March 21 2012

An SAS soldier celebrated with a triumphant drink after shooting dead an IRA man, a Belfast inquest has heard.

He reached for a beer hours after his role in an undercover surveillance operation in the Co Armagh countryside, which also ended in the death of a second provisional when they were confronted by troops close to farm buildings near Loughgall.

Soldier D told the inquest: “I had a few beers because I am alive.”

Dessie Grew, 37, and Martin McCaughey, 23, were killed when soldiers fired 72 bullets at them in October 1990.

Soldier D added: “If success is measured that I am alive and that none of my patrol died in that exchange then I would say that probably there are some people alive today because of that.

“I would have to say personally that I regard that as a success.”

The inquest is 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. But he denied firing a third bullet from close range at McCaughey’s head while he was lying on the ground.

He admitted moving a bullet from his gun into a magazine while back at base, effectively altering potential evidence, but claimed this was to make scrutiny of the weapon easier, adding that he explained this to police who took the Heckler and Koch weapon for forensic examination.

The inquest continues.