Northern Ireland

Body to be exhumed as part of investigation into secret Army unit

PSNI Detective Inspector Neil McGuinness
Image caption Detective Chief Inspector Neil McGuinness is asking the media to treat the exhumation of Daniel Rooney sensitively

The body of man of a man shot dead by the Army 44 years ago is is to be exhumed as part of an investigation in to the Military Reaction Force (MRF).

Daniel Rooney, 18, was shot in the St James Crescent area of west Belfast on 26 September, 1972.

He died shortly afterwards in hospital.

The PSNI have confirmed detectives from the Legacy Investigation Branch will carry out the exhumation at Milltown cemetery on Monday.

The MRF was an army unit operating in Belfast in the early 1970s.

Image copyright Ex PSNI
Image caption Daniel Rooney, 18, was killed in a shooting in west Belfast in 1972

PSNI Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Chief Inspector Neil McGuinness, said:

"We have been liaising with the family in relation to this and will continue to work closely with them as we move to the next stage of this sensitive operation.

"I would also ask media to treat this sensitively, being mindful of the fact this is a difficult time for the family."

'Distressing but necessary'

Pádraig Ó Muirigh, solicitor for the Rooney family, said:

"The exhumation of Daniel Rooney, whilst distressing for his family, is a necessary step to be taken due to the flawed original investigation of his death by the RUC.

"For reasons unknown there was no post-mortem carried out after Daniel's death.

"However, there is a medical report on his admission to hospital noting Daniel's injuries and discloses that there was a bullet wound with an entry wound and no corresponding exit wound.

"This means there is a possibility that a bullet remained inside Daniel's body when he was buried," he added.

"If such a bullet exists it could be an important piece of evidence in this case which could assist the forthcoming inquest and police investigation.

"Whilst the family are distressed by this development... we understand the Coroner's reasons for granting the order and that it may assist the pursuit of the truth of what happened," Mr Ó Muirigh added.

Military Reaction Force

Former members of the Military Reaction Force told the BBC's Panorama programme in 2013 that they had been tasked with "hunting down" IRA members in Belfast.

But they also admitted shooting and killing unarmed civilians.

Panorama was told the MRF consisted of about 40 men handpicked from across the British army.

Before it was disbanded 40 years ago, plain-clothes soldiers carried out round-the-clock patrols of west Belfast - the heartland of the IRA - in unmarked cars.

One of them described their mission as "to draw out the IRA and to minimise their activities... if they needed shooting, they'd be shot".

Panorama identified 10 unarmed civilians shot, according to witnesses, by the MRF.

Among them was Daniel Rooney.

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