From Relatives for Justice

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Brian Stewart 13 years, Norglen Crescent, Turf Lodge, west Belfast, hit by a plastic bullet near his home on 4 October 1976, fired by members of the British army’s King’s Own Scottish Borderers. He died in hospital six days later on 10 October.

Brian was the fifth child in a family with eight children. He attended Holy Trinity Primary School, and Gort Na Mona Secondary School, both in Turf Lodge. Brian’s mother, speaking to Relatives for Justice in the mid 1990s, described her son as the ‘clown of the family.’ She said he loved to climb the mountains that overlooked their home, and on one occasion when he was up on the mountains captured dozens of butterflies and took them to school, where he released them into his classroom to the laughter and joy of classmates. ‘He was the type of child’ she said ‘always messing about, and quick to see the funny side of things.’

Mrs Stewart told the RJF on the day her son was fatally injured he came home from school as usual, watched television for a while and then did his homework. Afterwards he had his tea and then went out to play with his friends at around 6.20pm. Brain she said had only left the house about 10 minutes when a young boy rushed up the pathway of her home shouting for her, and when she came out the boy told her Brain had been hit in the face by a plastic bullet.

A resident who witnessed the fatal shooting described what happened. She said she noticed a military foot-patrol near her home, and one of the soldiers kneeling down beside a parked car with his plastic bullet gun in an aiming position. ‘I thought this was to frighten some children, as I could not see any children, but thought they were about. A soldier who seemed to be in control stood behind the soldier (kneeling beside the car) and pointed; there was a bang and someone squealed. I ran over to the soldiers shouting, You’re suppose to aim at the ground not straight at the head. The soldier, I took to be in charge of the patrol said the children should not throw stones. I can honestly state that I did not see a stone land while I was there, and I was about four yards from the soldier who fired.’

Another resident who witnessed the incident also said there was no stone throwing when the soldier fired his plastic bullet gun, and while there were about ten children in the street, she said they were dotted about the place and not standing in a group. ‘I heard a plastic bullet gun being fired and I saw a young boy falling to the ground. A member of the patrol went up to him and attempted to pull him by the leg down the street. There were a couple of other children around the boy at the time. I feel the soldier who attempted to pull the boy away saw the blood pouring from the boy’s head, realised it was very serious and retreated back to his patrol.’

Other residents living close to the scene went to Brian’s aid, and finding him unconscious carried him to a nearby house where he began to vomit continuously. The plastic bullet had struck him on the temple, leaving a large open wound above his ear.

Immediately following the shooting hundreds of Turf Lodge residents, aware that a child had been shot, flooded onto the streets in and around the scene of the shooting. One resident described the situation; ‘the whole district was out, everybody was angry. All the time plastic bullets were being fired… The soldiers were running backwards into a field as they retreated towards the Fort Monagh Army Base.’ The soldiers were still firing as Brian was being removed from the house to be taken to hospital.

The British army in a statement issued through their press office tried to reverse the sequence of events before the shooting by claiming their soldiers had been attacked by a crowd of 500, and only then did they fire a number of baton rounds ‘to extradite themselves and unfortunately one baton round hit a thirteen-year-old boy.’

In another British military statement issued some days later the commanding officer of the K.O.S.B., stated, ‘the unfortunate boy was a leading stone thrower.’

The family of Brian Stewart and the residents of Turf Lodge totally rejected both British military statements accusing Brian of being a stone thrower and ringleader, and that the child was shot during serious rioting and not before, when the area was peaceful.

Brian Stewart died of severe brain damage in the Royal Victoria Hospital on 10 October.

The Stewart family pointed out that the RUC at first failed to carry out any investigation into the killing of Brian and only initiated one following pressure from a variety of locally based community groups. The RUC investigation took several months and concluded with no prosecutions against any of the soldiers.

An inquest into the killing of Brian Stewart was held in December 1977. None of the soldiers involved in the shooting attended, military representatives, who identified each by a letter of the alphabet, read out their statements.

During the hearing a British army spokesman admitted the soldiers involved did not know the rules regarding the use of the plastic bullet weapon. Another army representative said the boy got hit because the soldier who fired the round was struck on the shoulder by a stone. There was no mention of the allegation made at the time of the shooting that Brian was a stone thrower and ringleader.

All the civilian witnesses present in court gave evidence contrary to the British army version of events that day.

The jury returned an open verdict.

In the years following her son’s death Mrs Stewart became a tireless worker for justice and a prominent member of the United Campaign Against Plastic Bullets until her death in 1999. During the interview with the RFJ Mrs Stewart spoke of her efforts over the years to achieve justice, attending countless street protests, silent pickets and conferences. ‘They (the British authorities) offered me £800, but it wasn’t the money I wanted. They could have offered me a million pounds and I wouldn’t have taken it. I just wanted justice.’

No British soldiers were ever charged in connection with the killing of Brian Stewart.



Originally posted at the IRBB by Ailín October 2003

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The following article is a sampling of some of the statements of area residents and witnesses in the killing of Brian Stewart (age 13) outside of his home by the British Army regiment known as the King’s Own Scottish Borderers at Turf Lodge (housing complex), Belfast in October 1976. The Nationalist people of Northern Ireland now refer to this regiment as the King’s Own Scottish Murderers.

56 Norglen Crescent (Housewife).

On Monday 4th October, 1976 at 6:15 pm I called over to Mrs. Stewart’s house. Brian aged 13 years was sitting in the living room with his sister. She was helping him with his homework. Just at 6:20 pm Brian went off to the bathroom, first calling into the working kitchen to his mother. When he came out of the bathroom, someone had called at the door. I left Mrs. Stewart’s directly after, at around 6:30 pm. I was back into my own living room, had lifted my dinner and was on my way back into the living room when Mrs. Stewart came running in. It was only 6:35 because the music of Crossroads had just come on. She said Brian had been hit in the face with a bullet. She was hysterical and crying. I put her into the living room and said I would go and see how Brian was and get the details. I got into the street and everyone said the boy had been taken to Mrs. Mulvenna’s house. I went there. He was in a pretty bad way. He was unconscious and vomiting badly. The house was full. While I was there Mrs. Mulvenna phoned a second time for the ambulance. It came shortly afterwards. I accompanied him to the hospital. His sister had meantime joined me in the ambulance. We arrived at the R.V.H. (Royal Victoria Hospital) and went to reception and gave Brian’s particulars to them. Brian meantime had been moved into the ambulance room. We waited for quite a while. The nurse came out and told me that Brian had a fractured skull. I asked was there any danger and he said not at that particular time but that there could be complications later, e.g. a blood clot might form. After that they took Brian up to the ward. We stayed, some time later we were joined by his father who had rushed down. His father also saw the surgeon who told him the same as he told us. The father signed a consent form in case an operation should be necessary. We then came home.

Signed: Mrs. Mary Dobbin

Monagh Crescent

At 4:45 pm October 4, 1976 I saw soldiers on foot patrols (of eight or ten men). They were walking up and down Monagh Road and Norglen Drive. Earlier on at 3:30 pm the children were saying the soldiers were firing rubber bullets at Holy Trinity School when they were coming home. This aggression from the soldiers continued until teatime around 6:30 pm, even after Brian Stewart was shot by a rubber bullet. (Note: It was actually a PLASTIC bullet.) One of my sons aged 10 ran into the house to me shouting that Brian had been shot. I ran down to the street with my husband. They were lifting Brian off the street. The women took him into Mrs. Magee’s house. All the time rubber bullets were still being fired even though people were on the street. I would say at least a hundred bullets were fired. I saw three other boys limping away. The soldiers were running backwards into a field towards the Fort Monagh Army Base. The whole district was out, everyone was angry about Brian being shot and seriously wounded. I was very upset. I was trying to keep my children out of the way. Most of the mothers were trying to do the same as they did not want their children to witness the state Brian was in. They were also afraid of their children getting hit by the rubber bullets. My daughter Christine told me that she saw Brian getting shot with a bullet. She said “Mommy, it was the the same soldier that shot a child round at the flats”. (Probably Divis Flats) This was when she was at the shops for me. Brian could not have been throwing stones as he had just gone to the corner. Also as the mothers were so frightened, they were bringing in the children; so it is a lie to say that 400 children were rioting. In this estate (housingcomplex) every time the Army do something on the people, they try to justify it by telling lies right away.

Signed: Mrs. Mary Murphy
Witness: Rita Mullan

Monagh Crescent
5 October 1976

On Monday 4th October, 1976 I was standing at my front door around 6:30 pm. There were about six or eight boys in the street, not together in one group but interspersed. Suddenly I heard a shot and then I saw one boy fall. I did not know who it was but I ran towards him. When I got there there was a soldier. He was pulling the boy by the feet to take him away. A crowd of people were converging on the spot. A little girl was trying to pull the boy away from the soldier. The soldier kicked or pushed her. I shouted at him to leave the child alone. The soldier made another attempt to get the child. The crowd had now got to the spot and they took the boy further up the street. A boy named David Magee lifted him and carried him into his own house.

Signed: Mrs. Margaret Fisher
Witness: Kate McQuillan

Monagh Crescent (Housewife)
5 October 1976

Shortly after 6 pm on Monday 4 October, 1976 I was standing at at the door of my home at the above address. There is a shop next door and a boy was standing there. I recognised him as he was a boy who played with my own children sometimes. There were two girls in his vicinity but they were not specifically with him. I saw a foot patrol walking backwards along Norglen Road which runs along the bottom of my street. I saw the patrol go by; then one soldier came back. He was a very tall soldier, broad in build. He had a thick moustache. As he came back he took aim at the boy and fired. The child fell to the ground. The same soldier came over to the boy and lowered his hand to the boy’s legs. The girls at the spot had run forward and one of them seemed to be remonstrating with the soldier but I could not hear what was said. I saw the soldier move towards the girl but I don’t know whether he just pushed her or not. I could just see an arm raised. The child was lifted then and taken away.

Signed: Mrs. B. Irvine
Witness: Elizabeth F. Murray

Norglen Road

At around 6:20 pm on October 4, I was standing at my own door-way which is approximately 30 yards from the corner of Monagh Crescent. A foot patrol was moving down Norglen Road (four men). There were no more than 10 children in and around Monagh Crescent corner. They were not in a group. The soldiers were walking backwards down Norglen Road. I heard a plastic bullet being fired. I saw a young boy falling to the ground on the footpath at the corner of Monagh Crescent and Norglen Road. A member of the patrol ran up to him and attempted to pull him by the leg down the street. There was a couple of children around the boy. I feel the soldier who attempted to pull the boy away saw the blood pouring from the boy’s head and realising it was very serious, he retreated and backed down to his patrol. I ran over to the corner and other neighbours lifted and carried him into Magee’s house in Monagh Crescent. I went into the house with the child. I could see he was seriously wounded on the left temple. It was an open wound approximately 2 inches above his left ear. The top part of his left ear was black. Right above his left ear there was an immediate swelling. We tried to stop the blood flow until the arrival of an ambulance. The child never spoke a word at all although his eyes were opening and closing. He did not appear to be conscious. The boy appeared to be in a fit. His legs and arms were twitching and he was vomiting continuously until he was carried into the ambulance. The ambulance man looked into the boy’s eyes and said “I think this lad has a fractured skull.” As far as I am concerned this is a true version of what happened at my corner. I already appeared on BBC television news today stating that I did not see any stone-throwing prior to the boy being shot.

Signed: Frank Diamond
Witness: Rita Mullan


Brian Stewart (age 13) of Turf Lodge died in the Royal Victoria Hospital this morning. He died as a result of a fractured skull and massive brain damage caused by a plastic bullet fired by a British soldier on Monday last. The grief of his family has been increased by the lies told by the British Army about the killing:

The soldiers were under attack from 400 (later raised to 500) rioters when they fired on Brian Stewart.

There are at least 5 reliable witnesses who are prepared to testify that there was no crowd, much less a riot, in the street at the time of the incident. Television camera crews failed to find any evidence of a riot when they arrived.

The soldier who killed Brian Stewart fired a plastic bullet at the identified ringleader of the attacking group.

A woman visiting the Stewart home is prepared to testify that Brian had left his home only minutes before he was fatally injured. He had no time become involved in anything much less the ringleader of a non-existant riot.

A soldier who went to render first aid was attacked and had to retreat.

A soldier tried to drag the injured boy away by the heels. When a young girl at the scene remonstrated with him and held on to the child, the soldier threatened to shoot her.

The Mothers of Turf Lodge will not be deflected by this detestable incident from their goal of protecting their children from the murders of the British Army and mourning in a dignified way the death of Brian Stewart.

Our demands still stand:

1. The immediate retraction of British Army lies.
2. The charging of the soldier who fired the plastic bullet with murder.
3. The charging of the officer who ordered the bullet to be fired with conspiracy to murder.
4. The immediate and permanent withdrawal of the British Army from Turf Lodge.

Two of our children, Leo Norney and Brian Stewart, have been murdered; Sandy Lynch has been seriously injured by British soldiers. We are determined that these murderers will not be allowed back into Turf Lodge.

Sunday October 10, 1976