Widow to get £100,000 in damages for husband’s 1971 killing

The widow of a Belfast man shot dead by the British Army in 1971 is to receive £100,000 in damages.

Barney and Teresa Watt on their wedding day
Barney and Teresa Watt on their wedding day

Barney Watt, 28, was fatally wounded during public disorder close to his home in the nationalist Ardoyne area of the city.

His wife, Teresa, sued the Ministry of Defence and the chief constable of the PSNI after a coroner ruled that the soldiers’ use of lethal force was not justified.

Mrs Watt’s civil action over the killing and alleged flaws in a subsequent police investigation has now been settled, her lawyers confirmed.

Teresa Watt, the widow of Barney Watt, had sued the Ministry of Defence and the chief constable of the PSNI

Terms announced at the High Court include a £100,000 pay-out.

Mr Watt died in disputed circumstances amid rioting in February 1971.

He was hit by gunfire at the corner of Butler Street and Chatham Street after leaving a club where he had been socialising with friends.

Soldiers had claimed that he was shot while throwing a metal object at military personnel.

The original inquest in July 1971 returned an open verdict.

But a second tribunal into the death was ordered by Attorney General John Larkin QC following submissions by the family’s legal representatives.

In April 2017 Coroner Joe McCrisken said Mr Watt was not a member of any paramilitary organisation.

He also dismissed claims that the dead man had been holding an explosive device when he was shot.

Based on those findings, Mrs Watt’s action was due to be heard at the High Court in Belfast.

It was confirmed on Tuesday, however, that a resolution has been reached.

Following the outcome her lawyer, Eoin Murphy said: “Mrs Watt has campaigned tirelessly to ensure her husband’s name was cleared of any misconduct and to apportion liability for his death on those responsible.

“This admission of wrongdoing by the Ministry of Defence and PSNI, their acceptance of liability and payment of damages, is vindication for both her and Mr Barney Watt.”

Mr Murphy added: “The conclusion of this case will hopefully bring some semblance of closure for the family.”