13 Mae 2012

Police had advance warning of a planned IRA operation which ended with two gunmen being shot dead by the SAS, an inquest heard today.

But the officer in charge of the military surveillance near Loughgall in Co Armagh denied there was a shoot-to-kill policy at the time.

Martin McCaughey, 23, and Dessie Grew, 37, died in a hail of bullets near farm outbuildings that troops believed contained a vehicle to be used for terrorism, Soldier K said.

An inquest into the October 1990 killings was held today in Belfast. Soldier K said his men opened fire only if life was endangered.

“My understanding of what some people might think a shoot-to-kill policy is is that personnel, military personnel, set out to go on to the ground with the specific objective of shooting to kill terrorists at any opportunity when they see them,” he said.

“That is not my policy, it was not the policy of the armed forces in Northern Ireland.”

The soldiers were observing a vehicle they believed was intended to be used for terrorist activity, Soldier K added. He said using a camera instead would have been a crude option, difficult to disguise, and it was better to have humans with a view of the scene to control it.

RUC intelligence said that the Provisional IRA had an operation planned in Armagh between October 8 and 9, lawyer for the families Karen Quinlivan said. Grew was identified as being in charge. Military intelligence did not specify when or where terrorist activity would take place, Soldier K told the inquest.

Ms Quinlivan questioned the soldier about why troops had fired 72 shots. Autopsy reports showed Grew sustained 48 wounds while McCaughey was hit by 10 bullets.

“Soldiers (were) firing at close range against a man on the ground (McCaughey), causing his death,” Ms Quinlivan said, asking what threat could have been posed by an injured man lying on his back. She said two rounds were also fired at Grew while he was lying wounded on the ground.

Soldier K responded that bullets which aimed to disable were confined to the movies.

“In my experience, in the context of a life-threatening situation … when people‘s adrenaline is pumping, actions and activities can be extremely confusing,” he said.

“When your life is threatened you will take action to ensure that person no longer presents a threat to you.”

He added that ascertaining whether that person was a threat would mean assessing whether he could still use his weapon.