During the early hours of 6th November 1971, two hundred members of the British Army’s Royal Green Jackets moved into the Creggan Estate in Derry, to search a house in Rathlin Drive, with instructions to arrest any males there.
As they were leaving the area empty-handed a soldier opened fire, shooting dead Kathleen Thompson, a 47-year-old mother of six children. Standing in her garden at 129 Rathlin Drive, Kathleen was killed instantly.
The woman whose house had just been searched later said that she heard an officer telling the soldiers to “get ready to shoot when you get outside” as they were leaving her house.
The British Army claimed that two shots were fired at them and that they had replied with eight shots, one of which killed Kathleen Thompson.
It has since been established that the soldier (soldier 'D') who shot Kathleen Thompson dead, fired eighteen shots himself.
Civilian witnesses claim that no shots were fired at the British Army. Patrick Thompson, Kathleen’s husband, said: “There was no exchange of shots at the time and the only people on the street were soldiers who were firing CS gas.”
A statement released at the time by the Creggan and Foyle Hill Tenants Association read:
“Their (the British Army's) answer has been to change their policy; they have replaced harassment with intimidation and murder. In order to carry out their murderous raid on this area, they sneaked in across the fields and smashed in the door of a tenant’s house. By this time the people in the immediate vicinity had become aware of the army’s presence and came to their doors to see what was going on. They were met by a barrage of filthy language and threats by armed soldiers. Knowing that its presence was now discovered the army decided to withdraw, but not before leaving its mark. A young mother, Mrs Kathleen Thompson, was unfortunate enough to be standing in her garden at this time. The soldiers passed this garden on their way out and one of them gave vent to his frustration by shooting her in the back.”
Kathleen Thompson was shot dead by British soldiers in the Creggan estate in Derry in the early hours of 6th November 1971. A few years ago the Thompson family approached the Pat Finucane Centre to ask for support in their search for truth. It soon emerged that no proper investigation was ever carried out by the RUC and to make matters worse, the PSNI then claimed that the investigation file had disappeared. Hours before a TV documentary was screened in 2002, the PSNI said that a file did in fact exist.
The Pat Finucane Centre accompanied the family to a meeting at PSNI HQ in Derry following promises made that the file would be disclosed to the family. At that meeting the PSNI refused to disclose the file as promised and the Thompson family walked out in disgust. As late as 18th February 2003 the Minister for Victims, Des Browne MP, claimed in correspondence that a full police investigation had been carried out. Solicitors acting on behalf of the family lodged a Judicial Review in the High Court claiming that the Secretary of State was under an obligation to carry out an Article 2 investigation as required by the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act. On 28th February 2003 judgement was delivered at the High Court granting the application for Judicial Review.
The judgement of
28th February 2003 should have major implications for many cases where
British soldiers and RUC officers were responsible for murders. Although
it is expected that the British Secretary of State will appeal the
judgement, campaigners believe this decision may mark a turning point
for victims of state murder and violence.
Soldier to face murder charges?
The soldier who shot dead 47-year-old mother of six Kathleen Thompson in November 1971 while she was standing in her garden in Derry could be charged with murder.
The possibility of proceedings against 'Soldier D' of the Royal Green Jackets emerged after a hearing in the High Court in Belfast today.
Lawyers for the Thompson family have applied for a judicial review into the failure of the DPP to provide "full and sufficient" reasons for the decision not to prosecute the soldier, who has admitting firing eighteen shots during the midnight raid on another house in Derry's Creggan Estate.
Mr Justice Girvan reserved judgement.
More disappointment for family of Kathleen Thompson
An application for a judicial review of the failure of the Director of Public Prosecutions to provide sufficient reasons for not prosecuting a soldier over the shooting of Kathleen Thompson was dismissed in the High Court in Belfast today.
The 47-year-old mother of six was shot dead by 'soldier D' in the back garden of her home at Rathlin Drive in the Creggan area of Derry on 6th November 1971.
Her daughter, Marie Louise Thompson, brought the case following another judicial review last year, when it was held that the authorities had failed to properly investigate the killing after it was revealed that a patrol of Royal Green Jackets had been interviewed by the Royal Military Police instead of the RUC.
Mr Justice Girvan said today that decision not to prefer charges followed a process involving the DPP, his deputy and a senior lawyer within the department.
"They had clearly made a professional and considered judgement that the evidence available was insufficient to afford a reasonable prospect of obtaining a conviction, the established test for prosecution," said the judge.
He said it was also decided that there was no reasonable prospect of rebutting the defence that the shots fired by 'soldier D' constituted the use of reasonable force in self-defence.
Mr Justice Girvan said this despite the fact that the four soldiers in the patrol had told their military police questioners that they saw a 'man' holding what 'appeared' to be a .22 rifle, a shot was 'probably' fired from the rifle and 'appeared' to originate from the rear of Mrs Thompson's home.
Mr Justice Girvan declared: "I am unpersuaded that there is any basis for the proposition that the decision not to prosecute was irrational.
"The decision followed consideraton of the case at the highest level...and was well within the range of decisions which could properly have been made by a reasonable prosecuting authority properly directing itself."
Afterwards Miss Thompson said: "Of course, we are all very disappointed by the judge's decision and our lawyers are studying the judgement to see if we can appeal."
She added: "How can the self-defence argument be described as rational when no proper investigation took place? We are not giving up the fight, in fact this decision has made us a bit more determined to carry on."
Paul O'Connor, of the Pat Finucane Centre in Derry which supported Miss Thompson's case, said the judge held that the decison not to prosecute should have been appealed within three months.
But, he said, it was only last year at the Bloody Sunday Inquiry that it was revealed there had been a secret agreement between the GOC and the Chief Constable, that soldiers involved in fatal shootings would be interviewed by the military police, not the RUC.
"The inadequacy of the investigation was therefore not known to the Thompson family so how could they have appealed within three months?" he asked.
"This is one of the main planks in the original challenge and the family is determined to pursue it until they get justice."
Lifting A Dark Cloud: The Kathleen Thompson Case
Friday 10th December is International Human Rights Day. The Pat Finucane Centre is marking this occasion by launching a documentary video about the killing of Kathleen Thompson by the British army.
During the early hours of November 6th 1971 members of the Royal Green Jackets moved into Creggan to search a house in Rathlin Drive. As they were leaving the area a soldier opened fire shooting dead Kathleen Thompson, a 47-year-old mother of six children who was standing in her back garden at 129 Rathlin Drive.
She was killed instantly.
The investigation into her death was conducted by the Royal Military Police and took a mere 2 hours.
No soldier was ever charged with her killing.
The inquest into her death delivered an open verdict.
It was revealed at the Bloody Sunday Inquiry that from early 1970 until November 1972 an agreement was reached between the Chief Constable of the RUC and the General Officer Commanding of the British Army about the investigation of lethal force incidents involving British soldiers.
The agreement was that the Royal Military Police would tend to military witnesses and the RUC to civilian witnesses in the investigation of offences and incidents.
Soldiers were not interviewed under caution and were treated only as eyewitnesses, and according to a former RMP officer, who gave evidence at the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, “it was not a very formal procedure. . . we usually discussed the incident over sandwiches and tea”.
In February 2003, following legal action by the Thompson family, a High Court judge ruled that no effective investigation had been carried out into her death.
Judge Kerr stated that the interview of the soldier by the RMP did not satisfy the duty imposed on the police at the time to properly investigate this fatal shooting. He said, “in my view it was not open to them [RUC] to delegate that critical responsibility to another agency such as the Royal Military Police”.
In recent correspondence from the Ministry of Defence to the Pat Finucane Centre, it stated that the period in which the agreement applied was from September 1970 until September 1973.
During this time the British army was responsible for 154 deaths.
As a result of this agreement, which was ruled illegal by judge Kerrr in the Kathleen Thompson case, this means that 154 families were denied the basic right of an effective investigation into the death of their loved ones.
The Kathleen Thompson story reflects the stories of similar families who lost a loved one at the hands of state forces, and especially those whose deaths were discussed over “tea and sandwiches.
anniversary of ‘a remarkable woman of Ireland’
Foyle MLA Mary Nelis described Creggan woman Kathleen Thompson as “a remarkable woman of Ireland” when she spoke at an event to mark the 40th anniversary of her death at the weekend.
The 47 year-old mother of six was shot dead by the British army in November 1971 as soldiers raided homes in the area.
Relatives and friends of Mrs Thompson attended an anniversary Mass in St Columba’s Church, Long Tower, on Friday and afterwards held a memorial event in the Gasyard Centre. Family members of other victims of state violence also attended the event.
Mrs Nelis, who lived in Creggan at the time of the shooting, was the main speaker at the event and was introduced by Mrs Thompson’s son, Davy.
“Kate Thompson was 47 years old and the mother of six children whose ages ranged from seven to eighteen, when her life was cut short by a hail of bullets. She would never have described herself as a ‘remarkable woman’ but the attendance at her funeral and the hundreds of floral tributes were testimony to the grief felt by the community, at the loss of a woman who for all of her short life, stood up for what she believed to be right.
“Kate Thompson was a woman of her time. A devout Catholic and Irishwoman, her faith and her love of Ireland were inseparable. She lived in a time when the vast majority of Catholics were ascribed as second class citizens by the British /Unionist regime in the 6 Counties. Religion would be the tool used to institutionalise division and inequality,” Mrs Nelis said.
She also described Mrs Thompson as a strong supporter of the civil rights movement. “Like most of the Long Tower community, Kate welcomed the Civil Rights Movement and with her neighbours marched behind the banners reading one man one vote. She was saddened and alarmed later, by the arrests of many of the young people who like herself, were standing up for their rights and she was among the women who picketed the Courthouse in Bishop Street, when they were charged,” she explained.
Mrs Nelis said that the Creggan woman was a product of their times and campaigned against injustice wherever she saw it. “During the Free Derry period Kate along with other women, notably Roisin Keenan Barton, Nellie Mc Glinchey, Muriel Barr, Helen Morrison, Jeanne to name but a few, set up the Woman’s Action Committee. They fed the vigilantes, and generally helped families in distress who needed support. Along with the late Maire Drumm they protested the ill treatment and discrimination of Catholic workers in the Gallagher tobacco factory in Belfast,” she said.
Describing the night Mrs Thompson was killed, Mrs Nelis said; “On the night of her death in November 1971, Kate and Patsy with two of their children were watching a Western film on TV. The two youngest children aged six and eight were in bed and the two eldest were visiting friends. Unknown to the family the British Army were raiding the home of a neighbour across the street. The first the family were aware of the events outside, was when two canisters of gas landed in their back yard and gas began to seep into the house.
“While Patsy rushed to secure the house, Kate went into the backyard to alert her neighbours to the happenings in the street. It was typical of the courage of a woman who all her life put everyone in front of herself.
“Patricia Thompson who was eight at the time, recalls being awakened from sleep by a lot of noise. She came down to find her father sitting on the stairs sobbing. She remembers that sound of uncontrollable sobbing, to this day,” she explained.
The former MLA also said Mrs Thompson’s death took its toll on the entire family circle. “Patsy Thompson buried his wife and the family got on with their lives. His priority after was to care for and protect his children. The children recall that his hair turned grey and he aged almost overnight. “He never complained or sought an explanation for his wife’s death and no one came to offer any. In death as in life, Kate in the eyes of the State was still a second class citizen.
“In the murder of Kate Thompson, the family not only lost their Mother but their grandmother who suffered a massive stroke on hearing the news, died shortly afterwards. Their third son died a young man and some years later Patsy Thompson joined the woman he loved so much.
“Kate would never see her children marry, would never be with her grandchildren or great grandchildren in the important milestones of their lives. Nor would she ever realise her loss to the community she inspired,” she said.
The event was also attended by Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, and Fr Michael Canny, together with representatives of Cumanh, who displayed the Relatives For Justice memory quilt.
Paul O’Connor from the Pat Finucane Centre gave an update on the renewed probe into Mrs Thompson’s shooting and the event was brought to a close with Sara Griffin singing ‘No Frontiers.’