Suspect ‘threatened Catholics’ before loyalists shot family man

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A suspect in the sectarian loyalist shooting of a young father in Northern Ireland vowed to clear all Catholic “taigs” from the area, a lawyer told an inquest.

Daniel Carson, 28, from Dunmurry, was gunned down as he left work at a hardware merchant in the staunchly Protestant Shankill area of Belfast in November 1973. He was the only Catholic still employed at the company as the Troubles deepened.

A person was seen by a witness with arms outstretched and holding a gun as the cheerful and non-political family man was shot in the head through a car window and the vehicle he was driving careered off the road.

Barrister Sean Doran QC said: “She screamed at him to leave Danny alone - that he had never done anyone any harm.”

A coroner has opened a fresh inquest in Belfast after a direction from Northern Ireland’s attorney general following representations from the dead man’s family.

The witness, known as witness A, was a colleague of Mr Carson.

She named the person, known as S1, who fired several shots from a Webley revolver at a T-junction close to the dead man’s workplace.

He was later interviewed by police but released without charge after witness A withdrew her evidence.

Witness A had recalled a conversation with S1 about 18 months before the killing, according to Mr Doran.

“He referred to the Troubles and said that they had all the taigs out of McIlhagga’s (a neighbouring business) and were going to clear them all off the road.”

S1 was said to have added: “There is one left in your place but he will run when he sees the rest running.”

Witness A said shortly before the shooting she was asked whether “that taig” was still working in the factory.

Despite initially identifying S1, witness A later withdrew her testimony to police and in a subsequent investigation review she said she could not be sure the person she saw was S1.

Hearing the name, two soldiers visited S1’s house shortly after the death and he told them he had been asleep at the time of the shooting.

Reviewers later said: “Lack of positive action by Army personnel who the suspect saw soon after the murder terminated all realistic chance of finding evidence.”

Interviewed later by police, S1 said: “I swear before God I had nothing to do with any shooting of any man.

“If I knew who did it I would tell police, I always try to lead a good life.”

There was no effective witness protection scheme at the time and police said witness A was afraid of being attacked.

Mr Doran said: “They were satisfied she would have been killed and, on that basis, S1 was not charged.”

A search by the coroner for intelligence on the suspect produced no material.

Mr Doran said other intelligence suggested the victim may have been targeted because he knew those responsible for the theft of goods from his workplace at Batty’s warehouse.

Papers before the inquest did not say which loyalist group was responsible for the killing.