Inquest into death of woman shot by soldiers delayed

Kathleen Thompson was shot dead by the British Army in 1971.
Kathleen Thompson was shot dead by the British Army in 1971.

The inquest into the death of a woman shot by soldiers in 1971 has stalled after experts failed to submit evidence to a court on time.

Kathleen Thompson, 47, was shot dead at her home in the Creggan Estate in Londonderry when soldiers carried out a raid in the area.

In 2013 it was announced that an inquest into the mother-of-six’s death would be held, which was due to begin this week.

However, the coroner’s court has been told the case cannot proceed as expert evidence commissioned for the case has not arrived.

The announcement was made at an emergency preliminary hearing, one day before the inquest was due to start.

Barrister for the coroner’s office, Gerry McAlinden, told the court: “Certain expert evidence is still outstanding. Unfortunately, and with deep regret, it is my view that the case cannot proceed at this stage.”

Mr McAlinden said the court had commissioned a number of experts to submit evidence about ballistics, a pathology report and an assessment of the property in which Ms Thompson died.

He said one expert report was due to be sent to the coroner’s court the previous week but had not arrived.

A second had been deemed to be inadequately detailed and a third expert had informed the court more time would be needed for him to undertake further examinations.

Mr McAlinden added: “Obviously, this is the last thing the family want to hear. The only comfort they can take from this is that when the hearing does take place, it will be informed by expert evidence and we will ensure that a proper, full and rigorous examination can be carried out.”

Coroner Patrick McGurgan told the court: “It is a source of deep regret that this has happened.”

He said he would not be available to hear the case until October 2018, so is seeking to reassign the case to another judge to hear the case before then.

He told the court he will list the case to be heard on March 5 2018 by another judge.

Fiona Doherty, legal representative for Ms Thompson’s family, told the court: “It is a matter of extreme sadness and disappointment that this outcome has been reached and with just a day to spare.

“When a family has been waiting so long for an inquest, particularly for a mother of now five surviving children, the court will understand that there is some psychological preparation needed for an inquest, which they had done, and which has now been deflated.”

The case has been listed for a further preliminary hearing on December 13.