New evidence has emerged in the murder of 13-year-old Martha Campbell in Belfast in 1972, which puts a British Army unit in the area and shooting at the time she was shot and killed.
The murder is one of a small number of child killings from the conflict that has lain unclaimed by any organisation.
Her family and local witnesses have long believed that the British Army shot Martha with gunfire directed at her from a position in the flats of Moyard Park, near the Springfield Road, which overlooked the area. Another girl with her was fortunate not to be injured or killed in the same bursts of fire.
There had been intense fighting in the area between the British Army, Loyalists and the Irish Republican Army (IRA). The shooting had stopped for a while, though, and Martha, her friend and a third person were the only people on that stretch of the road.
In other words, the sniper targeted the three unarmed civilians deliberately. No organisation ever claimed the killing, although open-source material alleged that a loyalist gunman of the Ulster Volunteer force (UVF) killed Martha.
There was no investigation into Martha’s murder and she would have become another forgotten victim of the conflict, except for the prodigious campaigning and research work of her family which they share online at martha-campbell.com.
In its report into Martha’s murder, the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) alleged it had accessed “the only remaining Army records” relating to the incident. It wrote:
“From the papers supplied by the [British] Army to the HET review process and examination of the open source material, there is no evidence to place the Army in Moyard Park at the time that Martha was shot.”
In fact, those are not the only remaining British Army records. Those discovered by Ciarán Mac Airt, from the investigative charity Paper Trail, prove that the family was correct, and the British Army targeted people in the same area and at the same time that Martha was murdered.
“The British Ministry of Defence (MoD) lied, and Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and the HET failed again,” he wrote.
Speaking to the Irish Times, Martha’s brother Tony Campbell described the discovery as a “breakthrough” which could finally lead to the answers the family has been seeking for almost 50 years, “to get closure on what happened to our sister, Martha, and [find out] who murdered her”.
He said that, based on eyewitness accounts, the family had always believed the British army was responsible, but “after the HET inquiry I thought there was nowhere else to go, there was nothing concrete in terms of evidence”.
“This is evidence that can prove it was the 1st Kings Regiment who was in Moyard flats. They fired shots at the time and into the place where Martha was.
“They never disclosed this at the original inquest, we never knew anything about this, so as far as I’m concerned this has been covered up and one would have to ask the question why. Why was it never disclosed?”
Mr Campbell said it now raised the hope for the family that they might now be able to find out more information about their sister’s killing, and potentially secure a new inquest.
“Even if we don’t get closure, at the very least I hope to get answers to our questions,” he said.