Belfast Telegraph

PSNI to probe British Army's 'death squad' Military Reaction Force

By David Young

The PSNI is to examine claims an Army unit killed unarmed civilians in west Belfast.

It followed a request from the Director of Public Prosecutions, who asked the police to investigate.

Barra McGrory QC requested Chief Constable Matt Baggott probe the allegations made in a BBC Panorama documentary.

Last night, a spokesman for the PSNI said: "PSNI can confirm that detectives from Serious Crime Branch will study the contents of a BBC Panorama programme into the activities of the MRF to determine whether any investigative opportunities exist."

The programme, which aired on Thursday night, carried interviews with members of the Military Reaction Force (MRF), who claimed drive-by shootings were carried out on nationalists manning barricades to keep out loyalists 40 years ago, even though there was no independent evidence any were paramilitaries.

There were claims the elite soldiers believed military regulations prohibiting firing unless their lives were in immediate danger did not apply to them.

Mr McGrory made the request to the PSNI on the grounds that criminal offences may have been committed.

"I viewed with great concern the Panorama broadcast last evening documenting the activities of the MRF," he said. "Former members of this unit appear to have claimed on camera that they considered themselves to have been authorised to operate outside the law of Northern Ireland. This raises the clear possibility, if not probability, that serious criminal offences were committed."

One former soldier said: "We were not there to act like an Army unit, we were there to act like a terror group."

The reaction force had around 40 hand-picked men from across the British Army who addressed each other by first name and dispensed with ranks and identification tags.

Among those they killed by the unit, in May 1972, was father-of-six Patrick McVeigh.

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