Family of girl, 14, shot dead, fears Legacy Act could end hopes for justice

The family of an “angelic” 14-year-old girl who dreamed of becoming a nurse have spoken of their devastation that new legacy legislation could end their hope for justice.

Annette McGavigan was playing with a friend in Londonderry on September 6, 1971, when the army began to quell the riots.

She was shot dead. No one has ever been convicted of her murder.

There is a mural in her memory in the Bogside area of ​​Derry.

Her family has been actively fighting for more than two decades to bring those responsible to justice.



The politicians are against it (the act), the Irish government is against it, everybody is against it. If it happened anywhere else in the world, there would be an uproar

Martin McGavigan

They said they had a breakthrough earlier this year when a former soldier was interviewed under caution as part of the investigation into the murder.

Annette's brother Martin and sister May said they were delighted when the arrest was made, describing some hope for their family after 52 years.

But they said the UK government's Inheritance Act, which will stop future civil cases and inquests into Troubles deaths, is a shadow hanging over them and they fear it will prevent the case ever reaching court.

The McGavigan family are among 16 legal challenges launched against the act.

“We would have thought it would have been settled before now, but we will keep fighting and hopefully it will get there,” Mr McGavigan said.

“The British government seem to be a law unto themselves trying to brush all this under the sand – they want to dig a hole in the sand to bury their heads in.

“The politicians are against it (the act), the Irish government is against it, everyone is against it. If it happened anywhere else in the world, there would be an uproar.

“It's really shocking. This is a live murder investigation and now it could be closed.

“We are not the only ones affected, there are other families in the same situation. They can't just shut the door on them.

“Annette was not a threat to anyone.”

Ms McGavigan challenged the Irish Government to take action.

“I don't think they fight enough, they talk a lot, but they have to walk the walk,” he said.

“It's not good enough.”

Mrs McGavigan was 11 when her sister was killed.

“He was just an angel to our family, he was such a good person, he would do anything for anybody, such a good person,” she said.



We are now at the stage where the (heritage) act comes in and is designed to shut down such inquiries. Worryingly, the investigation may be closed

Sara Duddy, Pat Finucane Centre

“She liked art, writing poems and there was talk of becoming a nurse when she grew up.”

He said he was at school the day Annette was killed, but a bomb scare meant they were all sent home early.

“Annette went to play with a friend and I went home. My mother asked me to go to the store to buy some fruits, while I was going to the store a girl I know stopped me on our way and said there was a riot in Little Diamond and a little girl was shot,” he said.

“I got home and I told my mum she said ‘you're not allowed to go out because of the riot' I told her a little girl had been shot and I'll never forget the words my mum said ‘God help her poor mum and dad whoever they are.”

They later found out that the girl who was shot was Annette.

“It was chaos,” he said.

Mr McGavigan described their mother as a religious woman who was left devastated.

“She would deal with it by going up, hugging her clothes and looking at the scraps, my father was standing in her mural,” she said.

“He's been gone ever since and he's not here to know where we got with this and if we ever got justice. That's the sad thing, he'll never know.”

Sara Duddy, from the Pat Finucane Centre, which is supporting the McGavigan family, said the situation was very worrying as the case had taken a long time to get to this stage.

“The family were obviously hopeful … but we are now at the stage where the (inheritance) act comes in and is designed to shut down such inquiries,” he said.

“The concern is that the investigation may be closed.”

The arrest was made following a review of the case by the Police Service of Northern Ireland's Legacy Investigation Branch (LIB). This turned into a murder investigation.

A PSNI spokesman said: “We can confirm that a suspect has been interviewed under caution as part of the investigation into the murder, which remains active and ongoing.

“It would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”