An undercover soldier told a court yesterday how he opened fired on two terrorist suspects as he believed his “life was in immediate danger’’ seconds after a bomb attack on an RUC station.
Known only as Soldier A, the military witness gave his evidence from behind a curtain at Belfast Crown Court at the trial of Paul Campbell.
The 41-year-old, of The Mills, Coalisland, Co Tyrone, has been charged with causing an explosion likely to endanger life, and possessing an improvised explosive device with intent to endanger life, on March 26, 1997.
Campbell, who was 19 at the time of the attack, has denied both offences.
The prosecution claims that Campbell was one of two men who launched the attack, that he was shot by a soldier as he fled from the scene, and that he jumped into a priest’s car that was parked nearby.
A co-accused, Gareth Doris, who was also shot in the aftermath of the bomb attack, was later convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
The military witness told the trial that on March 26, 1997, he attended a briefing and was told to carry out a “surveillance operation in Coalisland against a known terrorist”.
He told Belfast Recorder Judge David McFarland, who is trying the case in a Diplock-style hearing, that five vehicles were deployed to the town containing seven soldiers.
As he was carrying out his surveillance operation from his parked car, the witness recalled: “I saw two individuals running, not sprinting, and carefully carrying something in their right hands but I couldn’t see what that was. They were wearing dark clothing and their faces were obscured.’’
Soldier A said the two suspects were running down an alleyway which led to the police station.
“It was at this point I decided to get out of my car and see what was going on. My intention was to go to the alleyway but I didn’t get that far. When I got to the entrance to the heritage centre I heard a couple of explosions ... two loud explosions and a flash of light.’’
He told the court that after the explosion “and within a matter of seconds, two individuals came sprinting out of the alleyway and were making good their escape’’.
He recalled: “I shouted very clearly ‘Army, Army, Army’. The two individuals separated and the individual, Mr Doris, continued to run towards me.
“The second individual ran to the right. I drew my Browning 9mm pistol and identified myself clearly I was a soldier.
“While they were running they were both rummaging in their waistbands. I believed they were both pulling weapons from their waistbands.
“I clearly believed my life was in immediate danger. I fired two warning shots over their heads.
“I shouted ‘Army, Army, Army’. Mr Doris was sprinting towards me even though I had identified myself as a soldier and had fired warning shots.
“I fired two shots and hit Mr Doris in the upper right quandrant of his body towards his shoulder and he fell down.’’
He said he saw the second individual “sprinting away’’ and shouted “‘Stop, stop’. But he didn’t stop.’’
Soldier A recalled seeing this suspect running towards a parked white car and fired “one or two rounds’’ at him before he got into the back of the car which “made good its escape’’, adding: “I was not aware if I had hit him.’’