The family of a sixteen-year-old boy shot dead by the British Army in Lenadoon in 1972 is mounting a legal challenge against the PSNI’s Historical Enquiries Team (HET) after it emerged that the inquiry into his killing was led by a former RUC man.
Gerard Gibson died from a single gunshot wound to the head in Carrigart Avenue on July 11, 1972.
At the time of Gerard’s killing the British Army and the RUC claimed that he had been armed and that he died as a result of his gun exploding – but both claims were later discredited.
The HET inquiry concluded that it was impossible to identify the soldier who fired the shot that killed the teenager. Gerard’s family, however, have rejected the HET’s conclusions.
Gerard’s sister, Margaret Gibson, said: “We engaged with the HET in good faith regarding Gerard’s killing. In all of the HET literature they talk about putting families at the heart of their process. We can honestly say that our family was never at the heart of the HET process, it was quite the opposite.
“The HET failed to trace and interview key witnesses. Our family then traced these witnesses, spoke to them and asked them to cooperate with the HET. All witnesses had a clear recollection of Gerard’s killing and were willing to assist and still the HET refused to speak to them. They even failed to trace and interview the soldiers who shot Gerard. This to us is completely unacceptable.
“At the time of Gerard’s killing the RUC failed to conduct an investigation, adding insult to injury when they falsely stated that Gerard was armed and that he had died as a result of this gun exploding. All witnesses contest that allegation and the British Army have said that they shot Gerard. Further, the HET, in keeping with the RUC version, has refused to disclose the ballistic evidence.”
Margaret added that it was only on the conclusion of the HET report that it was disclosed to the family that the person tasked with examining Gerard’s killing was himself a former RUC officer.
“Had we have known this from the outset we would have objected in the strongest possible way,” she said. “Personally, I feel we were treated with contempt during the HET process.”
Mark Thompson from Relatives for Justice, who are assisting the Gibson family, described the HET as “fundamentally flawed”.
He continued: “The killing of Gerard Gibson demonstrates that failing and is symptomatic of the wider problem that lies at the core of the HET process, which is an inability to function impartially on controversial killings carried out by the state. The situation remains that the state is investigating itself and this is unacceptable.”
Mr Thompson said he believed the case of Gerard Gibson was “not an isolated incident”.
“There has yet to be a British soldier held to account for a killing despite the HET examining hundreds of cases and where evidence clearly indicates that people were deliberately shot dead,” he said.
Lawyers acting on behalf of the Gibson family are now seeking a judicial review and are asking the courts to order a new inquiry into the death of Gerard Gibson.