Northern Ireland

Daniel Rooney: Object found during Army death exhumation

Forensic teams at Milltown cemetery
Image caption Police forensic teams at Milltown cemetery exhuming the body of Daniel Rooney

An "object of interest" has been found during the exhumation of a man shot by the Army, police say.

Daniel Rooney was 18 when he was shot in St James Crescent in west Belfast in September 1972. He died later in hospital.

His body has been exhumed at Milltown cemetery, as part of an investigation into the Military Reaction Force (MRF).

The circumstances leading to his death are disputed.

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

Det Ch Insp Neil McGuinness, said on Tuesday that Mr Rooney's body had been removed to allow some forensic work to be carried out.

"However at this stage, we can confirm that we have found an object of interest that will be submitted for further forensic tests in due course," he said.

"We are continuing to liaise with the family in relation to this and will keep them informed of any further developments.

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

"There are no further details available at this stage."

Image caption Det Ch Insp Neil McGuinness said it is a criminal investigation and anything found would be subject to forensic tests

In 2013, former MRF members told the BBC's Panorama programme that as well as "hunting down" IRA members in Belfast, they shot and killed unarmed civilians.

The investigation into the unit began two years ago, and encompasses 10 shootings.

It has been described as a "very large undertaking".

No post-mortem examination was conducted when Mr Rooney died in 1972.

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

A team of experts including pathologists and forensic anthropologists has been involved in removing his remains.

Previously, Mr McGuinness said it was the most complicated case he has worked on during his 20-year policing career.

Detectives from the Legacy Investigation Branch have finished the exhumation process at Milltown cemetery.

On Monday, solicitor Paidraig O Muirigh, representing the Rooney family, said there was a chance a bullet would be found in the coffin.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption The exhumation operation was expected to take two days

The 2013 Panorama programme was told the MRF consisted of about 40 men handpicked from across the Army.

Before it was disbanded 40 years ago, plain-clothed soldiers carried out round-the-clock patrols of west Belfast 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 - including Daniel Rooney - who were shot by the MRF, according to witnesses.

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