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'Bullet' found in exhumed body of dad killed in Ballymurphy Massacre

By Lisa Smyth

Published 29/10/2015

Janet Donnelly, the daughter of Joseph Murphy outside May’s Chambers in Belfast yesterday
Janet Donnelly, the daughter of Joseph Murphy outside May’s Chambers in Belfast yesterday
Joseph Murphy

A coroner examining the death of a man who said he was shot in the leg by soldiers while in their custody has urged caution over claims a bullet has been found in his remains.

Joseph Murphy, a father of 12, was shot on waste ground outside the Henry Taggart army base in Ballymurphy and then badly beaten by troops in August 1971.

He died 13 days later, but prior to his death he told his wife he had been shot a second time into an open leg wound while inside the army base.

On Tuesday, his family were informed a bullet was found in his remains after they were exhumed as part of an ongoing investigation into his death.

As a result, a hearing was organised at May's Chambers in Belfast yesterday to allow counsel acting on behalf of Mr Murphy's body to apply for photographs of his remains to be taken.

However, coroner Brian Sherrard told the court he had not received any official confirmation that the item was a bullet.

He said he expects to receive a report within a fortnight, but continued: "I want to make that entirely clear, there is nothing before me at the moment to say this is a bullet. It has been variously described to me as casing or a jacket.

"Until we get analysis... we need to be very careful not to draw conclusions."

Mr Sherrard also told the court the forensic pathologist has advised that no further useful information can be gained by photographing the bones.

He said he has been told it may be more useful to allow a forensic anthropologist to examine Mr Murphy's remains instead.

Counsel acting on behalf of Mr Murphy's family said she was happy to seek expert advice.

Mr Sherrard reassured the family that he would not allow the remains to be re-interred until investigations had been exhausted.

Ten people were killed by the Parachute Regiment over three days in 1971, with the death toll rising to 11 with Mr Murphy's death almost two weeks later.

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