New evidence uncovered by a charity that works with victims and survivors of the Troubles states that British Army chiefs knew that a Donegal man shot dead by the RUC had been fired at three times and not once accidentally, as claimed.

The evidence relates to the case of Michael Leonard (24), a cattle dealer from Pettigo who died following a car chase along the Fermanagh-Donegal Border on May 17, 1973.

Following specific requests under the Freedom of Information Act by the charity Paper Trail, the Ministry of Defence supplied the family with evidence which was not disclosed to them nor the Coroner at the original inquest nearly half a century ago.

Secret briefing

The new evidence includes a secret briefing to Lieutenant General Sir Frank King who was the General Officer Commanding – the man in charge of the British Army in Northern Ireland at the time.

The new evidence shows that Sir Frank King knew within hours that three rounds had been fired at Mr. Leonard despite claims that a single round was discharged.

The evidence confirms that the British Army at the highest level was made aware of the three shots, including the final shot believed to have claimed the life of Mr. Leonard.

Impartial Reporter: Michael Leonard. Photo provided by Paper Trail.Michael Leonard. Photo provided by Paper Trail.

Shot at three times

In a Director of Operations brief published on Paper Trail’s website, it confirms that Mr. Leonard was shot at three times.

The brief stated: “A young Catholic man from Co. Donegal was killed near Belleek. He was recognised by the RUC, was challenged and failed to halt.

“As he drove off, the RUC fired two shots at his car and, in the subsequent chase, the man appeared to draw his weapon so the RUC fired again and fatally wounded him.”

The family of Mr. Leonard including his cousin, Fr. Joe McVeigh, a priest based in Enniskillen, has called for an inquest into Mr. Leonard’s death.

Reacting to this new evidence, Michael’s brother, John Leonard, said: “This new evidence follows the 50th anniversary of Michael’s murder and our petition of support from the Irish government for a new inquest.

‘Damning proof’

“This is further damning proof that the British Armed Forces murdered Michael and then covered it up.”

Michael’s cousin, Fr. Joseph McVeigh said: “Britain’s proposed Legacy Bill will deny Michael’s family equal access to justice whilst protecting his RUC killers.

“The Irish government must fight this travesty in Europe if Britain tries to block families like ours.”

Family solicitor, Adrian O’Kane, of Fahy Solicitors, added: “The dignified Leonard family have raised the injustice of Michael’s killing at every level.

“The decision to rule upon a fresh Inquest rests with the Attorney General, and in view of the Legacy Bill guillotine, a decision is needed now.

“The grounds to order a fresh inquest are most compelling, in line with other recent such directions from the Attorney General.”