Justice for Eileen Doherty after 40 years
Solace for family as loyalist killer found guilty of teen's 1973 murder
A sister of a young Catholic woman shot dead 40 years ago in a sectarian killing says she hopes the conviction of a man for her murder would bring the family some comfort.
But Linda Marsden added that it was a tragedy that her parents never got to see Robert James Shaw Rodgers jailed for the murder of their daughter Eileen Doherty.
Eileen was shot three times in south Belfast in September 1973 after the taxi she had gotten into was hijacked by two loyalist terrorists, one armed with a gun.
Although Rodgers was jailed for life, he could be free after two years under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, defence lawyer Sean Devine said during a failed bail application.
Speaking after 59-year-old was convicted at Belfast Crown Court, Mrs Marsden said her family was relieved that "justice has finally been done".
"We have grieved for almost 40 years for our sister Eileen. Our dad never came to terms with the murder of his daughter; he could not even speak her name. He was traumatised until his death in May 2012," she said.
"Our mother, although traumatised, had to be strong and continued to care for her other seven children until her death in August 2009.
"As a family, we have been given answers to questions that have tormented us.
"Who could have done this to a beautiful 19-year-old girl? She posed no threat to anyone."
Earlier, as he delivered his damning judgment on Rodgers, from Tierney Gardens in Belfast, Diplock judge Mr Justice Horner said it was "without a shadow of a doubt" that he was finding the killer guilty.
Mr Justice Horner said there could be no possible innocent explanation for Rodgers' palm prints being uncovered inside the hijacked taxi and that even if he had had any doubts at all, they were dispelled by evidence that less than a year later Rodgers had killed another Catholic, Ciaran McElroy, simply because of his religion. "Eileen Doherty was murdered because she was a Catholic who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time," said the judge.
He added that despite the 40-year gap, "murder is murder".
"The passage of time, whether it is five years or 55 years, in no way dilutes the seriousness of such a crime," he said. Mr Justice Horner continued: "I am satisfed beyond reasonable doubt the defendant assisted in the murder of Eileen Doherty.
"Although he did not pull the trigger of the gun that shot her dead, he was an integral part of the joint enterprise."
Throughout the 45-minute hearing Rodgers appeared unbothered as he sat in the dock, casually reclining in his seat, with his arm draped over the back of the bench seating.