Michael Leonard Murder 1973

British State Fails to Investigate Cop Killers of Donegal Civilian

The Royal Ulster Constabulary gunned down unarmed Donegal civilian, Michael Leonard, on 17th May 1973. Press release below.

The family of Donegal civilian, Michael Leonard, who was shot and killed by a Royal Ulster Constabulary patrol in 1973 are lobbying Irish politicians including Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, and Minister of Justice Helen McEntee, following the failure of the British state to investigate the killing despite the discovery of critical new evidence and assurances to Michael’s family. The 48th anniversary of Michael’s murder occurs today, Monday 17th May 2021.
New evidence which the family presented in 2019 proved that Michael was not shot accidentally with a single shot as the RUC alleged, but deliberately targeted and shot at multiple times by his police killers before he could reach the sanctuary of the border and his home in Pettigo, County Donegal.

British Military archives discovered by the charity Paper Trail recorded that the RUC officers who killed him 200 metres before the border:

“… fired 2 shots at the car which did not stop. They gave chase in a Land Rover and fired another shot which hit him.”

The secret British Military files also included disinformation that Michael had broken through an RUC roadblock and that he and his father were members of the IRA when neither of them were.

The RUC Officers who killed Michael were not even present at his inquest to be questioned but the Coroner summarised police evidence that a single bullet was accidentally discharged and that it was a million to one chance that the victim was in its path. We now know this to be a lie.

Following referrals between the Attorney General’s Office, the Public Prosecution Service, Police Service Northern Ireland and the Office of the Police Ombudsman, where responsibility for the case now sits, the family believes nothing has been done yet to investigate the police killers more than two years after the presentation of the new evidence.
Fr. Joe McVeigh Speaks


Michael’s brother, John Leonard, said:

It has been 48 years since our beloved brother Michael was senselessly murdered by the RUC, shattering our lives. Michael was an innocent, young man with many dreams and aspirations and is still deeply missed every day. We will never ever get over the devastating impact it has had on us as a family. We will never give up in our fight for justice for him and for those who are responsible for his murder to finally be held accountable.

Michael’s cousin Fr. Joe McVeigh said:

“We now know that the RUC deliberately targeted and killed Michael. The RUC then tried to cover up his murder and lied to the Coroner. We presented this critical, new evidence to the Office of the Police Ombudsman and the Attorney General referred it to the Public Prosecution Service and then Police Service Northern Ireland. It remains with the Office of the Police Ombudsman over two years later. The family is disgusted to learn that the British authorities have done absolutely nothing to investigate the murder of an unarmed Irish civilian by its armed forces. Not only are these police killers escaping justice for Michael’s murder, but our family fears they were guilty of other crimes during the conflict.”

Councillor Michael Naughton (Fianna Fáil, Donegal County Council) said:

“I am calling on Minister of Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney TD and Minister for Justice Helen McEntee TD, to request a fresh and transparent inquiry into the murder of Michael Leonard as a matter of urgency. It is coming on 2 years since this case was first brought to Minister Simon Coveney. The Leonard family deserve to get truth and justice for Micheal. It will be 48 years since Michael was murdered, his Mother and Father have since gone to their grave without getting the truth of their beloved son and I think there is a responsibility on the Irish Government to seek truth and justice for the Leonard family. We know the Attorney General of Northern Ireland John Larkin stated that Michael’s murder was not justified, and he referred the case to the Director of Public Prosecutions to be reviewed. I fully support the Leonard Family in their endeavour to get justice.”

Ciarán MacAirt from Paper Trail said:

“Whilst the family remain very sympathetic to the impact of Covid-19 on all our lives and know that many families are being let down by the Office of the Police Ombudsman, they are distraught that there has been a failure to investigate Michael’s murder after two long years. The family has been forced to raise this again with the Irish Government as Michael was an Irish citizen and the British armed forces also lied to it after Michael’s murder. The family will be expecting the Irish Government ensures that Michael’s murder is investigated promptly and thoroughly before the RUC killers go to their grave.”

Padhraic Cunningham of Patrick Fahy & Co Solicitors said:

“The trauma the delay in investigating this matter is visiting on Michael’s family is unimaginable.  It is completely unacceptable, that families are given no timescale whatsoever, in relation to when an investigation might begin, never mind be completed.”

Unarmed civilian, Michael Leonard - Murdered by the RUC
Unarmed civilian Michael Leonard Murdered by the RUC


For further comment, contact Ciarán MacAirt, +44 (0) 2895 818 575 – info@papertrail.pro

For further information on the police murder of the Donegal civilian, read Police Admit To Murder of Michael Leonard

Fr. Joe McVeigh and Paper Trail also released a report called The Murder of Michael Leonard


Follow the Paper Trail.

Receive our articles and research for FREE!

Paper Trail Logo Thumbnail 150 x 150
Scroll to Top