Belfast Telegraph

IRA man convicted of 1988 Army corporal killings dies

IRA killer Alex Murphy
IRA killer Alex Murphy
Corporal David Howes who was murdered in Andersonstown in 1988
Corporal Derek Wood, who was murdered in Andersonstown in 1988

By Staff Reporter

Alex Murphy, who was jailed for one of the most infamous killings of the Troubles, has died at home in west Belfast.

He was believed to be in his early sixties and was a father of four.

At age 15, he was among the youngest republican prisoners in Long Kesh prison in the 1970s.

He received a life sentence along with one other man - Hugh Maguire - for the IRA killing of Royal Signals corporals Derek Wood (24) and David Howes (23) in March 1988.

The two Army corporals were dragged from their Volkswagen Passat by a mob after straying into the path of the IRA funeral cortege of Kevin Brady, one of those killed when loyalist Michael Stone attacked a funeral in Milltown cemetery.

Harrowing video footage of the incident showed the two young soldiers being pulled from the car, beaten to the ground and disarmed.

Although both were armed, only one soldier fired a warning shot into the air to drive back the crowd.

As they were being stripped of their clothing, documents recovered from their pockets identified the men as soldiers.

Wounded and bleeding, the two corporals were driven to the nearby Casement Park GAA ground/Penny Lane area where they were again assaulted before being shot dead.

The two men were given the last rites by Fr Alex Reid, a Redemptorist priest.

A graphic photo of the priest kneeling beside David Howes' broken body has become one of the most searing images of The Troubles.

Corporal Howes had only been in Northern Ireland for a week before he was murdered.

People at the funeral said later they believed they were under attack from loyalists when the corporals, who were dressed in plain clothing, drove into the funeral cortege.

The savage attacks were captured on film by television crews and an army helicopter.

Cyril Donnan, then an RUC chief superintendent, told a BBC documentary on the murders that as the crowd surged towards the soldiers' car, police had no idea what was going on.

"As soon as we realised something was wrong, we decided we needed to get out there," he said - admitting that had meant defying his "stand-off" orders.

Earlier this year, plaques were unveiled at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire in memory of the two murdered corporals.

Alex Murphy was later released in 1998 under the Good Friday Agreement after serving around 10 years in prison.

He died on August 15 and is survived by his four children Sean, Mairghread, Piaras and Conall.

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