Nora McCabe: murder by the RUC - 8 July 1981
*thanks to Fitz at the Yahoo Group One_Ireland for reminding me of this
Nora McCabe was shot-dead by the RUC on the 8th July 1981 at 7.45am as she left her home in Linden Street off the Falls Road for the corner shop to buy cigarettes. It was also the morning that Joe McDonnell
died on hunger strike.
The RUC denied any involvement in the shooting of Nora and also denied being in the vicinity of Linden Street that morning. An RUC investigation into her killing found that Nora died as a result of a blow/strike to the head by an instrument as yet unknown carried out by a person/s unknown. This finding was arrived at despite a number of eyewitness accounts stating that the RUC shot her with a plastic bullet at point blank range from one of two passing RUC armoured personnel carriers patrolling the area.
As a result of this 'investigation' and no cause of death firmly established or culprit/s apprehended, Jim received a date for an inquest into Nora's death scheduled for November 19th 1982. Pat Finucane was the legal representative for the McCabe family and shortly after the killing of Nora he was approached by a Canadian TV documentary/film crew who had been making a programme at the time of Nora's death. They handed Pat a video, which they said related to the shooting. Ironically this encounter took place during an international tribunal into the use of plastic bullets and their affects. This had been sponsored by local human rights activists (now with RFJ) and chaired by Kadar Asmal.
The inquest into Nora's killing opened on November 19th 1982. It heard evidence from several anonymous RUC members identified only by letters with the exception of James Crutchley. He was the most senior RUC member in West Belfast at the time and was on patrol with the two vehicles alleged to have fired the fatal shot. All RUC witnesses, including Crutchley, told the court that they were never near Linden Street and that they had only fired two plastic bullets while on patrol that morning. These they said were to disperse a crowd of rioters who had set up barricades in an attempt to obstruct their patrol and that they fired only when petrol bombs had been thrown. There were also numerous references to hijacked and burning vehicles, the road being strewn with beer barrels and debris. This contradicted civilian testimony.
After hearing evidence Pat Finucane
introduced the film footage as new evidence. The court was immediately adjourned without viewing the evidence and on instruction from the DPP a senior member of the RUC, Insp Entwistle, was dispatched to Canada to interview the filmmakers.
Exactly one year later the inquest was re-convened. Inspector Entwistle told the court that the authenticity of the tape was genuine. The footage in turn was played to the court. It showed a picture somewhat different to that described by the RUC witnesses. There were no sign of rioters, barricades or hijacked vehicles. The road was clear. Most significantly the last couple of minutes, shown from a fixed position, focused in on two RUC armoured vehicles travelling countrywards along the main Falls Road. As they approached the junction of Linden Street and the Falls Road both vehicles slowed up. The lead vehicle surged to the right and across to the opposite side of the road towards Linden Street then abruptly stopped. A loud bang was heard. A puff of smoke was clearly visible from the right porthole of the RUC vehicle. It sped off followed by the second vehicle. Nora McCabe, mother of three children the youngest just 3 months, lay on the pavement. Local people gathered and some attempted to administer first aid. The footage remained until an ambulance arrived which took Nora to the nearby RVH. Nora died later the next day.
The jury found that Nora McCabe was completely innocent and that there was no legitimate reason for firing a plastic bullet. At the inquest Jim McCabe also waited for the DPP to announce that proceedings against the RUC both for killing Nora and committing perjury would commence.
A spokesperson for the DPP told the court that a decision had been taken not to prosecute. An outrage followed and Yorkshire TV showed the footage in a First Tuesday documentary in 1984 entitled 'Who Killed Nora McCabe'. Following this over 70 British MP's signing an early day motion calling on the then British Home Secretary Douglas Hurd to hold a public inquiry. He refused and in response to a question from Labour MP Joan Maynard 3 weeks later about the RUC members involved said; 'The 11 police officers in the patrol are still serving in the RUC. Three have been since been promoted: one to Assistant Chief Constable, one to Chief Inspector and one to Sergeant.' The Assistant Chief Constable was James Crutchley. The British Queen also subsequently decorated him.
Pat Finucane was to say that if justice were not delivered in this case, given the compelling evidence, then it would not be delivered in any other case.
Approximately 31,000 plastic bullets
were fired during May, June and July of 1981 claiming 7 lives including Nora's. 3 of those killed were school children Carol-Ann Kelly 12, Julie Livingstone 14 and Paul Whitters 15. In total 17 people, 8 of them school children, have been killed by rubber and plastic bullets. Inquest juries have found that all have been killed in non-riot situations.