No evidence Barney Watt was throwing petrol bomb in 1971 shooting, inquest told

Teresa Watt, the widow of Barney Watt, outside Laganside courthouse in Belfast where she told an inquest her partner was never in the IRA
Teresa Watt, the widow of Barney Watt, outside Laganside courthouse in Belfast where she told an inquest her partner was never in the IRA

Claims by British ex-soldiers that a Belfast man was shot dead as he threw an explosive have been dismissed by Northern Ireland's former state pathologist.

Professor Jack Crane told an inquest there was no evidence to support military claims that labourer Barney Watt was throwing a petrol bomb or incendiary device when soldiers opened fire almost 50 years ago.

Mr Watt, 28, died in hotly disputed circumstances during public disorder in nationalist Ardoyne in Belfast in February 1971. He was shot in the chest and the buttock.

"There is no evidence to support the contention Mr Watt was shot while throwing an explosive device at military personnel," Professor Crane told Belfast Coroner's Court.

The retired pathologist's evidence to the court on the second day of the inquest contradicts previous claims from soldiers that Mr Watt was throwing a device.

The Watt case is among the oldest outstanding inquests being re-examined following an order from Northern Ireland's Attorney General John Larkin QC.

After examining the evidence and original pathology reports, Professor Crane said he did not believe there were any injuries to indicate Mr Watt had been holding or throwing an explosive device or to suggest he had been propelled into the air by an explosive.

"Throughout the Troubles I have seen many injuries of people who had sustained injuries from throwing a pipe bomb or device.

"There's no evidence at all to suggest this man had been throwing something," he said.

Professor Crane added: " The soldiers' account is not credible."

Mr Watt's widow was in court to listen to proceedings.

A lawyer for the Watt family told the hearing that a witness had described seeing the victim with his hands in the air before he was shot.

On Monday, the inquest heard an account from a soldier known as Sergeant C who said: "He had something in his hand and I gained the impression this object was alight.

"My round struck him as he was turning with the throw.

"The man fell to the ground and as he did so the object he had in his hand exploded and blew him into Chatham Street so that only his upper body was visible."

The victim had been on a night out at a local pigeon club before he was killed.

An Army vehicle - part of an operation to make "snatch squad" arrests - had gone up in flames after it was hit with a nail bomb, but its occupants escaped by a back door.

The victim had a conviction for disorder from before the beginning of the Troubles.

His wife, Teresa Watt, previously told the court: "If there was rioting Barney would have taken part, although he was not involved in any paramilitaries."

She said everybody in the area rioted at that time.