As his family has long believed, the RUC did murder Michael Leonard.
In an astounding admission, the Police Service of Northern Ireland has admitted that the shooting dead of civilian Michael Leonard on 17th May 1973 by members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary was in fact murder.
Read Connla Young’s front page report in the Irish News here.
This horrific admission follows the Paper Trail discovery of critical new evidence which proved that the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) patrol fired three deliberate shots at a car driven by civilian Michael Leonard and not one accidental discharge as the police testified at the original inquest in October 1973.
The critical new evidence records deliberate, multiple shots and an attempt to criminalize Michael and his family as members of the proscribed Irish Republican Army. One of several pieces of evidence recorded in a 3 Brigade Operations Log in the minutes and hours after his murder states:
“He drove off in his car and the police 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 shots were fired at 1750 hours, Michael Jospeh Leonard… died at the scene… report says he was PIRA [Provisional Irish Republican Army]”
This new information was discovered by researcher Ciarán MacAirt of the charity Paper Trail (Legacy Archive Research) in high-level British military operations logs and documents in the National Archives, Kew, London.
Paper Trail has been working closely with Fr. Joe McVeigh, a cousin of Michael, and the family’s solicitor, Pat Fahy.
We have helped Fr. Joe compile and author a ground-breaking report into the murder of Michael Leonard which you can download and read for yourself.
At its launch in Conway Mill, Belfast, on the 46th anniversary of Michael’s murder Fr. Joe published a letter from the Attorney General which stated that he has referred Michael’s killing to Director of Public Prosecutions. In it, he said:
“There was clearly no justification for the shooting at Mr Leonard whether by way of warning or otherwise and the posthumous attempts to blacken his character are despicable.”
Fr. Joe has also appealed to Pope Francis for support of the family’s campaign and has since received a warm reply from the Papal Nuncio to Ireland.
Michael Leonard was 24 years of age and engaged to be married to Mena Gallagher, when he was shot dead by the RUC while driving his car near the Fermanagh/Donegal border. He was a farmer and cattle-dealer, living in County Donegal.
An RUC spokesperson testified on behalf of the RUC patrol members at the inquest and told the Coroner that the officers who shot Michael knew him and knew he had been disqualified from driving but that he failed to stop when ordered and they gave chase in their Land Rover.
The RUC spokesperson claimed that one of the police officers was attempting to fire a warning shot at the car when the RUC driver of the Land Rover swerved and caused the accidental firing of the gun. This accidental discharge hit Michael in the back and he died at the scene just before the border.
Author and Activist, Fr. Joe McVeigh
Fr. Joe said:
““I am glad to hear… that the PSNI are now seeing it as we have always seen the killing of Michael – as murder, as blatant murder, premeditated killing and therefore murder.”
“There have always been questions arising from Michael’s killing which were never answered. The Inquest which I attended was a complete farce. None of the police present at the shooting were present at the Inquest. Instead a senior RUC officer stood in to offer an explanation. The Coroner returned a verdict of ‘death by misadventure’.”
“The Attorney General for Northern Ireland in a recent letter to family solicitor, Pat Fahy, stated that the killing of Michael was totally unjustified and that the attempt ‘to blacken his name afterwards was despicable’.
“I hope to get support especially from within the Church in our search for truth and justice for Michael. The family demands an immediate criminal investigation and new inquest.”
Paper Trail’s Ciaran MacAirt said:
“This is vindication for a bereaved family that has had to shoulder not only the grief of losing Michael to murder by those who should have defended his basic human rights, but also the lies that the British Armed Forces spread in order to pervert the course of justice.”
“Before Michael’s family had even buried their loved one, the British state buried the truth. It should be noted that the archives prove that this was not a low-level cover-up involving just killer cops in a Land Rover. The true story of why the police executed Michael was reported to the resident British Army battalion which then reported it to Brigade and then to Headquarters Northern Ireland. HQNI had in situ an RUC liaison officer who reported directly to RUC Headquarters at Knock. The guilty RUC officers would also have recorded the loss of three bullets back at their station.”
“So, the lies told to the media, the Coroner at the Inquest and the Irish Government regarding the murder of an Irish citizen was managed and controlled at every level between the British Army and RUC.”
“The Irish Government now has a duty to seek the prosecution of every one those involved if they are still alive and to demand that the British Government hands over all of the files it has buried until Paper Trail discovered the truth.”
“We will be working with Fr. Joe McVeigh and his family to help them if and when they need our support.”
“What we all fear now is that the killer cops who killed Michael and covered up the crime, killed others and got away with murder.”
Family solicitor, Pat Fahy, was also the family’s legal representative at the Inquest. He said:
Michael was killed deliberately and unjustifiably. Therefore, the Inquest was a sham and the Coroner did not have the full facts in front of him.”
“There was no single, accidental ‘million-to-one shot’.
“These British state records prove that there were three shots.”
“If the Coroner had known this, he would not have reached a finding of misadventure.”
Read The Murder of Michael Leonard by Fr. Joe McVeigh, researched and compiled by Paper Trail.
? Listen: Fr. Joe McVeigh remembers Michael at the Ballymurphy March for Truth in August 2019.
The following day, the PSNI flip-flopped and sais that it had inaccurately reported the classification of Michael’s killing as “murder”. Read here…