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Friday 28 October 2016

Widow sues Army's top officer over 1973 paramilitary killing

Lesley-Anne McKeown

Published 28/04/2015 | 14:04

Major General Sir Frank Kitson Credit: Belfast Telegraph
Major General Sir Frank Kitson Credit: Belfast Telegraph

One of Northern Ireland's most senior Army officers is to be sued over the death of a Catholic man in Northern Ireland more than 40 years ago.

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Eugene "Paddy" Heenan (47) was killed in February 1973 when loyalist paramilitaries threw a grenade at the minibus carrying him and 14 others to a building site in east Belfast.

Mr Heenan's widow, Mary, is now taking legal action against the Ministry of Defence and General Frank Kitson, claiming her husband died because of negligence and misfeasance in office.

It marks the first time a retired senior soldier has been personally sued over alleged actions during the Troubles.

Solicitor Kevin Winters said: "This week we have issued proceedings against the MoD and Frank Kitson on behalf of our clients, the relatives of Patrick Heenan."

"These are civil proceedings for damages but their core value is to obtain truth and accountability for our clients as to the role of the British Army and Frank Kitson in the counter-insurgency operation in the north of Ireland during the early part of the conflict and the use of loyalist paramilitary gangs to contain the republican-nationalist threat through terror, manipulation of the rule of law, infiltration and subversion, all core to the Kitson military doctrine endorsed by the British Army and the British Government at the time."

General Kitson has been named as a co-defendant in the legal action on grounds that he and others used agents knowing, or should have known, that they would take part in criminal actions.

Court papers claim Gen Kitson is "liable personally for negligence and misfeasance in public office", because, in creating his policy, he was "reckless as to whether state agents would be involved in murder".

Ex-soldier Albert "Ginger" Baker received a life sentence for killing Mr Heenan and three others but later claimed to have links to British intelligence.

Baker was a member of the outlawed Ulster Defence Association (UDA) at the time, and known to be a leading member of the so-called "Romper Room" gang.

Mr Heenan had been working as a foreman at a Catholic school.

Belfast Telegraph

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