Category: Archive

Soldiers’ release rankles murder victim’s family

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Anne Cadwallader

BELFAST — There was a furious reaction in Northern Ireland nationalist circles to the early release, after six years in jail, of two British soldiers convicted of murdering a Catholic teenager six years ago.

The two Scots Guards have returned to Britain where they are on leave while their regiment decides whether they should be expelled. They remained soldiers during their imprisonment, despite being convicted murderers.

Mark Wright and James Fisher were convicted of shooting dead Peter McBride, a 19-year-old Catholic, as he was running away from them in the mainly nationalist New Lodge Road district on Sept. 4, 1992.

SDLP assemblyman Alban Maginness, who represents the area where the dead man lived, said it was inappropriate to release the two soldiers before even the minimum required for life sentence prisoners had been served.

He said they had been given preferential treatment, and that this meant no British soldier has ever served a life sentence in the North over the whole length of the Troubles. The British Army has killed 309 people over the last 30 years.

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There was great anger and disappointment in the community, said Maginness, creating the view that British soldiers are licensed to kill.

The British Army, he said, is the only army in the world that readmits convicted murderers into its ranks, calling it an international scandal.

The trial judge ruled that the two soldiers could not have believed McBride posed a threat when they murdered him. He ruled the two soldiers opened fire with premeditation and that they later concocted stories to justify their actions. Appeals to higher courts confirmed his verdict and sentence.

Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly said the British government had ignored all procedures agreed under the Stormont Agreement and had acted in a colonial and insensitive manner by freeing the two soldiers.

The McBride family says the British Northern Ireland secretary, Mo Mowlam, betrayed and deceived them in promising the soldiers would not be freed in the first wave of releases or close to the anniversary of the young man’s death.

A spokesman for the family said that despite being convicted murderers, the two soldiers remained paid members of the British army, amounting to the state overruling a court verdict.

McBride was on his way to his mother’s house carrying a loaf of bread when he was stopped and body-searched by the two guardsmen’s patrol. He was running down a street in the mainly nationalist New Lodge Road district when a shout rang out, "Shoot the bastard." McBride was shot, twice, staggering toward a relative’s house before dying in an alleyway. The trial judge dismissed any arguments that the two soldiers believed their lives were at risk as McBride had been body-searched minutes previously.

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