Family of Tobias Molloy, shot dead by a British soldier in 1972, request a fresh inquest from Attorney General of Ireland.
PRESS RELEASE | 28 January 2021
Tobias Molly died on 16th July 1972, aged 18 years, as a result of fatal injuries received when he was struck by a soldier of the 1st Royal Welsh Fusiliers at Lifford Road, Strabane, at the ‘Camel’s Hump’ checkpoint. He was one of three people to die from the use of rubber bullets by the security forces in the north of Ireland.
Mr Molloy was taken to the nearest hospital across the border in Lifford, where he was declared dead.
An inquest was held into the death of Tobias Molly on the 22nd July 1972 in Lifford, County Donegal by Deputy Coroner for East Donegal Mr Larry Coyle, at Lifford Hospital, six days after the incident. There was no inquest held in Northern Ireland.
Tobias Molloy’s mother took a civil action against the Ministry of Defence on behalf of her son. Key extracts from a document dated 5th September 1977 from a Ministry of Defence Legal Secretary, Mrs N. Painter to a number of others, is entitled “Mary Murphy v MOD (for Tobias Molloy deceased)” states:
“Tobias Molloy died after being hit in the chest by a rubber bullet during a riot in Strabane on 16 July 1972.”
“It is not clear from the written statements which soldier fired the shot that hit Tobias Molloy. However it does seem that the round was aimed directly at the youth’s chest rather than being bounced on the ground first. This practice was contrary to our own instructions for the use of baton rounds current at the time (which recommended that rounds be bounced off the ground) and represents a weakness in our case”.
Tobias Molloy was the second of three people to die from the use of rubber bullets during “the troubles”. The first was Francis Rowntree, aged 11 years, who died in April 1972 and the third person to be killed was Thomas Friel, aged 21 years, who died in May 1973.
A fresh inquest was held into the death of Francis Rowntree, following a direction from the Attorney General for Northern Ireland, in November 2017, by Coroner Mr Brian Sherrard who found: “There was no justification for the use of lethal force at the time Francis Rowntree was shot. The force ultimately used far exceeded that which was absolutely necessary to achieve Soldier B’s stated objective.” The Coroner stated: “I am satisfied that the state was fully aware of the potential lethality of the baton round long before Francis’s death. From June 1970 the MOD understood that “Any attempt by any means to hit a rioter hard enough to discourage him significantly is bound to involve some risk of serious injury or possibly even death. (Medical Division, CDE, 16 June 1970.)”.
An application was made by the Molloy family to the Attorney General NI and he determined in 2019 that it was ‘less likely that Mr Molloy died in Northern Ireland than he died in Ireland’ and therefore could not grant a fresh inquest as ‘the jurisdiction of the Coroner in Northern Ireland does not extend to deaths that occur outside Northern Ireland’.
Commenting on the application by the Molloy family our Pádraig Ó Muirigh said:
‘The original inquest proceeded in the absence of a an investigation into the death of Mr Molloy by An Garda Siochána or the RUC. Holding the inquest six days after his death meant there was not a sufficient amount of time for an investigation to be properly conducted. In fact, we received correspondence from An Garda Síochána in 2016 which confirmed that there was no record at all of a Garda investigation into the death.
The investigation carried out by the RUC was manifestly inadequate and the inconsistencies in the statements of soldiers and witness accounts were never challenged by the military investigation or by the RUC. In particular discrepancies over whether Mr Molloy was deliberately targeted and reports that the rubber bullet was aimed directly at Mr Molloy were not properly addressed.
New evidence, including multiple new statements recorded after a press appeal by the Pat Finucane Centre, media reports, a draft HET report and an expert report from Dr Laurence Rocke have been lodged with the Attorney General to support this application.
A fresh inquest could also benefit from the evidence of the potential lethality of the baton round which was addressed in Judge Sherard’s findings in the Francis Rowntree inquest.
I would submit, in the circumstances, that this new evidence makes the holding of a new inquest advisable.
I would also again appeal to any witnesses to this incident to contact our office or the Pat Finucane Centre in Derry.