THE FAMILY of Michael Leonard, who was shot dead by the RUC almost 50 years ago have called for a fresh inquest into the 24-year-old’s death after new evidence emerged suggesting his killing had not been properly investigated.
Pettigo man Mr Leonard was shot by the RUC around 200m from the Donegal border at Letter on May 17th, 1973. He had been a disqualified driver at the time.
Afterwards the officers claimed he had failed to stop at a checkpoint and that they had fired a single shot at his car, which resulted in his death. In evidence heard at a 1973 inquest, an officer said the shot was fired accidentally after their car “took a violent turn.”
Last year the local Council passed a motion calling for a fresh inquest.
Then councillor Siobahn Currie, who had brought the motion, called on the Police Ombudsman to carry out an immediate criminal investigation into the actions of those in the Police Land Rover that had followed Mr Leonard and from which shots were fired, and for all police and military records relating to the killing to be released.
“There was no checkpoint, that is an acknowledged fact,” Ms Currie said at the time. “We know now that three shots were fired.”
Now, new evidence has been uncovered by research charity Paper Trail also appears to contradict the RUC claim that a single shot was fired.
“[Mr Leonard] drove off in his car and the police fired two shots at the vehicle, which did not stop,” stated an army intelligence summary from May 22, 1973.
“The police followed up in a Land Rover and fired one more shot which struck Leonard, who later died.”
The new documents include another British army log which also does not mention a shot being fired accidentally.
“The RUC gave chase and as they were trying to overtake Leonard he turned around and made a motion as if going for a weapon,” stated the army situation report, from May 18th, 1973. “The RUC fired one shot, fatally wounding Leonard.”
Speaking to the Irish News last week, Mr Leonard’s cousin Fr Joe McVeigh, who is part of the Time for Truth campaign, said the RUC had killed an unarmed Irish citizen.
“This new evidence highlights the failure of British authorities to investigate the RUC [killing] of an unarmed Irish citizen. There must be a new and proper inquest.”
Paper Trail’s Ciarán MacAirt told the paper the new evidence suggested Mr Leonard’s killing had not been properly investigated.
A PSNI spokesman said the matter was currently with the Police Ombudsman and they would not be commenting further at this time.
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