy in full.

“The truth of Paddy’s killing by a British soldier has been heard.

He was shot from behind through the heart.

The inquest was the first in a series of coroners’ probes into deaths associated with Northern Ireland’s 30-year conflict.

It was held in Omagh courthouse in Co Tyrone.

Presiding coroner Judge Siobhan Keegan said: “On any version of events the shooting was unjustified.”

She added: “Paddy McElhone was an innocent man shot in cold blood without warning when he was no threat to anyone.”

Oonagh McElhone, niece of the late Paddy McElhone, speaks to the media along with his sister Mary and brother Michael (Brian Lawless/PA)

He was not on any list as associated with the IRA and was an innocent man from a humble background, evidence before the inquest showed.

There is no dispute that he was shot by a soldier and that the person who shot him was Lance Corporal Roy Alun Jones, the coroner said.

The victim had been working in the fields and had just returned home for his dinner when he was asked to go outside with members of an Army patrol.

He was taken to a meadow and shot once, penetrating his chest and killing him instantly.

L/Cpl Jones was charged with murder on August 9 1974 and acquitted of that charge the following year by a judge who sat without a jury.

Ms Keegan said the soldier had intended to shoot the victim and that there was no evidence he was running away.

She added he was not acting in a threatening fashion or in any way that justified shooting him.

She praised members of the victim’s family for their dignity.

“Patrick McElhone was a son and brother who tragically lost his life for no valid reason.”

This inquest, the second into Mr McElhone’s death, was directed by the Attorney General for Northern Ireland in December 2018 as a result of an application to him by Mr McElhone’s family.

The coroner said he lived at home with his parents and was a quiet young man with a social life.

She said the regiment was in the area to look for “anything or anyone” suspicious as part of general operations.

Military witnesses’ evidence suggested a soldier wanted to question him and a cement lorry driver, who had just pulled up, together so sent his more junior colleague to get Mr McElhone back when the shooting happened.

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