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New appeal over killings linked to secretive British Military Reaction Force

The unit was in operation during the early years of the Troubles.

Source: PoliceServiceNI/YouTube

POLICE IN NORTHERN Ireland are appealing for information relating to a secretive British Army unit that operated in the 1970s.

A number of shootings have been identified that may have involved the Military Reaction Force (MRF – also known as the Military Reconnaissance Force), who were operating in Belfast at the time.

The unit was in operation during the early years of the Troubles and was made up of two distinct parts – one group carried out covert operations, and the other of which was involved in infiltrating the IRA.

shooting - 1 A map of where of the shootings happened

Two years ago a BBC Panorama programme saw former MRF soldiers claiming that other members in their unit had killed unarmed people. 

The renewed investigation is the result of a referral from the Director of Public Prosecutions following that programme.

shooting - 2 A map of where the shootings happened

In the course of the incidents that happened between April and September 1972, at least two people were killed and a number of others were injured.

Speaking about the new investigation, PSNI Chief Inspector Peter Montgomery from the Legacy Investigation Branch said:

We know these events took place a long time ago and we know they took place during one of the worst years of the Troubles when many shootings occurred but we believe there are people out there who can help us progress this investigation and we are appealing to them to contact us.

The incidents

The list of incidents that the PSNI have stated they are interested in are:

  • The fatal shooting of 44-year-old Patrick McVeigh and shootings of four other men, aged 18, 25, 26 and 41, in the Riverdale Park area of West Belfast on 12 May, 1972.

Patrick McVeigh Patrick Mcveigh

  • The fatal shooting of 18-year-old Daniel Rooney and shooting of an 18-year-old man in the St James Crescent area of West Belfast on 26 September 1972.

Daniel Rooney 2 Daniel Rooney

  • The shooting of 2 brothers, aged 19 and 30, in the Whiterock Road area of West Belfast, at approximately 8am on 15 April 1972.
  • The shooting of an 18-year-old man in the Glen Road area of West Belfast at approximately 9pm on 6 May 1972.
  • The shooting of a 15-year-old boy outside a disco at Oliver Plunkett School, Glen Road, Belfast, at approximately 11.50pm on 7 May 1972.
  • The shooting of an 18-year-old man in the Slievegallion area of West Belfast at approximately 11.30pm on 12 May 1972.
  • The shooting at a 34-year-old man in the Silvio Street area of North Belfast at approximately 12:20pm on 26 May 1972.
  • The shooting of four men, aged 18, 19, 21 and 28, in the Glen Road area of West Belfast, at approximately 12 midday on 22 June 1972.
  • An incident during which a white Austin Morris vehicle, VRM COI8368, was shot at by a male who got out of what is believed to have been a stalled vehicle in the Kashmir Road area of West Belfast at approximately 2pm on 9 May 1972.

What is going to happen now?

While some of these incidents have previously been the subject of police investigations that have seen people being charged, others are being investigated for the first time.

Anyone who might have witnessed the shootings or has any information in connection with them is being asked to come forward. An appeal has also been made to anyone who was serving with the MRF in Northern Ireland at the time.

“I appreciate these incidents took place a long time ago but I believe there are people in the community and elsewhere today who were witnesses to them, remember them or talked about them. I need their help to progress this part of the overall investigation,” Chief Inspector Montgomery went on.

Anyone with any information relating to the incidents can contact police in Northern Ireland on 048 92589128.

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