Belfast Telegraph

Family of man shot by British soldiers want body exhumed 45 years later

The family of a man shot dead by the British army at a Christmas dance in Belfast in 1971 has asked a court for permission to exhume his body.

Joseph Parker's family want tests to be carried out on bullet fragments in an attempt to identify the weapon used, a preliminary inquest in the city has been told.

Mr Parker, who was 25 and a married father-of-one, was killed in disputed circumstances when soldiers opened fire at a community centre in Ardoyne during a disco 45 years ago.

The episode unfolded when troops entered Toby's Hall, which no longer exists, claiming to be searching for a suspect.

During the hearing, Coroner Joe McCrisken was asked to grant Mr Parker's family permission to exhume his body.

The court was told that after Mr Parker's death there had been no attempt to recover the bullet fragments from his body to examine them.

Former state pathologist, Professor Jack Crane, told the inquest this was surprising.

He said the fragments could assist in determining the type and calibre of the bullet, as well as the exact weapon used.

Professor Crane, who has examined several exhumed bodies in Bosnia and Kosovo, added: "Rifling marks are almost as specific as fingerprints."

The hearing was told that Mr Parker is buried at Milltown Cemetery in the same grave as his brother-in-law, Barney Watt, who was shot dead by British soldiers 10 months earlier in February 1971.

Mr Parker's sister Teresa, who was married to Mr Watt, was dancing with her brother when he was shot.

Mrs Watt was in court for the preliminary hearing, which was being heard in the same courtroom as an inquest into her husband's death.

A lawyer for the Parker family said they "fully recognise the magnitude of the request" to exhume the body.

However he added that the family should be afforded the opportunity to "be in the position they should have been in in 1971" had the bullet fragments been examined.

Mr McCrisken said he would consider the request and make a decision within the next week.

Mr Parker, from Eskdale Gardens in Ardoyne, was shot in both thighs. He died two days later.

On the night of his death confrontations had ensued at the dance hall. Soldiers said they fired a series of shots into the roof and walls amid concerns for their safety - claims which were disputed by witnesses.

The full inquest is expected to take place before the end of the year.

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