The family of a Catholic man shot dead by loyalists almost 50 years have vowed to continue their fight for justice following the publication of a report by Relatives for Justice. Joseph McCrystal was shot as he returned to his home in Newtownabbey on November 12, 1972. He died the following day.
The murder has been blamed on unionist paramilitaries, specifically the UDA, which was active in the area at the time. It has also previously been suggested that the secret British army unit known as the Military Reaction Force may have been involved.
Mr McCrystal was targeted after he had just been left off by work by colleagues who shared the car-ride home after a late shift in Courtaulds Factory. As he began to walk to his home, a single gunman shot him twice with two weapons of different calibre, once in the back of the head and once through the jaw. The second shot, according to an eye-witness, was fired when Joseph was lying on the ground.
The murder was never properly investigated by the then RUC police.
Figures compiled by RFJ and local residents reveal that 19 people from the Bawnmore area, which is close to where Mr McCrystal lived, were killed during the conflict and 20 were injured.
Joe was four when his father was killed and his sister Donna was aged one. He recalls a member of the RUC calling to the house and telling his mother that her, “Provo husband had been shot and was in hospital”. He also recalls being told that, “Daddy had died and had gone to heaven”.
The family lodged a complaint with the Police Ombudsman in 2016. Joe said: “No one in authority seems to care. Our father is just a number to them, but his death is a lifetime of pain to me and my sister. We will fight for truth until the grave. We will never give up.”]
The report also details the official British response to the murder and how Joe was taunted about his father’s death by Crown Forces while growing up.
It concludes: “Given what their mother has told them and the experiences that Joe and Donna have had down the years, it is unsurprising that they see the RUC and the British army as being somehow involved in their father’s murder.
“RUC officers did not seem to be interested in finding the culprits, they boasted about Joseph’s death to his children, their mother was implicitly threatened, and Joseph was physically beaten by members of the RUC and loyalists on several occasions.
“Donna and Joe see their father’s murder as part of the ongoing loyalist campaign to keep Catholics/ nationalists/republicans out of Glengormley and Newtownabbey and frighten them away from employment in the area.
“They see the RUC as part and parcel - either by active support or direction, or through the turning of blind eyes - of the loyalist campaign of intimidation and assassination that resulted in continuing attacks down the years.”
They said the RUC did not give loyalist targeting any real investigative priority.
“This aggravates state failures to address injustices that existed and criminal actions that were perpetrated. This hurt requires redress and the continued delay and avoidance in answering the questions posed in this report is simply unacceptable. The family have a right to know the truth and an expectation that the state is key to providing the truth.
“The family’s search for justice will continue until the truth is revealed.”