By David Burke.
Marian Brown, a 17-year old teenager, was shot dead in Belfast in June of 1972. For nearly half a century the British Government has denied that she was killed by British soldiers.
Her family campaigned for the truth for five decades with the aid of researchers and lawyers.
Armed with new information from the Historical Enquiries Team report into the case, Ó Muirigh Solicitors, who acted for the Brown family, petitioned the Attorney General for a new inquest in 2018. The petition was successful. After the inquest, Ó Muirigh Solicitors initiated civil proceedings against the British Ministry of Defence (MoD).
Back in 2017, the Coroner’s Office had asked Ciaran MacAirt of Paper Trail to help target archival evidence. This he did and concluded that same year that Ms. Brown had been shot by British soldiers. Paper Trail did not publish its conclusions until this morning lest it interfere with the legal action against the MoD.
The MoD has now settled the action with the victim’s family. The settlement vindicates the effort of all of those involved in this pursuit of justice.
Significantly, the case highlights the injustice of Boris Johnson’s attempts to thwart similar cases through legislation. If Johnson succeeds, relatives of other victims will be denied justice and closure.
MacAirt’s foray into Britain’s archives allowed him to conclude in 2017 “that British Army soldiers poured fire into the area” where Ms. Brown and three other teenagers had been shot.
MacAirt’s also concluded that “either the British Army believed it was firing at gunmen … and the teenagers were in the line of fire; or the British Army patrols and sanger [fortification] were responding to each other’s firing and either shot the teenagers by mistake or targeted them deliberately”.
Paper Trail also felt that the “British Army did not follow its own so-called Yellow Card Rules as the soldier(s) who fired the fatal shots had no clear target, no clear line of sight, and called no warnings”.
A detailed article on the shooting can now be found on the Paper Trail website at:
The report brings to light one particularly distressing aspect of the tragedy:
What makes the killing of Marian Brown more poignant is not only that the British armed forces covered up the circumstances of her death and that her family have fought for two generations for the truth, but also because Marian’s family did not know that she was pregnant at the time.
Her family only discovered that she was carrying a baby when they were both killed when the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) reviewed her post-mortem files 40 years later.
In a heart-breaking interview with Maurice Fitzmaurice in the Mirror, Marian’s brother, Richard, said:
“It’s two people I lost that day… Our mother passed away and she never knew about the grandchild she never had.”