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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Sister of teenage Bloody Sunday victim wants to meet his killer

The sister of a teenage shop worker shot from behind as he crawled away from soldiers on Bloody Sunday has said she would like to meet his killer.

Jean Hegarty’s brother Kevin McElhinney was 17 when he was shot dead during a civil rights march in Derry in 1972.

After learning no paratroopers will be prosecuted over his death, Ms Hegarty, 70, said she would ask his killer why he did it.

She said: “I would love to know what was going through his mind when he pulled that trigger. What motivation he had to do that.

“I mean, if the opportunity presented itself I think I would take it and ask those questions.”

Ms Hegarty was among the relatives of the 13 killed and 15 injured, who were informed that just one of 17 soldiers would be charged for his involvement in Bloody Sunday.

She said while she was disappointed for her brother and the others who did not receive news of a charge in their loved ones’ cases, she was happy for those who got “good news”.

Soldier F will face charges for the murders of James Wray and William McKinney and the attempted murders of Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe Mahon and Patrick O’Donnell.

Ms Hegarty said she felt she needed to immediately approach some of those families “to assure them they had our complete support” after they were briefed by prosecutors at the City Hotel in Derry on Thursday.

She said: “There’s a feeling of unity that would transcend personal feelings (of disappointment).”

Forty-seven years ago on her journey home from Canada, where she was living when Kevin was killed, Ms Hegarty said she had wanted to kill the soldier responsible for shooting her brother.

But the sight of her “beaten” father at his son’s funeral quickly removed her desire for revenge, she added.

She said: “On the plane on the way back from Canada, I plotted to kill the soldier that killed Kevin.

“And I had a sort of moment at the funeral mass, I looked across to see how my mammy was coping, and my father was a beaten man.

“And I just thought if I do anything to that soldier, there’s another beaten man. And so revenge left me then, I have no desire for revenge. All it would bring is another hurt family.”

Asked if she believes the soldier concerned with her brother’s death has remorse, she said: “I would hope so.”

She added: “Kevin’s dead. He resides up in the cemetery. A prosecution or no prosecution, nothing is actually going to change the salient fact that Kevin lost his life.”

Ms Hegarty will discuss with her other siblings what their next steps are, including whether they can and want to challenge the non-prosecution decision.

Solicitors for another family have sent a letter to the Attorney General for Northern Ireland claiming Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson may have jeopardised the chances of a fair trial for soldier F.

Lawyers acting for the family of William Nash, whose death no soldier is to be charged over, have taken issue with the comments made by Mr Williamson after the announcement, in which he referred to safeguards to ensure members of the armed forces “are not unfairly treated”.

Phoenix Law said it appears “Mr Williamson seeks to assert that the decision to prosecute, and the subsequent prosecution, is in some way unfair or that the accused has been, or is being, unfairly treated”.

A Government spokesman said the safeguards referred to are “for how we deal with wider legacy issues, not specific legal cases, which it would be inappropriate to comment on”.

The attorney general’s office declined to comment.

Meanwhile a veterans group founder has denied reports a mass rally is being planned in Derry to protest against the Public Prosecution Service decision to charge soldier F.

Grenadier Guard Alan Barry, of the Justice for Northern Ireland Veterans group, said: “We won’t be marching in Londonderry, it would be a fruitless exercise.”

Picture: Jean Hegarty whose brother Kevin McElhinney, 17, was shot dead on Bloody Sunday, poses in the Museum of Free Derry. (Liam McBurney/PA).