18 March 2005


We Say

No justice for Francis

We report today that the PSNI’s Serious Crime Review Team will not hold an investigation into the death of 11-year-old Divis boy Francis Rowntree, killed by a British army rubber bullet in April 1972.

That will come as good news for the British government as it’s widely believed that the local schoolboy was killed with a rubber bullet that had a battery inserted to ensure that it caused maximum devastation. Indeed, the local MP, Paddy Devlin, provided the RUC with the doctored rubber bullet that is said to have caused the death of Francis.

Unsurprisingly, that rubber bullet has now disappeared. Also, the RUC didn’t interview the British soldier who fired the bullet or any of his colleagues – something that was the rule rather than the exception when it came to the killing of Catholics. And because this evidence does not exist, the PSNI say they cannot review the case.

There’s a bitter irony here in that the incompetence or indifference of the RUC – call it what you will – has reached out across the years to let their present-day comrades off the hook. In other words, the RUC/PSNI has been rewarded for doing an appalling job.

The likelihood is, of course, that this is a story that will be repeated with depressing regularity, because not only were RUC investigations often deeply unsatisfactory, in many cases none took place. And, as we saw with the British army rifles used on Bloody Sunday that were ‘inadvertently’ destroyed, crucial evidence has a funny habit of disappearing when it’s in the hands of the British.

There is a huge incentive for the agents of the state to disappear any hard evidence or compelling witness statements that might actually put somebody in uniform in the frame for a killing.

Not that Francis’ mother Theresa wants to see anybody go to jail. All she wants, as she tells us today, is an acknowledgement that the murder of her son was wrong and should never have happened. That might not seem like much to ask, but clearly it is too much for the state to countenance.

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