‘Massacre’ victim won’t be reburied until answers found

Posted By: October 29, 2015

THE IRISH NEWS – Thursday 29 October 2015

Irish News( Belfast). Thursday, October 29, 2015

The body of a Belfast man exhumed after more than 40 years will not be reburied until questions about the circumstances of his death are answered, a coroner’s court has heard.

Father-of-12 Joseph Murphy was fatally injured in 1971 during a shooting incident known as the ‘Ballymurphy massacre’ and died 13 days later in hospital.

He claimed British soldiers fired a second shot through an open wound.

An article, possibly a bullet, was found during an exhumation carried out on Tuesday.

Coroner Brian Sherrard said: “I will not order Mr Murphy’s remains to be reinterred until I am completely confident that we have reached the end of this particular road.”

Nine others were also killed by shots fired by members of the Parachute Regiment.

The victims, which included a Catholic priest and a mother-of-eight, died in an army operation that saw soldiers storm republican strongholds in west Belfast to arrest IRA suspects following the introduction of the controversial state policy of internment without trial.

A new inquest is proceeding into the deaths in Belfast.

The preliminary hearing in Belfast’s Mays Chambers also heard that a forensic anthropologist may be asked to look at Mr Murphy’s remains, which are in the city morgue.

Mr Sherrard said: “I am entirely open minded.

“I would like to get clarity for the family and clarity for the community as to what has happened here.”

However, the coroner urged

caution and said it was “too early” to confirm if the article found following Tuesday’s exhumation was a bullet, casing, remnant or a fragment.

“We have to be careful not to pre-judge this. Until we actually get the analysis of what this article is we need to be very careful,” Mr

Sherrard said.

A report is expected within a fortnight, the court heard.

Mr Murphy’s family requested the exhumation to try to get to the truth of claims he was fired on a second time when in army custody.

During his time in hospital, Mr Murphy alleged he was first shot in the upper thigh on the streets of

Ballymurphy, but he claimed soldiers then brought him into a nearby barracks and shot him again through his open wound.

While Mr Murphy thought a plastic bullet had been fired into the wound, his family suspected a live round may have been used.

There was an entry and exit wound on Mr Murphy’s leg, suggesting one bullet passed through him.

A surgeon at the Royal Victoria Hospital who treated him said he had found a bullet lodged in his body – suggesting two rounds had entered. But a pathologist who conducted the subsequent postmortem examination found no evidence of a bullet.

Outside the court, Mr Murphy’s daughter Janet Donnelly spoke of her relief.

She said: “At least we are not going to reinter him and say we missed something. It is better to do it now while he has been exhumed so that we can cover all the ground and make sure that nothing is missed.

“That is all we want.

“We want the bullet examined, if a bullet impacted on them bones there has to be marks, there has to be something and if we get somebody to look at them and write their report of what they find, then that will go into our inquest and it means we will have covered all the ground.

“If we cover all the basics now then it is done and my daddy can be finally laid to rest.

“It was a difficult decision but we tried everything else before we did this [exhumation]. We had no choice.”