The murder of Daniel Barrett

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FreeIreland

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Jul 18, 2002, 10:19:24 AM7/18/02
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Daniel Barrett 15years, Havana Court, Ardoyne, north Belfast, shot
dead sitting on the garden wall of his home on 9 July 1981, by members
of the British army's Welsh Guards.

Daniel was the second oldest of a family with four children. He was
attending St Gabriel's Intermediate School on the Crumlin Road at the
time of his death. Daniel's parents described their son as a normal
boisterous 15-year-old teenager, who liked the girls and had plenty of
friends. They said his favourite pastimes were playing pool, going to
discos, and playing his records.

On the Thursday evening, 9 July, Danny had played pool with friends
until 7pm. He then returned home and watched 'Top of the Pops' on
television until 8pm. When the programme was over he went to a local a
disco along with some of his friends. The disco was empty so the
youths left and returned to the Barrett home. As they made their way
back to Havana Court there was some minor stone throwing taking place
in the Ardoyne area and a couple of shots were heard. Danny's father
speaking about the events of that evening to Relatives for Justice
said although there was some stone throwing at the bottom of Brompton
Park all was quiet in Havana Court.

The street violence in Ardoyne area on 9 July had been taking place
sporadically since the previous day when Joe McDonnell, one of the
H-Block hunger strikers in Long Kesh, died in the prison hospital. He
was fifth of the ten men who were to die in Long Kesh in 1981,
protesting against the withdrawal of political status and the
brutality of the prison regime.

Havana Court, where the Barrett's lived, was in 1981 a small square of
recently built red brick terrace houses with small gardens surrounded
by two-foot high brick walls. The back yard walls of the houses in
Havana Court ran parallel with the back walls of a similar row of
newly built houses in Flax Street, which faced directly up Brompton
Park. The main road access into to Havana Court was via Flax Street.
The old Ewart's Mill in Flax Street, which had been used continuously
as a barrack for British soldiers for over ten years, dominated the
area. On top of the mill were several military observation posts
manned by soldiers and equipped with sophisticated cameras. One such
observation post was situated on a part of the mill directly
overlooking Havana Court, giving the soldiers inside the post a clear
view of the entire length of the small street and the section of Flax
Street that backed on to it.

After he returned to his home from the disco Danny and his friends sat
about the front garden talking. It was a bright clear summer's
evening, and as they sat and chatted they could heard the sound
trouble at Brompton Park, were minor rioting was still continuing and
plastic bullets being fired by British Crown forces. At one point came
the sound of several gunshots and the youths ran from the garden into
the Barrett home. They remained indoors for some time until things had
quietened down before they came out again. When they re-emerged from
the house Danny sat on the garden wall just outside the front door,
one of his friends next to him. The two friends faced the main access
road leading from Flax Street and Ewart's Mill beyond, with one of the
military posts on its roof clearly visible. Mr Barrett stood in the
doorway along with another of Danny's friends, while yet another
friend stood near the garden gate. Suddenly there was a further burst
of gunfire and one of Danny's friends shouted to him to get down.
Danny shouted back 羨ch it's alright.' Moments later a single shot
rang out and Danny fell backwards over the wall into a neighbour's
garden.

Mr Barrett at first thought Danny had deliberately thrown himself back
off the wall to find cover, but when he looked over the wall he saw
his son was losing a lot of blood. Mr Barrett knew then that his son
had been shot. He immediately leapt over the garden wall but
discovered his son was unconscious and 疎ppeared to be dead.' He
whispered an act of contrition into his son's ear and held him in his
arms. He tried to help him his son, pulling of his shirt and using it
to stem the flow of blood as they waited for an ambulance.
When the ambulance arrived Danny was quickly placed in the vehicle and
it sped off towards the Mater Hospital on the Crumlin Road, not more
than a mile from the Barrett home. To reach the Crumlin Road the
ambulance had to pass along Flax Street where British soldiers,
operating a permanent checkpoint outside Ewart's Mill stopped it. The
soldiers demanded the names and details of all those inside the
ambulance before allowing it to proceed. The vehicle travelled a short
distance along Flax Street when it was stopped again by British
soldiers demanding the same details. Despite the protests of the
ambulance crew the vehicle was held up for several more minutes. The
soldiers then informed the ambulance crew that they would escort the
ambulance to the hospital. However, the ambulance had only turned on
to the Crumlin Road from Flax Street when an Royal Ulster Constabulary
mobile patrol stopped it. The British army escort made no attempt to
explain the situation and drove off. The RUC members entered the
ambulance and demanded all the same details the British soldiers had
already obtained. When they had finished questioning the people in the
ambulance the RUC patrol escorted it to the hospital.

The Mater Hospital was contacted and informed of the situation and had
a medical team waiting the arrival of the ambulance at its front
gates. Danny was pronounced dead in the back of the ambulance. The RUC
patrol asked the neighbour accompanying the dead youth to identify his
body, which he did, and Danny Barrett was taken to the morgue.

Shortly after the shooting a large force of RUC and British soldiers
arrived at the Barrett home and carried out an extensive searched of
the house. The home of one of Danny's friends was also searched. The
following morning forensic experts examined the scene of the shooting.
The forensic experts told Mr Barrett the shot that killed his son came
from the direction of the British army observation post on top of
Ewart's Mill.

An inquest into the killing of Danny Barrett took place in August
1992. The British soldiers involved in the shooting attended the
hearing, but their names were not disclosed or made known to the
Barrett family and were identified as soldier's 羨' and 腺'. A member
of the RUC read out their statements for them. Soldier 羨', who was
responsible for shooting Danny, said that shots had been fired from
Havana Court and through the sights of his rifle he saw a person whom
he had believed to be a gunman. He said he fired a single shot and saw
a man fall. Soldier 'B' in his statement supported soldier 'A'.

An RUC member in an armoured vehicle in Brompton Park said he saw
puffs of smoke which he believed were gunfire coming from a spot 70
yards from the Barrett house. Both the RUC and the Ministry of Defence
accepted the dead boy was not the gunman. The solicitor representing
the Barrett family described the boy's death as 壮ummary execution.'

The jury returned an open verdict, adding a rider making it clear that
船anny Barrett was not the gunman nor was he involved in the riotous
situation which prevailed at the time.'

During the inquest Mr Barrett, unable to control his anger and rage at
seeing one of the men involved in killing his son, leapt on top of
soldier 'B' as he passed him in the courtroom. Moment's later soldier
腺' had to be assisted from the courtroom.

Some time later the Northern Ireland Department of Public Prosecutions
said that following an RUC investigation into the shooting it had
decided not to prosecute any of the British soldiers involved.

No British soldiers were ever charged in connection with the killing
of Danny Barrett.

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