‘Pages missing’ from military log after Belfast boy killed by rubber bullet

Undated family handout photo of Francis Rowntree
Undated family handout photo of Francis Rowntree

Military logs from the day an 11-year-old boy was hit by a rubber bullet in Belfast in 1972 have been cut up, a coroner’s court has been told.

A barrister for the family of Francis Rowntree said extracts from at least half a dozen pages were missing.

Solicitor Padraig O Muirigh (left) and James Rowntree (right), the brother of Francis Rowntree, who was killed after being struck by a rubber bullet in Belfast in 1972

Solicitor Padraig O Muirigh (left) and James Rowntree (right), the brother of Francis Rowntree, who was killed after being struck by a rubber bullet in Belfast in 1972

Fiona Doherty QC said: “These are from crucial periods of time. The pages go down right through the time period when the incident involving Francis Rowntree took place. I have never seen anything like it.”

Francis Rowntree died two days after being hit by the bullet while walking through the Divis Flats complex close to Belfast’s Falls Road in April 1972.

Controversy surrounds the shooting, with disputed claims on whether the boy was struck directly or injured by a ricochet, and if the bullet had been doctored to make it potentially cause more harm.

The long-awaited inquest, which opened on Monday, was ordered by Attorney General John Larkin.

A rubber bullet similar to the type that hit  Francis Rowntree, who was killed after being struck by one in Belfast in 1972, as a soldier who fired the bullet at the 11-year-old boy in Northern Ireland more than 40 years ago had a clear view of his target, a coroner's court has heard

A rubber bullet similar to the type that hit Francis Rowntree, who was killed after being struck by one in Belfast in 1972, as a soldier who fired the bullet at the 11-year-old boy in Northern Ireland more than 40 years ago had a clear view of his target, a coroner's court has heard

Martin Wolfe QC, representing the Ministry of Defence (MoD), told the court he would endeavour to obtain an explanation why the “historic” documents had been cut out.

Judge Brian Sherrard said: “It may not be in a position to fill in the blanks but I would ask the MoD to provide somebody who could provide a statement concerning this.”

The schoolboy’s family believe the inquest is the last chance to establish the truth about what happened.