Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Family’s ‘deep distress’ at details of Thornton murder by British Paratroopers

Distressing details of the 1971 murder of a south Armagh man at the hands of the British Army’s Parachute Regiment have emerged during the inquest into the Ballymurphy massacre, currently being heard in Belfast.

The family of Harry Thornton (28), a father-of-six from Silverbridge who was shot dead while travelling to work along the Springfield Road in Belfast in August 1971, have spoken of their deep distress on learning that part of his skull was recovered by a soldier who used it as an ashtray.

The disturbing details on how Mr Thornton’s remains were defiled were revealed by former Paratrooper Henry Gow as he gave evidence last week at the inquest into the killings of ten people over three days in Ballymurphy, which occurred just days after the murder of the Silverbridge man.

Lawyer for the Thornton family, Pádraig Ó Muirigh, said the revelation has caused great distress.

“The allegation that the remains of their loved one was treated in such an undignified manner is a source of great distress to them,” he said.

“This revelation and others, such as a sweepstake being organised for soldiers who ‘got a kill’, are deeply disturbing but nonetheless indicative of the culture that prevailed in the Parachute Regiment.

“A litany of murder and brutality has followed this regiment in their various tours of duty whether in the Ballymurphy area, Shankill Rd, Ardoyne or the Bogside in Derry.  The Parachute Regiment have had a bloody and dishonourable record in the north of Ireland which has come under further scrutiny at the Ballymurphy Inquest,” Ó Muirigh added.