Loyalist murders ‘could have been stopped’
Loyalist murders ‘could have been stopped’

The family of a victim of the Shankill Butchers is taking a case against the PSNI chief constable, arguing that the murder could have been prevented.

Joseph Morrissey was one of the later victims of the notorious cut-throat UVF gang thatkilled 19 people during a twoyear reign of terror. Mr Morrissey was abducted as he walked home along Belfast’s Donegall Street on February 3 1977.

The body of the Catholic father was found several hours later in a loyalist area ofnorth Belfast. The Butchers’ gang also killed another man three days earlier.

Speaking on the35th anniversary of his death,Mr Morrissey’s daughter Charlotte Morrissey said the family was taking legal action because they believe the gang could have been stopped if the RUC had conducted a proper investigation.

The loyalist gang began their killing spree in 1975. They would abduct Catholic men from the streets of the city centre or north Belfast, torture and kill them. Some of the Protestant men they murdered were victims of mistaken identity.

Ms Morrissey believes the RUC did not properly investigate the murders carried out before her father’s killing.

She also believes there wascollusion between the Crown forces and loyalists.

“I feel very strongly that there were many institutional wrongs here,” she said.

Campaign group Relatives for Justice (RFJ) said “all persons were known to the RUC at the time and were known to be involved in sectarian murders”--- but none were arrested and questioned.

“The family is firmly of the opinion that had these persons, known to the police, been arrested and questioned then the opportunity toabduct and murder Joseph Morrissey could have been prevented.”

Mr Morrissey’s youngest child was eight when he was killed. Charlotte Morrissey said losing her father had “destroyed” the north Belfast family.

“We became the victims,” she said.


In a separate case, the families of two teenagers murdered by the UDA in a gun attack almost 40 years ago have spoken of their concerns at the findings of a police Historical Enquiries Team (HET) report into their killings.

Eighteen-year-old Margaret McErlean died alongside her 16-year-old friend Thomas Donaghy after two UDA gunmen sprayed their car with bullets as they drove to work.

They were among five Catholic friends from Newtownabbey attacked as they arrived at the Abbey Meat Packers factory on February 11 1974.

The HET has recently completed two reports into the deaths of Ms McErlean and Mr Donaghy.

The families said their concerns hinge on the reports’ findings about the time at which the RUC were alerted to a car acting suspiciously near to the factory.

The loyalist killers had been lying in wait in a stolen car and employees had alerted the security guard to the suspicious vehicle.

The security guard rang nearby Newtownabbey RUC station some 40 minutes before the shooting took place, but police did not arrive until after the attack, prompting claims of collusion.

Stephen McErlean said they had hoped the HET investigators would have been able to shed more light on the case-- including tracing the security guard, but this did not take place.

Mr McErlean said there were still many questions to be answered. “We have been fighting this for 37 years,” he said.

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