John Copeland died in 1971 after being shot by the British army
THE family of a North Belfast man shot dead by the British army more than 40 years ago is to sue the Ministry of Defence.
Ardoyne man John Copeland was shot as he walked from his mother’s house to his home at Ladbrook Drive on October 28 1971, dying in hospital two days later. He is the father of high-profile republican Eddie Copeland, who himself was shot and wounded by a British soldier in 1993. The family’s solicitor Kevin Winters on Thursday night confirmed that he will also take legal action to ensure British army files connected to the case which are held in England are not destoyed. The records are among a massive haul of Troubles-related documents transferred from the North of Ireland to a warehouse in Swadlicote in Derbyshire several years ago. The Historical Enquiries Team (HET) has previously said it was unable to identify two soldiers involved in the shooting and Mr Winters said the family has “serious concerns that the archive material could be destroyed or otherwise subjected to weeding and/or redaction”.
In 2011 it emerged that security force files held at Gough Barracks in Armagh had been destroyed by police, who later claimed they were contaminated by asbestos. During a 1973 inquest into Mr Copeland’s death, three soldiers claimed they opened fire on the father-of-two after he shot at them with a pistol. However, three civilian witnesses later gave evidence that Mr Copeland was not armed. On the same day another Ardoyne man, Michael McLarnon (22), was also killed by the same Green Howard army unit as he stood at the door of his Etna Drive home, while a local woman was also shot and injured. Now Mr Copeland’s widow Isobel is claiming damages from the MoD for the death of her husband, accusing them of a range of failings including negligence. His son Eddie, who was just one when his father was killed, said his death has been “hanging over the family” for four decades. “It’s all about accountability,” he said. “The man who killed my father was eventually promoted and his name has popped up in a few cases. “It’s a case of holding the state to account. I am not worried about an individual person. At the end of the day the state killed him, not an individual.” Mr Copeland was also critical of the Historical Enquires Team investigation.
With many thanks to: Connla Young, The Irish News.