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1971: British Army shot 'unarmed' disabled man

VIDEO : Strabane pays tribute to disabled man killed

The British Army has been accused of shooting dead an unarmed, disabled man during disturbances in Northern Ireland.

Soldiers said Eamon McDevitt, 24, was brandishing a pistol when he was shot during the trouble in Strabane near Londonderry.

However, civilian witnesses said Mr McDevitt, who was born deaf and dumb, was simply waving his arms about - his way of attracting attention.

Mr McDevitt was among about 100 people who attended a civil rights meeting in Strabane.

Trouble broke out after the meeting finished at about 1800 BST and young people started throwing stones at police.

'Aim position'

Soldiers pursued the youths to Fountain Street in Strabane where Mr McDevitt received his fatal injury.

Many residents were standing on their doorsteps watching what one housewife described as "just a silly little bit of stone-throwing at the troops".

Helen Mullen said she was standing near to where Mr McDevitt was shot.

"He did not have a weapon in his hand, not even a stone," she said.

Lily Tobin who also lives in Fountain Street said she had spoken to Mr McDevitt a few minutes before he was shot.

Mrs Tobin said all he had in his hand was a spent rubber bullet which he was "playing about with".

But the unit's commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Roger Ephraums, said "two or three" of his men had observed Mr McDevitt with a gun.

"He finally brandished this weapon and was coming up to the aim position against one of my soldiers at short range," Colonel Ephraums said.

Mr McDevitt's death sparked further protests in Strabane during which up to 400 people smashed windows in the town's shopping area.

A list containing the names and addresses of witnesses who claim Mr McDevitt was unarmed is being collated by the former chairman of the local district council, John McKelvey.

So far the list contains 23 names and Mr McKelvey said he was still taking details of anyone else prepared to testify.

In Context
A shrine was set up by local people on the spot where Eamon McDevitt died.

More than 1,000 people attended his funeral.

No pistol or ammunition was found on or near Mr McDevitt's body.

The army, which altered its first official statement on the shooting, later set up an inquiry into the incident.


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