The family of a victim of the Ballymurphy massacre has been vindicated in their decades-long struggle for justice after his exhumed body appears to contain a bullet.
The discovery should prove that Joseph Murphy, a father-of-12, who died 13 days after he was shot in west Belfast in August 1971, was actually shot twice in the leg -- once at Ballymurphy and then again at the Henry Taggart Memorial Hall, then being used as a British Army barracks.
Last year, coroner Jim Kitson granted the exhumation because of the “exceptional circumstances” of the case.
British soldiers from the Parachute Regiment shot dead a total of 10 people in Ballymurphy over three days following the introduction of internment.
The victims included mother-of-eight Joan Connolly and Catholic priest Fr Hugh Mullan. Another man died of a heart attack following a violent confrontation with soldiers.
In 2011, Attorney General John Larkin ordered a new inquest into the Ballymurphy shootings.
The conflicting medical evidence came about because there was one entry and one exit wound on Mr Murphy’s leg - suggesting he was shot once by a bullet which exited his body.
However, an investigation by the now defunct PSNI police Historical Enquiries Team found evidence from a surgeon who treated Mr Murphy at Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital.
The surgeon said he had found a bullet lodged in Mr Murphy’s body - proving he had been shot twice. But a pathologist who carried out the subsequent post mortem did not mention a bullet.
Mr Murphy’s daughter Janet Donnelly, who was eight when her father was killed, said the discovery shows her father was right.
She said the second bullet, a live round, was discovered under her father’s pubic bone and he had been shot at close range through the entry wound of the first bullet.
“This started when my Daddy was lying in a hospital bed and told my Mummy he’d been shot again when he was in the Henry Taggart Memorial Hall,” she said.
“Now he’s been proved right.”
Ballymurphy families spokesman John Teggart, whose father Danny was one of the 10 shot dead, said the discovery would add weight to calls for an independent inquiry into the killings.
“It just proves we need a proper investigation into Ballymurphy. We need an independent panel to look at exactly what happened,” he said.
“The Dail has called for an independent review. The only block is the British government.”
A forensic anthropologist may be asked to look at Mr Murphy’s remains, which are in the city morgue. A report is expected within a fortnight, an inquest heard.
“If we cover all the basics now then it is done and my daddy can be finally laid to rest,” Ms Donnelly said.
“It was a difficult decision but we tried everything else before we did this [exhumation]. We had no choice.”
Sinn Fein’s Paul Maskey has described the discovery as a “significant step forward” in the families’ campaign for justice.
“The families have been campaigning for many years and hopefully the British Government now do the honourable thing and grant them their inquiry,” he said.
“This is a very emotional time for the family but they have been very determined in their pursuit of truth and justice.”