Broad appeal for help to bring closure to grieving family

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The family of a young west Belfast woman shot dead almost 50 years ago have appealed for members of the public who may have information to contact them, including former IRA Volunteers or former members of the British Crown Forces.

The appeal came on the 48th anniversary of Jean Smyth Campbell’s death.

The 24-year-old was shot in the head as she sat in a car, a green Austin 1100, at a bus terminus on Glen Road at around 11.40pm on June 8, 1972. The mother-of-one was making her way home with a friend after a night out.

Despite allegations that the IRA was involved, it is now believed that a British army unit known as the ‘Military Reaction Force’ was responsible. British army logs show that the MRF fired shots in the area of the murder on the night Ms Campbell was shot.

The young mother’s sister Margaret McQuillan, who was aged 12 when her sibling was killed, described her as “a lovely girl”.

“She was beautiful and just had a personality to match that,” she said this week, adding that the shooting “destroyed and traumatised the whole family”.

She told how her mother used to stand at a window waiting on her daughter to return home while her father never spoke about Jean’s death.

The family’s grief was compounded by the fact that Jean had a closed coffin.

“She came home in a box with a lid on it,” she said. “That was hard because you thought ‘is she really in there?’.”

“For years we thought the IRA done it but we didn’t know what happened, there were so many different questions around her death, about what happened.”

Ms McQuillan said that her family was “devastated” to learn that new documents had been discovered linking the British Army to her sister’s killing.

“We needed it explained in full and I would say it took us six months to get our heads around this,” she said. “Then when we did, we got angry.”

Last year a court ruled that the the PSNI did not have the practical independence to investigate the killing and former English police chief Jon Boutcher was appointed to take on the investigation. Ms McQuillan said it is the family’s best chance of getting answers.

“It’s very important, it will put closure on Jean’s death and bring justice and truth to the family and I think Jean deserves that and we deserve that.”

Speaking at the spot where the young mother was killed, Mr Boutcher said that after Ms Smyth Campbell was shot, her companion flagged down a cab and a number of people placed her in the vehicle.

He made a special appeal for one woman who is believed to have been present. “There is a ginger or red haired girl described in her mid teens who was with the group that we think put Jean into the cab,” he said.

The family’s legal representative, Niall Ó Murchú, of Kinnear and Co Solictors said: “Obviously its vitally important that anyone who can help comes forward.

“Jean’s family have fought bravely and with great dignity since the British army documents claiming the murder were found in 2014. We would ask that anyone with information should feel free to contact ourselves on behalf of the family.”

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