Ex-Black Watch soldier breaks ranks to finger squaddie for '75 Leo Norney West Belfast killing

NewsBy Jamie McDowell
Leo Norney, 17, had just been cleared after being searched at an Army checkpoint when he was shot dead
Leo Norney, 17, had just been cleared after being searched at an Army checkpoint when he was shot dead

An ex-squaddie has given a Belfast family the name of the soldier alleged to have murdered their teenage son.

In an explosive letter – written four decades after the fatal shooting of Leo Norney – it is claimed the 17-year-old’s killer was a “drunk psychopath” who should never have had a gun in his hands.

Trainee postman Leo was gunned down by a Black Watch patrol as he got out of a taxi just after 11pm on September 13, 1975.

He was completely innocent – and the army patrol was later accused of making up a story that they returned fire after being targeted by two IRA snipers.

Now a man who claims to have been a member of the Scottish regiment has written to the family naming the trigger-happy soldier.

Among the allegations that will rock army chiefs and the Black Watch regiment in particular, the whistleblowing ex-squaddie alleges:

  •  Leo’s killer was drunk 
  •  He led his patrol out with the intention of killing someone
  •  He ordered his patrol to open fire so that it seemed they were in a gun battle with the IRA
  •  He then rubbed gun oil on the dead teen’s hands to make it appear he had handled a gun

The anonymous letter-writer says he was stationed with the alleged shooter at Fort Monagh in Turf Lodge, which stood beside St Teresa’s Primary School on the Glen Road on land which is now mainly Aitnamonagh housing estate.

Turf Lodge in the 70s

It was a very different scene 41 years ago when Leo’s killer is alleged to have demanded he be allowed to go out on patrol despite having been drinking heavily on his journey back to Belfast from Scotland where he had been on leave.

He was, in the words of the former squaddie, “out to get someone that night”.

This week Leo’s sister Alice Moore and the wider family have called for an inquiry into her brother’s murder, and she appealed for the whistleblower to contact them again, admitting the letter had “opened old wounds”.

She said: “Why, after 40 years, has this former soldier decided to write to us?”

The letter goes into great detail about the alleged killer soldier – Corporal J McKay, AKA ‘Basil’, who died suddenly at his home in Methil, Scotland, on September 13 last year – 40 years to the day he is believed to have pulled the trigger on Leo.

“That’s a very strange coincidence,” said Alice.

“I firmly believe that this was the man who shot my brother, and the guilt must have caught up with him.”

 Leo's sister, Alice Moore, fears her family will never get justice

Two years ago a second inquest was ordered into Leo’s death, but after the plug was pulled on the Historical Enquiries Team, Alice and her family say they fear they will never see justice.

The letter writer admits he had been “plagued” since he “discovered the truth of what happened on Shepherd’s Path in 1975”.

He wrote that the soldiers who gave evidence at an initial inquest “knew nothing – that’s probably why they were chosen”.

While the soldier does not say if he was one of the squaddies on the streets of Turf Lodge with Cpl MacKay, he says MacKay “should not have been on patrol on that fatal night”.

He also says MacKay, a rogue soldier who was later convicted and jailed for planting ammunition in cars in a brazen attempt to falsely incriminate innocent people, had been part of an organised group of soldiers who regularly fired shots into the air to simulate a gun battle, thereby giving them free reign to ‘retaliate’.

“The patrol was shot at that night but it was not Leo who fired the shot,” the soldier writes. 

“It was one of the Black Watch patrol to simulate incoming fire. 

“For forensics purposes, Leo’s hands were contaminated with rifle oil.”

He accepted Leo was a total innocent.

“The fact Leo did not receive a traditional IRA funeral is enough evidence of his innocence,” he wrote.

He said two other members of the squad loosed off a couple of rounds at Leo, but it was MacKay, leader of the pack, who fired the fatal shot. 

“The section lived in fear of Cpl MacKay and if he said ‘jump’ – they jumped.”

The whistleblower claims MacKay was “haunted” by Leo’s shooting and had “died a broken man”.

Now Alice and her family are carrying the torch lit by their late mother Annie, who campaigned in Strasbourg, London and the USA to try and get justice for her son.

The anonymous soldier signed off: “We [Black Watch] did protect the people of Turf Lodge from dark forces; they will never know the half of it. It’s only a pity we couldn’t protect Leo from Cpl MacKay.

“A drunken psychopath with a loaded weapon is not a good mix on the streets of Belfast.”

A death notice which appeared in a Scottish newspaper last year reads: “MacKay, suddenly, at home, on Sunday September 13, 2015, John Ross (Jackie/Basil) MacKay (past soldier of the Black Watch), aged 62 years.”

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  • Leo Norney’s killing was always highly controversial and Secretary of State Roy Mason, pictured right, was forced to defend the army over the incident in the House of Commons. The army said a four-man foot patrol was fired on at Ardmonagh Gardens shortly after 11pm on Saturday, September 13, 1975. The patrol claimed they hit one gunman – Leo – and the other gunman picked up Leo’s rifle and escaped.
  • But local people dismissed the claims. They said Leo and other occupants of a taxi had been searched at a checkpoint by members of the Black Watch a few hundred yards from the scene of the shooting a few minutes earlier.
  • Leo’s mother Annie said he had been going to babysit with his 17-year-old fiancée, who he planned to marry the following January. “He was living for that day,” she said at the time. “Leo never had a gun in his hand in his life. In fact he was scared stiff of soldiers.” West Belfast MP Gerry Fitt demanded the soldiers be charged with murder.
  • Leo – who was also known as ‘Teabo’ – had the letters FAP inscribed on the back of his hand – standing for Faith And Peace.The police investigating the case confirmed at the inquest that they did not believe Leo had any connection with any paramilitary groups.


Then secretary of StateRoy Mason 


The letter in full:​