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With PSNI barred from probe into 1972 killing of Jean, family hoping for justice at long last

By Allan Preston

The family of a young mother shot dead in 1972 say they are delighted by a court ruling ordering a new investigation into her death that will not involve the PSNI.

Jean Smyth-Campbell (24) had a six-year-old daughter when she was shot while in a car on the Glen Road in Andersonstown, west Belfast, on the night of June 8, 1972.

She died shortly after being shot.

Questions remain to this day over who was responsible for the slaying.

The IRA was initially blamed by police. But it was suspected that the Military Reaction Force (MRF), a shadowy undercover Army unit, killed Jean.

With a new investigation imminent, her brother Gerry Campbell and sister Ann Silcock told the Belfast Telegraph: "Now we hope we can get the final justice for Jean."

The RUC originally stated that the IRA had killed her.

And the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) reached the same conclusion in 2008.

In 1973 a report in this newspaper said it was likely she was shot by accident, but also asked if the MRF could have been responsible.

Just weeks ago the matter was in the public eye again in Belfast High Court.

Jean's sister Margaret McQuillan made an application for a judicial review into the case following new information coming to light in 2014.

Researcher Ciaran MacAirt, who also investigated the 1971 McGurk's bar bombing, found military documents at the National Archive in London which showed the "MRF claim a hit" on the night of the shooting.

On March 3 this year Mr Justice Paul Maguire concluded that both the RUC and HET investigations were fatally flawed.

The court also ruled that the PSNI's Legacy Investigation Branch (LIB) "lacks the requisite independence" needed for a proper investigation in line with Article Two of the European Convention of Human Rights, which states every life must be protected by law.

At present the LIB is engaged in a wider investigation into allegations that the MRF carried out random and unjustified killings during the Troubles.

After criticising the HET investigation, Mr Justice Maguire further raised the possibility of perceived bias and a culture of preferential treatment for soldiers linked to civilian deaths during the Troubles.

He also called Jean a wholly innocent person who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

He said: "The system for investigating serious crime has let her and her family down over a period of decades now."

Madden and Finucane, the Belfast law firm representing the family, said the judgment could have huge significance for other families seeking independent investigations into the killing of their loved ones.

Mr Campbell said the judgment had given the family hope of getting justice for his sister.

"We didn't think we would get it," he said.

"Now we hope we can get the final justice for Jean. I always knew there was something wrong about that night."

A deep regret for the family is that Jean's parents died before knowing the full story.

"My mother used to say for years: 'No one ever found out what happened to my Jean'," explained Mr Campbell.

He expects the next step to be the selection of an independent investigation team with no links to the PSNI.

He added he was "not worried" about prosecutions, but wanted the truth acknowledged by those responsible.

"I want people to know that Jean was a lovely girl who would have done anything for you. For her to die the way she did was wrong," he said.

"At the time there was an awful lot of deaths in 1972, nearly 500.

"She was forgotten, we were yesterday's news very quick."

Today Jean's daughter Sharon McVicar lives in Sydney with her four sons, working as a manager for furniture giant Ikea.

"Any memory of her mother comes from us," said Mr Campbell.

"Sharon is a lovely girl, just like her mother."

Mrs Silcock also welcomed the court ruling on her sister "after more than 40 years of being lied to".

"I was 21 when Jean died. Even now we think of her, she was like another mummy to me," she said.

"For someone to be convicted would be a dream come true, but I don't think that would happen.

"I'd like the Government to hold their hands up and have a public apology.

"We all loved Jean dearly, she was a beautiful young girl, but we also want justice for other families in the same situation."

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