By Francesca Ryan

THE family of one of the 11 victims of the Ballymurphy Massacre has applied to have his body exhumed.

Joseph Murphy was one of those murdered by the Parachute Regiment in the upper Springfield at  the onset of internment in August 1971. On Monday, his family applied to Belfast Coroner’s Court for permission to exhume his body. They said documentation from the time did not accurately record his injuries and they believe that Mr Murphy, who survived for 13 days after being shot, may have been shot a second time while in custody.

The request came as the families of those killed were in court this week for a preliminary hearing prior to a fresh inquest into the killings. The victims’ families had asked the Attorney General, under the Coroner’s Act, to open a new inquest as new material has become available about the massacre.  The new evidence obtained by the families includes eyewitness statements, Church archives and inquest verdicts.

Janet Donnelly, Joseph Murphy’s daughter, told the Andersonstown News why the family have taken the difficult decision to request that their father’s remains be exhumed.

“We have information that only came to light in the past two years from a HET report that indicates there was a bullet left in daddy’s body.” she said. “A deposition – one that was never brought before a court – from a doctor who treated him said one bullet was left in daddy’s body but there was also an entrance and exit would from another bullet. My father always claimed that he had been taken to the Henry Taggart army base, was beaten and then shot into his open wound.  Our only option now is to exhume the body and recover the evidence, the bullet.”

Janet says the journey towards truth and justice has been tough on her family – particularly her 82-year-old mother, to whom the exhumation request had to be explained.

“When we found this new evidence,” she said, “we had to sit mummy down and tell her that daddy was shot twice. It was very emotional, despite the passage of time. We are now hoping for a ruling on our request within the next few weeks. We don’t want any more delays as we have waited long enough.”

John Teggart, who also lost his father in the massacre, said the families are happy at last to be having their day on court.

“The preliminary hearing went very well,” he said. “The Coroner acknowledged that we have waited a long time for this and he said he hopes it will be done in a speedy fashion. We are just delighted to get the legal process started after 40 years of waiting.  We hope it will shed light on what happened in Ballymurphy and as one of the barristers [Karen Quinlivan QC] says she will be handing over a list of names of soldiers in Ballymurphy at the time that she wants cross-checked with the soldiers in Derry for Bloody Sunday, it will be very interesting.”

Alongside the inquest, the families are continuing to campaign for an independent investigation into the deaths of their loved ones. For decades they have campaigned for truth and justice, but to no avail.  In recent times, the families have proposed the appointment of an independent panel – similar to the one which examined the Hillsborough football tragedy – to examine all documents relating to the 1971 slaughter. Its focus would include the investigation of the role of the British Government, the British Army, criminal justice agencies and the part played by the media.  A number of highly respected  jurists, including Nuala O’Loan, Professor Phil Scraton from QUB and human rights lawyer Gareth Peirce, have already agreed to sit on the panel.

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