Key Events & Deaths on this day in Northern Ireland Troubles
Sunday 5 January 1969
Terence O’Neill, then Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, issued a statement on the events since 1 January
Monday 5 January 1976
Kingsmills Killings Ten Protestant civilians were killed by the Republican Action Force (RAF), believed to be a covername for some members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), in an attack on their minibus at Kingsmills, near Bessbrook, County Armagh. The men were returning from work when their minibus was stopped by a bogus security checkpoint.
An RUC officer was shot dead by members of the IRA near Castledawson, County Derry.
Friday 5 January 1979
Two members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) were killed in a car in Ardoyne, Belfast, when the bomb they were transporting exploded prematurely.
Monday 5 January 1981
Adam Butler, David Mitchel and John Patten were appointed to positions in the Northern Ireland Office (NIO).
Wednesday 5 January 1983
The Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) was declared illegal in the Republic of Ireland.
Thursday 6 January 1983
Two undercover Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers were shot dead by members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Rostrevor, County Down.
Saturday 5 January 1991
The Irish Republican Army (IRA) planted a series of incendiary devices in premises in the Belfast area. A factory and six shops were destroyed in the attacks.
Sunday 5 January 1992
The Irish Republican Army (IRA) exploded a bomb, estimated at 500 pounds, in High Street in the centre of Belfast. The bomb caused extensive damage to property in the area.
Tuesday 5 January 1993
Incendiary bombs exploded in four stores in Oxford Street in London. [The bombs had been planted by the Irish Republican Army (IRA).]
Wednesday 5 January 1994
At the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) Michael Ancram became the Political Development Minister, and Tim Smith took over the environment and economy briefs from Robert Atkins. The National Committee on American Foreign Policy invited the leaders of the main political parties in Northern Ireland to attend a conference in New York. The invitations included one to Gerry Adams.
[On 29 January 1994 a visa to enter the USA was given to Adams.]
Sunday 5 January 1997
A bomb, estimated at 250 lbs, was left near Cullyhanna, County Armagh. The device was defused by the British Army.
[It was believed to have been planted by the IRA.]
‘Punishment’ beatings were carried out on two men in north Belfast, and there were three ‘punishment’ shootings in Portadown.
John Hume, then leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), wrote an article in the Sunday Independent newspaper which responded to approaches from Sinn Féin (SF) for an electoral pact. Hume stated that the SDLP would only enter such a pact if there was an Irish Republican Army (IRA) ceasefire and if SF dropped its policy of abstention from the Westminster parliament.
[These conditions were rejected by SF.]
Monday 5 January 1998
The leadership of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) in the Maze Prison issued a statement warning that the Loyalist ceasefire was “extremely fragile”. The UDA prisoners also demanded “equal treatment” with Republicans.
Marjorie (Mo) Mowlam, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, held meetings with Unionist and Nationalist politicians at Stormont Castle. The meetings included all the parties to the talks and also the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and the United Kingdom Unionist (UKU) party.
The funeral of Eddie Treanor took place in north Belfast.
Families Against Intimidation and Terror (FAIT) issued figures on the number of ‘punishment attacks’ carried out by paramilitary organisations in Northern Ireland. The figures showed that there had been 72 shooting incidents in 1997 compared to 31 in 1996. Loyalists had been responsible for 48 (21 in 1996) attacks while Republicans had carried out 24 (10 in 1996) attacks. The number of ‘punishment beatings’ was 160 in 1997 only slightly lower than in 1996.
In economic figures that confirmed the continuing economic boom of the ‘celtic tiger’, forecasts from the Department of Finance in the Republic of Ireland indicated that the Republic’s economy would be financially in the black for the first time in 30 years. Official returns showed that receipts in 1997 had risen by £1 billion (punts) more than the Department had estimated.
Tuesday 5 January 1999
Two men were injured in paramilitary ‘punishment’ attacks carried out by Loyalists.
Four of the five Assembly members for the United Kingdom Unionist Party (UKUP), who had left the party on 14 December 1998, announced that they were forming the Northern Ireland Unionist Party (NIUP). The members who formed the NIUP were Patrick Roche, Cedric Wilson, Roger Hutchinson, and Norman Boyd. This left Robert (Bob) McCartney, then leader of the UKUP, as the only Assembly member from that party. McCartney described the defection as “a day of political infamy and fraud”. The split and formation of a new party followed a number of disagreements within the UKUP.
[The NIUP became the sixth Unionist party within the Northern Ireland Assembly.]
Canon Cecil Cooper, then editor of the Church of Ireland Gazette, defended his criticism of Bertie Ahern, then Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), for having his partner, Celia Larkin, accompany him on official occasions.
Friday 5 January 2001
Ken Maginnis, then Ulster Unionist Member of Parliament (MP), and a strong ally of David Trimble, then leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), announced that he would step down as MP at the next Westminster election.
[There was media speculation about what impact his departure would have on the balance of power between the pro- and anti-Agreement elements within the UUP.]
Saturday 5 January 2002
Garda Síochána (the Irish police) arrested seven suspected dissident Republicans in County Louth, Republic of Ireland, at approximately 9.00pm (2100GMT). The men were arrested following the search of a house in Dundalk during which a number of weapons were discovered. The men, aged between 20 and 50, were being questioned under Section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act.
[It was believed that two of the men were members of the “real” Irish Republican Army (rIRA). On Tuesday 8 January 2002 six of the men appeared before the Special Criminal Court in Dublin charged with membership of an illegal paramilitary organisation.]
Remembering all innocent victims of the Troubles
Today is the anniversary of the death of the following people killed as a results of the conflict in Northern Ireland
“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die
– Thomas Campbell
To the innocent on the list – Your memory will live forever
– To the Paramilitaries –
There are many things worth living for, a few things worth dying for, but nothing worth killing for.
17 People lost their lives on the 5th January between 1972 – 1991
05 January 1972
Keith Bryan, (18)
nfNI Status: British Army (BA),
Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA) Shot by sniper while on British Army (BA) foot patrol, Ardmoulin Street, Lower Falls, Belfast.
05 January 1973
Trevor Rankin, (18)
Protestant Status: Civilian (Civ),
Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA) Shot at Ben Madigan filling station, Shore Road, Belfast. Mistaken for off duty Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) member.
05 January 1974
Leo McCullagh, (44)
Catholic Status: Civilian (Civ),
Killed by: non-specific Loyalist group (LOY) Shot at his home, Ravenscroft Avenue, Strandtown, Belfast.
05 January 1976
Clifford Evans, (30)
Protestant Status: Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC),
Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA) Shot by sniper while on Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) mobile patrol, near Castledawson, County Derry.
Key Events & Deaths on this day in Northern Ireland Troubles
Friday 2 October 1970
It was announced that local government elections would be postponed.
[The next local government elections took place on 30 May 1973.]
Saturday 2 October 1971
A member of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) was killed in a premature bomb explosion.
Thursday 2 October 1975
12 People Killed in UVF Attacks 12 people died in a series of Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) attacks across Northern Ireland. Four Catholic civilians were killed in a UVF gun attack at Casey’s Bottling Plant, Millfield, Belfast. Two other Catholic civilians were killed in separate bomb attacks in Belfast and County Antrim.
Two Protestant civilians were also killed in UVF attacks. And four members of the UVF died when a bomb they were transporting exploded prematurely near Coleraine, County Derry.
Tuesday 2 October 1979
In a statement the Irish Republican Army (IRA) rejected Pope John Paul II’s call for an end to the violence in Northern Ireland. The IRA declared that it had widespread support and that Britain would only withdraw from Northern Ireland if forced to do so: “force is by far the only means of removing the evil of the British presence in Ireland … we know also that upon victory the Church would have no difficulty in recognising us”. Maurice Oldfield, the former head of MI6, was appointed to a new post of security co-ordinator for Northern Ireland.
[This is seen as an attempt to improve relations between the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and the British Army.]
Thursday 2 October 1986
George Seawright, then a Loyalist councillor, was sentenced to nine months imprisonment for his part in disturbances following a protest at Belfast City Hall on 20 November 1985.
‘The Committee’ Broadcast The Channel 4 broadcasting company showed a documentary called ‘The Committee’ in its Dispatches series. The programme claimed that there was an ‘inner circle’ in the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) which was colluding with Loyalist paramilitaries in the killing of Catholics.
[A subsequent book on the controversy, also entitled ‘The Committee’, was not released in the United Kingdom (UK) by the American publishers who feared libel proceedings.]
Saturday 2 October 1993
The Irish Republican Army (IRA) exploded three bombs in Hampstead, north London and injured six people and damaged a number of shops and flats.
Monday 2 October 1995
The Irish Times (a Dublin based newspaper) carried a report of an interview with David Trimble, then leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP). Trimble was reported as calling for the establishment of a Northern Ireland Assembly and he said he would debate with Sinn Féin (SF) if the party took its seats in this proposed assembly. Trimble travelled to Dublin for a meeting with John Bruton, then Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister).
Friday 2 October 1998
During a visit to Northern Ireland Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa said that politicians would have to answer to the people if the peace process was allowed to stall.
Saturday 2 October 1999
David Trimble, then leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), spoke at the conference of the youth wing of the UUP. Trimble criticised the Young Unionists for passing a motion calling for the exclusion of Sinn Féin (SF) from any future government. As he spoke Trimble was heckled. Gerry Adams, then President of Sinn Féin (SF), gave an address to the second annual Congress of Ógra Sinn Féin in Dublin.
The youth wing of SF voted to reject the Patten report. Eddie McGrady, then chief whip of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), accused the Conservative Party of selecting spokesmen on Northern Ireland who “are totally anti-Agreement, anti-change and therefore anti-peace”. Sam Cushnahan, then Director of Families Against Intimidation and Terror (FAIT), announced that the group was ending its work.
Monday 2 October 2000
The Human Rights Act 1998 came into force. This Act gave effect to some (but not all) of the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The necessary legislation had been passed at Westminster in 1998 but the delay was to give lawyers and public organisations time to prepare. Under the Human Rights Act people are able to bring a case in local courts rather than having to go to Strasbourg where the European Court sits
Tuesday 2 October 2001
Quentin Davies, then Conservative MP and Shadow Secretary of State, accompanied parents and children as they returned home through the Loyalist protest outside the Holy Cross Girls’ Primary School in Ardoyne, north Belfast. Davies described the protest as “utterly unacceptable”.
[It was reported (Irish Times) that one protester, who seemed uncertain of Davies identity, shouted: “Away back to the Free State, Fenian scum”.]
The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) managed to secure 30 signatures to allow it to table a motion in the Northern Ireland Assembly to exclude Sinn Féin (SF) ministers from the Executive. The UUP motion had been short by two signatures but the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) members put their names to the motion. The UUP has said that if the motion fails the party will withdraw its ministers from the Executive.
[The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) had tabled a similar motion on Monday 1 October 2001 but the UUP motion will be the one debated. The planned move by the UUP will result in the (long-term) suspension of the power-sharing government.]
Remembering all innocent victims of the Troubles
Today is the anniversary of the death of the following people killed as a results of the conflict in Northern Ireland
During the 1970s a group of Protestant paramilitaries embarked on a spree of indiscriminate murder which left thirty Northern Irish Catholics dead. Their leader was Lenny Murphy, a fanatical Unionist whose Catholic-sounding surname led to his persecution as a child for which he took revenge on all Catholics.
Not for the squeamish, The Shankill Butchers is a horrifying detailed account of one of the most brutal series of murders in British legal history – a phenomenon whose real nature has been obscured by the troubled and violent context from which it sprang.
These guys were active when I was a teenager and dumped some of their poor victim’s brutalised bodies at the back of the community centre and waste ground facing were I lived on Forthriver Road , Glencairn. I use to have to pass this area on the way home and on dark winter nights I was terrified if I heard the sound of a Black Taxi climbing the hill towards me. I should have felt safe in the heartlands of Loyalist West Belfast , but although they were protestant, the Butchers struck feared into everyone and their victims included protestants and other loyalists who made the mistake of upsetting Murphy.
Also I lived around the corner from where Murphy was killed and on the night he died I heard the shots that killed him and was one of the first at the scene……
Visit the autobiography section of this blog to read more…
See Below for full details on the Shankill Butchers
The views and opinions expressed in this post and page are soley intended to educate and provide background information to those interested in the Troubles of Northern Ireland.
They in no way reflect my own opinions and I take no responsibility for any inaccuracies or factual errors
With 19 murders between them, the Shankill Butchers were the most prolific gang of serial killers in UK history. With unique access to thousands of pages of evidence and exclusive interviews, Stephen Nolan goes back to the patch where he was brought up to ask how the Shankill Butchers got away with murder for so long. The programme also helps to build a psychological profile of the “ruthless and sadistic” gang leader, Lenny Murphy who, even though jailed for six years for an unrelated offence, would continue to direct the murders from his prison cell.
The Shankill Butchers
IRA execute Shankill Butcher leader Lenny Murphy | Belfast | 17th November 1982
The Shankill Butchers was an Ulster loyalist gang—many of whom were members of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)—that was active between 1975 and 1982 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. It was based in the Shankill area and was responsible for the deaths of at least 23 people, most of whom were killed in sectarian attacks. The gang was notorious for kidnapping and murdering random Irish Catholic civilians; each was beaten ferociously and had his throat hacked with a butcher’s knife. Some were also tortured and attacked with a hatchet. The gang also killed six Ulster Protestants over personal disputes, and two other Protestants mistaken for Catholics.
Most of the gang were eventually caught and, in February 1979, received the longest combined prison sentences in United Kingdom legal history. However, gang leader Lenny Murphy and his two chief “lieutenants” escaped prosecution. Murphy was killed in November 1982 by the Provisional IRA, likely acting with loyalist paramilitaries who perceived him as a threat.
The Butchers brought a new level of paramilitary violence to a country already hardened by death and destruction. The judge who oversaw the 1979 trial described their crimes as “a lasting monument to blind sectarian bigotry”.
Much of what is known about the Butchers came first from Martin Dillon‘s The Shankill Butchers: A Case Study of Mass Murder (1989 and 1998). In compiling this detailed work, Dillon was given unlimited access to the case files of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (now the Police Service of Northern Ireland), which eventually caught the gang. Eventually Dillon had to leave Northern Ireland for his safety.
The commander of the Shankill Butchers gang was Lenny Murphy. At school he was known as a bully and would threaten other boys with a knife or with retribution from his two older brothers. Soon after leaving school at 16, he joined the UVF. Murphy often attended the trials of people accused of paramilitary crimes, to become well acquainted with the laws of evidence and police procedure.
On 28 September 1972 Murphy (aged 20) shot and killed William Edward “Ted” Pavis (32) at the latter’s home in East Belfast. Pavis was a Protestant whom the UVF believed was selling weapons to the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA). Murphy and an accomplice, Mervyn Connor, were arrested shortly afterwards and held on remand in Belfast’s Crumlin Road prison. After a visit by police to Connor, fellow inmates suspected that he might cut a deal with the authorities with regard to the Pavis killing. On 22 April 1973, Connor died by ingesting a large dose of cyanide. Before he died he wrote a confession to the Pavis murder under Murphy’s duress.
Murphy was brought to trial for the Pavis murder in June 1973. The court heard evidence from two witnesses who had seen Murphy pull the trigger and had later picked him out of an identification parade. The jury, however, acquitted him due in part to Murphy’s disruption of the line-up. Murphy’s freedom was short-lived: he was re-arrested immediately for a number of escape attempts and imprisoned, then interned, for three years.
A UVF mural on the Shankill Road, where the gang was based
In May 1975, Murphy was released from prison, where he had been married to Margaret Gillespie and during which period a daughter had been born to the couple. He spent much of his time frequenting pubs on the Shankill Road and assembling a paramilitary team that would enable him to act with some freedom at a remove from the UVF leadership (Brigade Staff). Murphy’s inner circle consisted of two people whom Dillon was unable to name for legal reasons but whom he called Murphy’s “personal friends”. These were a “Mr A” and John Murphy, one of Lenny’s brothers (referred to as “Mr B”). Further down the chain of command were Lenny Murphy’s “sergeants” William Moore and Bobby “Basher” Bates, a UVF man and former prisoner. Moore, formerly a worker in a meat-processing factory, had stolen several large knives and meat-cleavers from his old workplace, tools that would later be used in more murders. Another prominent figure was Sam McAllister, who used his physical presence to intimidate others.
On 2 October 1975, the gang raided a drinks premises in nearby Millfield. On finding that its four employees (two females and two males) were Catholics, Murphy shot three of them dead and ordered an accomplice to kill the fourth. By now Murphy was using the upper floor of the Brown Bear pub, at the corner of Mountjoy Street and the Shankill Road near his home, as an occasional meeting-place for his unit.
On 24–25 November 1975, Murphy adopted the method that gained the Butchers infamy far beyond Belfast. Using the city’s sectarian geography (which remains to this day) to identify likely targets, Murphy roamed the areas nearest the Catholic New Lodge in the hope of finding someone (likely to be Catholic) to abduct. Francis Crossen (34), a Catholic man and father of two, was walking towards the city centre at approximately 12.40 a.m. when four of the Butchers, in Moore’s taxi, spotted him. As the taxi pulled alongside Crossen, Murphy jumped out and hit the man with a wheel brace to disorientate him. He was dragged into the taxi by Benjamin Edwards and Archie Waller, two of Murphy’s gang. As the taxi returned to the safety of the nearby Shankill area, Crossen suffered a ferocious beating. It is clear that he was subjected to a high level of violence, including a beer glass being shoved into his head. Murphy repeatedly told Crossen: “I’m going to kill you, you bastard”, before the taxi stopped at an entry off Wimbledon Street. Crossen was dragged into an alleyway and Murphy, brandishing a butcher’s knife, cut his throat almost through to the spine. The gang dispersed. Crossen, whose body was found the next morning (Tuesday) by an elderly woman, was the first of three Catholics to be killed by Murphy in this “horrific and brutal manner”. “Slaughter in back alley” was the headline in the city’s major afternoon newspaper that day. A relative of Crossen said that his family was unable to have an open coffin at his wake because the body was so badly mutilated.
The Lawnbrook Social Club (1979)
A few days later, on 30 November 1975, an internal feud led to the deaths of two members of a rival UVF company on the Shankill and to that of Archibald Waller, who had been involved in the Crossen murder. On 14 October of that year, Waller had killed Stewart Robinson in a punishment shooting that went wrong. With the sanction of the UVF Brigade Staff, he in turn was gunned down by one of Robinson’s comrades in the UVF team based in the “Windsor Bar”, a quarter of a mile from the Brown Bear pub. Enraged, Murphy had the gunman, former loyalist prisoner Noel “Nogi” Shaw, brought before a kangaroo court in the Lawnbrook Club, one of his Shankill drinking-dens. After pistol whipping Shaw, Murphy shot him in front of his whole unit of about twenty men and returned to finish his drink at the bar. John Murphy and William Moore put Shaw’s body in a laundry basket, and Moore dumped it half a mile away from the murder scene.
Murphy’s other cut-throat victims were Joseph Quinn (55) and Francis Rice (24). Both were abducted late at night, at the weekend, in the same area as Crossen. Quinn was murdered in the Glencairn district of the Upper Shankill in the early hours of 7 February 1976 and Rice a few streets from Murphy’s home at about 1.30 a.m. on 22 February 1976, after a butcher’s knife had been collected from a loyalist club. Quinn’s body was not found until mid-evening, after a phone call to a Belfast newspaper, while Rice’s was found about six hours after his murder. Murphy’s main accomplices on both occasions were Moore and Bates, while Edwards was party to the killing of Quinn. Another man and two women, whom Dillon did not name, were accessories to Murphy in the murder of Rice.
By this time the expression “the Butchers” had appeared in media coverage of these killings, and many Catholics lived in fear of the gang. Detective Chief Inspector Jimmy Nesbitt, head of the CID Murder Squad in Tennent Street RUC base and the man charged with tracking down the Butchers, was in no doubt that the murders of Crossen, Quinn and Rice were the work of the same people. Other than that he had little information, although a lead was provided by the woman who found Rice’s body. The previous night she had heard voices in the entry where the body was later found and what she thought might have been a local taxi (those in Belfast being ex-London type black cabs). This had led to William Moore’s taxi being examined for evidence, as were all other Shankill taxis; however, the Butchers had cleaned the vehicle thoroughly and nothing incriminating was found. Under Murphy’s orders, Moore destroyed the taxi and bought a yellow Ford Cortina, which was to be used in subsequent murders.
Early on 11 March 1976, Murphy tried to kill a Catholic woman in a drive-by shooting; arrested later that day, he was put on remand on an attempted murder charge. Shortly after Murphy’s arrest, he began to receive visits from “Mr A” and “Mr B”. He told “Mr A” that the cut-throat murders should continue in due course, partly to divert suspicion from himself. In a subsequent plea-bargain, Murphy pleaded guilty to a firearms charge and was sentenced on 11 October 1977 to twelve years’ imprisonment.
Another Catholic man killed by the gang was Cornelius Neeson (49), attacked with a hatchet by Moore and McAllister on the Cliftonville Road late on 1 August 1976. He died a few hours later. A brother of Mr Neeson’s, speaking in 1994, declared: “I saw the state of my brother’s body after he was butchered on the street. I said, ‘That is not my brother’. Even our mother would not have recognised him”.
Later that year “Mr A” informed Moore, now the Butchers’ de facto commander, of Murphy’s orders to resume the throat-slashings. Three more Catholic men from North Belfast were subsequently kidnapped, tortured and hacked to death in the same way as before. The victims were: Stephen McCann (21), a Queen’s University student murdered on 30 October 1976; Joseph Morrissey (52), killed on 3 February 1977; and Francis Cassidy (43), a dock-worker who was killed on 30 March 1977. Moore proved himself an able deputy to Murphy, committing the throat-cuttings himself and encouraging the gang to use extreme violence on the victims beforehand. In particular, Arthur McClay attacked Morrissey with a hatchet; Moore had promoted McClay after Murphy had been jailed. The three victims were dumped in various parts of the greater Shankill area. The other gang members involved in one or more of these cut-throat murders were Sam McAllister, John Townsley, David Bell and Norman Waugh. “Mr A” played a prominent part in the planning of Moore’s activities.
Capture and imprisonment
Late on Tuesday, 10 May 1977, Gerard McLaverty, a young Belfast man whose family had recently left the city, was walking down the Cliftonville Road. Two members of the Butchers approached him and, posing as policemen, forced him into a car where two of their comrades were seated. The gang, who had spent the day drinking, drove McLaverty to a disused doctor’s surgery on the corner of Emerson Street and the Shankill Road where he was beaten with sticks. He was stabbed, had his wrists slashed a number of times by Moore and McAllister, using a smallish knife, and was dumped in a back entry. Uncharacteristically, he had been left for dead by the gang but survived until early morning, when a woman heard his cries for help and called the police. In compliance with previous orders, news of the assault was given to Inspector Nesbitt. At first he did not attribute particular significance to this message, as the Butchers had left no one alive before; but on discovering the nature of the assault and the use of a knife, he came up with an idea that was to permanently change the course of his inquiries.
Taking advantage of the aftermath of a loyalist paramilitary strike and local elections, Nesbitt had the recovered McLaverty disguised and driven by police around the Shankill area on Wednesday 18 May to see if he could spot the men who had abducted or attacked him. Within a short time he identified McAllister and Edwards, and Nesbitt had a breakthrough that enabled him to widen his net. The next morning he initiated a large arrest operation and many of McAllister’s associates, including Moore, were taken into custody. At first under intense interrogation, the suspects admitted only to their involvement in the McLaverty abduction but Nesbitt, seizing on McAllister’s references to the size of a knife used on McLaverty, had his team of detectives press the case, and eventually most of the gang admitted their part in the activities of the Butchers. Further arrests followed and the overall picture became clearer.
The salient point emerging was that Lenny Murphy, the commander of the unit, was the driving force behind the cut-throat murders and other criminal activities. A number of the Butchers implicated him and his close associates “Mr A” and “Mr B” (John Murphy) in numerous paramilitary activities but later retracted these claims for fear of retribution from the UVF Brigade Staff. Lenny Murphy, in prison, and Messrs “A” and “B” were interviewed several times in connection with the Butchers’ inquiry but revealed nothing during interviews. Without corroborative or forensic evidence, the state prosecution service decided that they would not face charges.
The rest of the Butchers came to trial during 1978 and early 1979. On 20 February 1979, eleven men were convicted of a total of 19 murders, and the 42 life sentences handed out were the most ever in a single trial in British criminal history. Moore pleaded guilty to 11 counts of murder and Bates to 10. The trial judge, Lord Justice O’Donnell, said that he did not wish to be cast as “public avenger” but felt obliged to sentence the pair of them to life imprisonment with no chance of release. However, Bates was freed two years after the paramilitary ceasefires of 1994 and Moore released under the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. Martin Dillon’s own investigations suggest that a number of other individuals (whom he was unable to name for legal reasons) escaped prosecution for participation in the crimes of the Butchers and that the gang were responsible for a total of at least 30 murders. In summing-up, Lord O’Donnell stated that their crimes, “a catalogue of horror”, were “a lasting monument to blind sectarian bigotry”. After the trial, Jimmy Nesbitt’s comment was: “The big fish got away”, a reference to Murphy (referred to in court as “Mr X” or the “Master Butcher”) and to Messrs “A” and “B”. At this time Gerry McLaverty lived under Northern and Republican police protection in Dublin, where he had been given a cover name.
Murphy’s release and death
His sentence for the firearms conviction complete, Lenny Murphy was released from prison on 16 July 1982. One day later, his killing spree resumed when he beat to death a local Protestant man with a learning disability in the Loyalist Club in Rumford Street. His body was dumped in a back alley over a mile away. Murphy began to assemble a new gang.
On 29 August 1982, Murphy killed Jim Galway (33), a part-time Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) soldier from the Lower Shankill area who had been passing information to the UVF and was involved with its Ballymena units. When suspicions of being an informer fell upon Galway, Murphy decided to kill him. Galway was shot in the head at a building site in the village of Broughshane near Ballymena and buried on the spot. His decayed body was not found until November 1983; he had not been seen since leaving for a short holiday at the end of August 1982. The location of the body was pointed-out in 1983 by someone in custody for other charges.
On 5 September, Murphy killed a former UVF prisoner, Brian Smyth (30), in a dispute over money owed for a car. Murphy poisoned the man in a Shankill club before shooting him from the rear of a passing motorcycle as he sat in a car driven by Murphy’s friend and leading Red Hand Commando member Sam “Mambo” Carroll.
The Shankill Butchers’ last victim was killed off Brookmount Street (pictured), where Lenny Murphy owned a house
Early on Friday 22 October, UDR soldier Thomas Cochrane was kidnapped by the IRA. The next evening, although he had been warned by the UVF Brigade Staff against abducting anyone, Murphy kidnapped a Catholic, ostensibly to demand Cochrane’s release in exchange for the Catholic hostage. He hijacked a black taxi, which one of his men drove to the Falls Road. Joseph Donegan, a middle-aged Catholic man on his way home, hailed the vehicle and got in. Murphy immediately attacked the man as the taxi was driven back to the safety of the Shankill. At a house owned by Murphy in Brookmount Street, Donegan was tortured sadistically by Murphy, who according to Dillon, pulled out all but three of his teeth with pliers. Murphy’s associate, Tommy Stewart, battered Donegan to death with a shovel. “Mr A” was party to these events. Murphy telephoned a prominent Catholic politician, Cormac Boomer, to demand that Cochrane be set free. Murphy ordered that Donegan’s body be removed from his house, but the plan was disturbed by passers-by and the victim had to be dumped in an entry behind the house. After discovery of the body on the morning of Monday 25 October, Murphy and two others were arrested; but without evidence that Murphy had been party to this crime, it was not possible to charge him. Cochrane’s body was found a week later.
Murphy was assassinated by a Provisional IRA hit squad early in the evening of Tuesday 16 November 1982 outside the back of his girlfriend’s house in the Glencairn estate (where four of the Butchers’ cut-throat victims had been dumped). No sooner had he parked his car than two gunmen emerged from a van that had been following him and fired a hail of more than twenty bullets, killing him instantly. After several days’ speculation as to those responsible for the shooting, the IRA issued a statement claiming responsibility for what it termed Murphy’s “execution”:
“Lenny Murphy (master butcher) has been responsible for the horrific murders of over 20 innocent Nationalists in the Belfast area and a number of Protestants. The IRA has been aware for some time that since his release recently from prison, Murphy was attempting to re-establish a similar murder gang to that which he led in the mid-1970s and, in fact, he was responsible for a number of the recent sectarian murders in the Belfast area. The IRA takes this opportunity to restate its policy of non-sectarian attacks, while retaining its right to take unequivocal action against those who direct or motivate sectarian slaughter against the Nationalist population”.
The location of the murder, in a loyalist stronghold, and the timing of the shooting to coincide with Murphy’s movements suggest that the IRA received help from UVF members who deemed Murphy “out of control” or, equally plausibly, that information had been given by an enemy of Murphy’s. Dillon suggests that Jim Craig, a leading Ulster Defence Association (UDA) godfather whose protection rackets had made him rich and feared in equal measure, fitted the bill. He was known to have clashed with Murphy on the latter’s release from prison earlier that year and may have wanted him out of the picture. In support of this theory, Craig was later executed by his UDA colleagues for “treason”, an inquiry having found some evidence of his part in the murder of other top loyalists by the IRA.
Murphy’s family denied that he had a violent nature or was involved with the Butchers: “My Lenny could not have killed a fly”, said his mother Joyce. She also accused the police of continual harassment of her son since his recent release from prison and said that he was planning to leave the country as soon as his divorce came through. The UVF gave Murphy a paramilitary funeral attended by thousands of loyalists and several unionist politicians, at which Mr A and John Murphy played prominent roles. On his gravestone in Carnmoney cemetery were inscribed the words: “Here lies a soldier”. Murphy’s headstone was smashed in 1989 and had to be replaced.
Moore, Bates and McAllister shot and wounded a member of the Windsor Bar UVF unit a few hours after the murder of Noel Shaw in November 1975. Murphy and Moore shot dead Edward McQuaid, a Catholic man, on the Cliftonville Road on 10 January 1976. On 9 February 1976, Murphy and three of his gang shot and killed two Protestant men, Archibald Hanna and Raymond Carlisle, wrongly believing that they were Catholics on their way to work across the Shankill. Bates was involved in a gun attack on a bar in Smithfield, not far from the Shankill, that killed several people, both Catholics and Protestants, on 5 June 1976. Other Protestants who met their deaths at the hands of the gang included two UDA men. The first was Thomas Easton, who made the mistake of becoming involved in an argument with McAllister, and died after being hit by falling beer-barrels on 21 December 1976. McAllister’s guilty plea to a manslaughter charge was accepted by the Crown. The second was James Moorehead, a former police reservist, beaten to death by McAllister, Bates and Moore in the toilets of the Windsor Bar on 29 January 1977. McAllister received a minor punishment shooting for the murder of Easton. Members of the gang also carried out a bombing mission on the Falls Road that killed a 10-year-old Catholic boy on 10 April 1977. Murphy’s brother John was heavily involved in the latter incident, along with “Mr A”. The gang used the services of the UVF’s leading bomb expert James “Tonto” Watt to plant the device, although Watt was not a member of the Brown Bear platoon. Several of the Butchers, including John Murphy, were questioned about a serious assault in April 1977 in Union Street, near Belfast city centre, on a man they believed wrongly was a Catholic. John Murphy received three years’ imprisonment for his part in this incident.
Several sources indicate that Mid-Ulster UVF’s brigadier, Robin “The Jackal” Jackson from Donaghcloney (now deceased) contacted members of the gang in the Shankill, “Mr A” in particular, and had them make an attempt on the life of journalist Jim Campbell, northern editor of the Sunday World newspaper, in May 1984. Campbell, whose investigations put the spotlight on Jackson’s activities, was very seriously wounded but survived.
All members of the Butchers gang were released a number of years ago. The first to be freed was John Townsley, who had been only 14 when he became involved with the gang and 16 when arrested. In October 1996, Bates was released; he had reportedly “found religion” behind bars. Bates was shot and killed in the upper Shankill area on 11 June 1997 by the son of the UDA man he had killed in the Windsor Bar. “Mr B”, John Murphy, died in a car accident in Belfast in August 1998. In July 2000, Sam McAllister was injured in an attack during a loyalist feud. William Moore was the final member of the gang to be released from prison in August 1998, after over twenty-one years behind bars. He died on 17 May 2009, from a suspected heart attack at his home and was given a paramilitary funeral by the UVF. With Moore now deceased, the only senior figure still alive is “Mr A”.
In November 2004, the Serious Crime Review Team in Belfast said they were looking into the unsolved death of Rosaleen O’Kane, aged 33 at the time of her death, who was found dead in her home in September 1976. Her family and authorities believe the Shankill Butchers may have been involved in her death.