IT’S been just over 47 years since west Belfast man Stan Carberry last saw his father.
“I can remember it well,” the 55 year-old recalled. “I was eight years-old at the time and myself and my brother and sisters were all getting ready for school, the six of us running around, and he was trying to get us out the door.
“I came back through the same door at 3.30pm and there was a woman sitting in our house and she told me, ‘your father is dead’. I couldn’t believe it.”
At around 12.25pm on November 13, Stan Snr was shot dead by the British army in what has become one of the most disputed killings of the Troubles.
The IRA man was driving a hijacked car on the Falls Road when, according to eyewitnesses, soldiers opened fire.
It’s claimed that as the 34 year-old exited the vehicle with his hands in the air, he was blasted a number of times.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) alleged the republican fired shots first, before its soldiers returned gunfire.
However, no weapons were ever recovered from the car he was travelling in. A second man who had been in in the stolen vehicle, escaped with no injuries. Mr Carberry died at the scene.
An autopsy later revealed he had three wounds which entered his back.
At the time, the Royal Military Police (RMP) carried out its own investigation into the killing.
But just four of the 13 soldiers present on the day gave statements.
The owner of the hijacked car and a passer-by, also spoke to RMP officers.
Despite an estimated 50-200 people in the area at the time of the shooting, no civilian witness accounts were recorded.
But after almost five decades of silence and secrets, the family hope they are on the brink of finally finding out the truth.
Next month in a Belfast court, the Carberry case will officially become one of only two civil actions involving the British army to ever make it to a full hearing.
“I just want the truth,” Stan, now a father himself, told the Sunday World.
“I want to clear his name because in my eyes he was murdered, cold bloodily murdered in the street in 1972.
“It’s time for the truth.”
In 2009 Stan Jnr and his family received what he described as a “whitewash” review by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) into his father’s killing.
“It destroyed me,” he said. “They might as well have said the soldiers were right and that’s it.”
It was only through the help of campaign group Relatives for Justice (RfJ) that the Carberry’s achieved the breakthrough needed to put their case before a judge.
After putting out an appeal for information in the local press, a crucial eyewitness came forward.
That new testimony has helped form the basis for the civil case set for March.
The witness, who now lives abroad, will jet back into Northern Ireland just to give evidence.
“This is a David and Goliath for all families,” Mike Ritchie of RfJ says. “The whole resources of the British State are available to support the soldiers.
“Plenty of barristers, all paid for, and the families are on their own and that’s why we are proud to support them.
“It’s not easy and it takes a lot of effort and stress.”
The family are being strongly backed by renowned human rights legal firm KRW Law.
Solicitor Kevin Winters said: “Stan’s family have had no justice whatsoever and all we are doing is using whatever tool is available to to us, whether that is a civil action or judicial review to put in place some legal mechanism to off-set the huge vacuum that is there, created by the State, where proper independent investigations should have taken place a number of years ago.
“And they are left with a civil action and other judicial review proceedings which still falls way short of what should have happened and should still be happening.”
The lawyer added: “The wider context in which this case is taken is the government elements of the press, military etc who are not happy about the fact there is any kind of light shining on the state and British army soldiers and their activities during the conflict and it’s as if to say that any engagement by the army should be airbrushed out of history.
“That’s very uncomfortable for families and very, very distressing for them, once they see the Prime Minister advocating that any hint of an investigation against the State, and British soldiers in particular, should be erased and removed and they should be protected at all times.
“When you actually think about it, the proportion of the average number of British army killings, the number of ex-military prosecuted you could nearly count on one hand.
“There has been a hugely disproportionate outcry over the fact that a handful of soldiers have been prosecuted because the system actually deems that these people should be prosecuted.
“Everything has been done by these soldiers, by their political and other influences behind the scenes, to try and stop those prosecutions taking place.
“And we are not happy some of the media sections facilitating that. It’s wrong and the equivalent would be the media giving a platform to say, Ivor Bell, to complain and that his narrative is played out on the front pages of newspapers, you would not see that.
“So there is an unfairness over how some sections of the media go about it.”
With a huge amount of new evidence and a crucial eyewitness that has come forward, the lawyer does not rule out the possibility that the civil action could turn criminal.
“If the case ran and there was a resounding judicial pronouncement that this was unlawful killing, you could take that result, bag it, and put it back into play back into the court again,” he said. “Into the Attorney General to revisit the request for an inquest and to call for the DPP to review the case and look at it again fresh.
“And there is an example of how the civil action might serve as a template or base as something else.
“You don’t know what could arise from a civil case, you never know what can emerge.
“What the witness can say on the day or it could be a direction from a judge. We just don’t know.”
He added: “In theory and in principle, if you have a full blown, fully contested action, where every piece of evidence, every witness is tested to the nth degree and something emerges that really points to murder, and even if it’s a lower standard of proof, you never know.”
Whatever happens, it will never make up for the profound impact the loss of his father had on Stan Jnr’s life.
“After my father was buried my mother took me to the doctors because I was very depressed and sad, obviously then they didn’t know what Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was then,” he said.
“School was very difficult, people would have teased you, ‘your father’s dead…’
“I got into enough fights than enough over it. I look back on it now and say, well that was kids then.
“Not a day goes by that you aren’t thinking about it, and about what it would be like if my daddy was here.
“I am lucky as I can remember him, but my three younger siblings can’t really as they were so young when he died.
“My favourite memory is going to work with him on a Saturday.
“We used to race the trains on the way down to Bangor in the Jag. That’s before the days where you had to wear a seat belt. I’d stand up on the back seat telling him to beat it. They were great times.
“Then you realise that was stolen from you, they not only took my childhood away from me but my life, where would I be if he was here?
“What would it be like with him still here? I will never know.”