Tag Archives: Shankill

Lenny Murphy – Leader of The Shankill Butchers – Life & Death

Lenny Murphy

2 March 1952 – 16 November 1982

Leader  of The Shankill Butchers

Life & Death

Over a 10-year-year period, from 1972 to 1982, the Shankill Butchers gang, led by psychopath Lenny Murphy, terrorized Northern Ireland Catholics, becoming the most prolific group of serial killers in British history.

See Shankill Butchers

Hugh Leonard Thompson Murphy, who commonly went by the name Lenny (or Lennie) (2 March 1952 – 16 November 1982), was an Ulster loyalist from Belfast, Northern Ireland. Murphy was a member of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and leader of the infamous Shankill Butchers gang which became notorious for its torture and murder of Roman Catholic men. Although never convicted of murder, Murphy is thought to have been responsible for many deaths.[1] Murphy spent long periods in custody from late 1972 to July 1982, being free for a total of only thirteen months during that time. He was shot dead by the Provisional IRA in November 1982.

A Protestant, Murphy had a fanatical hatred of Roman Catholics. In his book The Shankill Butchers, Belfast journalist Martin Dillon suggests that Murphy’s visceral loathing of Catholics may have stemmed from his own family being suspected of having recent Catholic ancestry, because of his traditionally Irish surname which is more often associated with the other side of the religious divide in Northern Ireland.[2] After his death, his mother commented: “I don’t honestly believe he was a bad man”; however, an unnamed loyalist from the rival Ulster Defence Association described Murphy as a “typical psychopath”.

Disclaimer

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

Lenny Murphy
Lenny murphy.jpg

Lenny Murphy in 1982
Born Hugh Leonard Thompson Murphy
2 March 1952
Shankill Road, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Died 16 November 1982 (aged 30)
Glencairn, upper Shankill Road, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Cause of death Over 20 fatal gunshot wounds
Nationality British
Other names Lenny or Lennie
Known for Leader of Shankill Butchers
Ulster Volunteer Force member
Religion Protestantism

Early life

Murphy was the youngest of three sons of Joyce and William Murphy from the loyalist Shankill Road, Belfast. William was originally from Fleet Street, Sailortown in the Belfast docks area. This was where he had met Joyce Thompson, who came from the Shankill. Like his own father (also named William), he worked as a dock labourer.[4]

The Murphy family changed their residence several times; in 1957 they returned to Joyce’s family home in the lower Shankill, at 28 Percy Street. Murphy’s father was reclusive which led to a rumour that he was not the same man and that Joyce was now living with a different ‘William Murphy’, one who was a Catholic. Lenny Murphy did not use his given first name because Hugh was perceived as Catholic-sounding, especially when coupled with the surname Murphy. Prior to the erection of a peace wall in the 1970s, Percy Street ran from the lower Shankill area to the Falls Road. A hoodlum at school (Argyle Primary), where he was known for the use of a knife and had his elder brothers to back him up, Murphy logged his first conviction at the age of twelve for theft. After leaving the Belfast Boys’ Model School at sixteen, he joined the Ulster Volunteer Force and was involved in the rioting that broke out in Belfast in August 1969.

His character was marked by a pathological hatred of Catholics which he brought into all of his conversations, often referring to them as “scum and animals”.[5] He held a steady job as a shop assistant, although his increasing criminal activities enabled him to indulge in a more high profile and flamboyant lifestyle which involved socialising with an array of young women and heavy drinking.[6]

Dillon wrote that it is “incredible to think that Murphy was in fact a murderer at the age of twenty” (1972). There were many people at the time who would have found it hard to believe as physically he did not differ from most young men of his age. Below average height, of slim build and sallow complexion, Murphy was blue eyed and had curly dark brown hair. He sported several tattoos; most of them bearing Ulster loyalist images.[7] He was a flashy dresser, too, often wearing a leather jacket and scarf, and occasionally a pair of leather driving-gloves, such that it reminded one contact of the time of a World War I fighter-pilot.[8]

First Crimes

The Lawnbrook Social Club in Shankill Road‘s Centurion Street, one of Murphy’s drinking haunts. It has since been demolished

According to Dillon, Murphy was involved in the torture and murder of four Catholic men as early as 1972. On 28 September of that year, a Protestant man named William Edward Pavis who had gone bird shooting with a Catholic priest, was killed at his home in East Belfast. Pavis had been threatened by loyalists who accused him of selling firearms to the IRA. Murphy was arrested for this crime along with an accomplice, Mervyn Connor.[9]

During pre-trial investigations, Murphy was placed in a line-up for possible identification by witnesses to Pavis’ shooting. Before the process began formally, he created a disturbance and stepped out of the line-up. However, two witnesses picked him out when order was restored.[9]

Connor and Murphy were held in prison together but, in April 1973, before the trial, Connor died after ingesting cyanide in his cell. He had written a suicide note in which he confessed to the crime and exonerated Murphy. It is believed Connor was forced to write the note and take the cyanide. Murphy was sent to trial for the murder of Pavis in June 1973. Although two witnesses identified him as the gunman, he was acquitted on the basis that their evidence may have been affected by the disturbance during the police line-up inquiry. However, Murphy was re-arrested and jailed for attempted escapes.[10]

By May 1975, Murphy, now aged twenty-three, was back on the streets of Belfast. On 5 May 1973, inside the Crumlin Road prison, he had married 19-year-old Margaret Gillespie, with whom he had a daughter.[11] He moved his wife and child to Brookmount Street in the upper Shankill where his parents also had a new home; however, he spent much of his time drinking in Shankill pubs such as The Brown Bear and Lawnbrook Social Club. He also regularly frequented the Bayardo Bar in Aberdeen Street.[12] Murphy later told a Provisional IRA inmate that on 13 August 1975 he had just left the Bayardo ten minutes before the IRA carried out a gun and bombing attack against the pub which killed a UVF man and four other Protestants and left over 50 injured.[13]

With his brother William he soon formed a gang of more than twenty men that would become known as the Shankill Butchers, one of his lieutenants being William Moore.

Brookmount Street (2009), where Murphy lived close to the top of the Shankill Road

Shankill Butchers murders

The gang shot dead four Catholics (two men and two women) during a robbery at a warehouse in October 1975. Over the next few months Murphy and his accomplices began to abduct, torture and murder random Catholic men they dragged off the streets late at night. Murphy regarded the use of a blade as the “ultimate way to kill”, ending the torture by hacking each victim’s throat open with a butcher’s knife. By February 1976 the gang had killed three Catholic men in this manner. Murphy achieved status though his paramilitary activity and was widely known in the Shankill. Many regarded his crimes as shaming the community but feared the consequences of testifying against him.[14][15] None of the victims had any connection to the IRA, and there was suspicion among some of their families that the murders were not properly investigated because those being killed were Catholics.[14]

The Butchers were also involved in the murder of Noel Shaw, a loyalist from a rival UVF unit, who had shot dead Butcher gang-member Archie Waller in Downing Street, off the Shankill Road, in November 1975. Four days before his death, Waller had been involved in the abduction and murder of the Butchers’ first victim, Francis Crossen. One day after Waller’s death, Shaw was beaten and pistol-whipped by Murphy while strapped to a chair, then shot. His body was later dumped in a back street off the Shankill.[16]

By the end of 1975, the UVF Brigade Staff had a new leadership of “moderates”, but Murphy refused to submit to their authority, preferring to carry out attacks by his own methods. Dillon suggested that whilst some of the Brigade Staff knew about Murphy’s activities (albeit not the precise details), they were too frightened of him and his gang to put a stop to them.[17]

On 10 January 1976, Murphy and Moore killed a Catholic man, Edward McQuaid (25), on the Cliftonville Road. Murphy, alighting from Moore’s taxi in the small hours, shot the man six times at close range.

Imprisonment

Early on 11 March 1976, Murphy shot and injured a young Catholic woman, once again on the Cliftonville. Arrested the next day after attempting to retrieve the gun used, Murphy was charged with attempted murder and remanded in custody for a prolonged period. However, he was able to plea bargain whereby he was allowed to plead guilty to the lesser charge of a firearms offence, and received twelve years’ imprisonment on 11 October 1977. Dillon notes that the police believed Murphy was involved in the Shankill Butcher murders. To divert suspicion from himself Murphy ordered the rest of the gang to continue the cut-throat murders while he was in prison. The Butchers, now under the operational command of William Moore, went on to kill and mutilate at least three more Catholics.

The team of Criminal Investigation Department (CID) detectives investigating the murders was led by Detective Chief Inspector Jimmy Nesbitt who headed C Division based at Tennent Street off the Shankill Road. However the police were overworked during this period and little progress was made in the investigation until one victim, Gerard McLaverty, survived his assault. Detectives were driving him down the Shankill Road on the way to the scene of his abduction when he recognized two of his assailants walking in the street. This identification of Sam McAllister and Benjamin Edwards led to the arrest of much of the gang in May 1977 and, in February 1979, they were imprisoned for long periods. Confessions of gang members had named Murphy as the leader but statements incriminating him were later retracted. He was questioned once again about the Butcher murders but denied involvement.

The total of sentences handed down to the gang at Belfast Crown Court was the longest in legal history in the United Kingdom.

Last months on the Shankill

On completing his sentence for the firearms charge, Lenny Murphy walked out of the Maze Prison on Friday, 16 July 1982. During his term inside, his wife Margaret had initiated divorce proceedings which were being finalised at the time of his death. Murphy returned to his old ways, killing at least four more people over the next four months. He beat to death a partially disabled man one day after returning to the Shankill. Another victim sold him a car and was shot dead after demanding full payment.[18] Murphy also attempted to extort money from local businessmen who had been sympathetic in the past; however, this encroached on other loyalist paramilitaries with established protection rackets.[19]

In late August 1982, Murphy killed a part-time Ulster Defence Regiment soldier from the Lower Shankill area who was closely involved with the UVF in Ballymena and was allegedly an informer. The man’s body was not discovered for almost a year.[1] In mid-October, Murphy and several associates kidnapped a Catholic man who was then tortured and beaten to death in Murphy’s own house (temporally vacated due to renovations). Murphy, who had left the house strewn with the victim’s blood and teeth, was arrested for questioning the next morning but later released. The sadism of the widely publicised killing led to loyalism receiving a great deal of bad publicity, and leading UVF figures concluded that Murphy’s horrific methods had made him too much of a liability.[9]

Death

On 16 November 1982, Murphy had just pulled up outside the rear of his girlfriend’s house in the Glencairn area of the upper Shankill when two Provisional IRA gunmen emerged from a black van nearby and opened fire with an assault rifle and a 9 mm pistol. Murphy was hit by more than twenty rounds and died instantly.[20] Coincidentally, he was gunned down just around the corner from where the bodies of many of the Butchers’ victims had been dumped. A few days after his death the IRA claimed responsibility. According to RUC reports, the UVF had provided the IRA hit team with the details of Murphy’s habits and movements, which allowed them to assassinate him at that particular location. Another line of inquiry ends at UDA leader James Craig,[19] who saw Murphy as a serious threat to his widespread racketeering and provided the IRA with key information on Murphy’s movements. Craig was known to meet IRA commanders to discuss their racketeering activities – he was later killed by his comrades for “treason”.[21]

Murphy was given a large paramilitary funeral by the UVF with a guard of honour wearing the UVF uniform and balaclavas. A volley of three shots was fired over his coffin as it was brought out of his house and a piper played “Abide With Me”. He was buried in Carnmoney Cemetery; on his tombstone the following words were inscribed: “Here Lies a Soldier”.[22] The tombstone was smashed in 1989.[23] His photograph was displayed inside “The Eagle”, the UVF Brigade Staff’s headquarters over a chip shop in the Shankill Road. According to investigative journalist Paul Larkin, it graced the walls as a “fallen officer” up until the late 1990s.[24

See Shankill Butchers

See Robert “Basher” Bates

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23rd October – Deaths & Events in Northern Ireland Troubles

Key Events & Deaths on this day in Northern Ireland Troubles

 23rd Octobe

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Friday 23 October 1970

Charles Haughey, and two others were found not guilty of illegal arms importation by a Dublin jury. The ‘Arms Trial’ had begun on 28 May 1970. Neil Blaney, a co-accused, had been found not guilty on 2 July 1970.

Saturday 23 October 1971

Funeral of Mrs Maura Meehan 31

Two female members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), Maura Meehan (30) and Dorothy Maguire (19), were shot dead by the British Army (BA) in the Lower Falls area of Belfast. The two women had been travelling the area warning people of British Army raids on houses.

[The two women were the first members of Cumann na mBan to die in the conflict.] Three Catholic civilians, Sean Ruddy (28), James McLaughlin (26) and Robert Anderson (26), were shot dead by the British Army during an attempted robbery in Newry, County Down.

Tuesday 23 October 1973

The Standing Committee of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) voted by 132 to 105 to support a policy which would allow UUP members to take part in any future power-sharing executive.

[While Brian Faulkner, then leader of the UUP expressed his public pleasure at the result, the narrowness of the victory was an indication of deep divisions within the UUP.]

Thursday 23 October 1975

Two Catholic civilians, Peter McKearney (63) and his wife Jane McKearney (58), were shot dead by the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) at their home near Moy, County Tyrone.

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) planted a bomb on a car outside the home of Hugh Fraser, then a Conservative Member of Parliament (MP). A person passing the car was killed when the bomb exploded prematurely.

Monday 23 October 1978 [ Hunger Strike. ]

Friday 23 October 1981

Ulster Unionist Party conference took place over two days (23 – 24 October 1981). [ Political Developments.]

Friday 23 October 1987

Sinn Féin (SF) gained by-election victories in elections to Belfast City Council.

Tuesday 23 October 1990

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) shot and killed a Protestant taxi driver, William Aitken, in Belfast.

Saturday 23 October 1993

Shankill Road Bombing

See Shankill Bomb

See Greysteel

Ten people were killed when a bomb being planted by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) exploded prematurely as it was being planted in a fish shop on the Shankill Road, Belfast. With the exception of one of the bombers who was also killed, the rest of those who died were Protestant civilians. The bombing represented the greatest loss of life in Northern Ireland in a single incident since the Enniskillen bombing on 8 November 1987.

A further 57 people were injured in the attack. There was a wave of condemnations of the attack. Loyalist paramilitaries reacted immediately shooting two Catholic men one of whom died later from his wounds.

[Over the next week Loyalist paramilitaries killed a total of 12 Catholic civilians. The IRA later claimed that the intended target of the bomb was a meeting of Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) members that was believed to be taking place in the former Ulster Defence Association (UDA) office above the fish shop.]

It was announced that the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Conference (AIIC) meeting planned for 27 October would be postponed as a mark of respect following the Shankill Road bombing. The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) in Belfast City Council decided not to engage with the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) until the Hume-Adams Initiative had ended.

Sunday 23 October 1994

Martin McGuinness, then Vice-President of Sinn Féin (SF), who was on a visit to London, stated that the Irish Republican Army (IRA) could end its ceasefire if a satisfactory outcome was not produced by the peace process.

Monday 23 October 1995

Dick Spring, then Tánaiste (deputy Irish Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs), travelled to Belfast for talks with David Trimble, then leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP). The two men failed to agree on the issue of the decommissioning of paramilitary weapons. Spring also held a meeting with a delegation from the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) which was led by Gusty Spence, former leader of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF).

Wednesday 23 October 1996

In the Queen’s speech during the opening of a new session of the British parliament, the government announced that it would pass a bill on decommissioning. Later John Major, then British Prime Minister, stated that it would require more than a new ceasefire to allow Sinn Féin (SF) to enter the Stormont talks. James Molyneaux, the former leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), announced that he would not be standing for re-election to the Lagan Valley constituency.

Friday 23 October 1998

Davy Jones, then a Orange Order spokesperson, was suspended by Dennis Watson, then Grand Master of Armagh, for “breaching Orange protocol”

. [The suspension was lifted the following day.]

Saturday 23 October 1999

Senator George Mitchell announced his review of the Good Friday Agreement would be extended as the pro-Agreement parties met at Castle Buildings, Stormont, Belfast. Sinn Féin (SF), the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) were attempting to end the stalemate over decommissioning and the formation of an Executive. David Trimble, then leader of the UUP, wrote an article for the Newsletter (a Belfast based newspaper).

Tuesday 23 October 2001

IRA Began Decommissioning

Loyalist paramilitaries threw a pipe-bomb at the home of a Catholic family on the Deerpark Road, north Belfast, at approximately 9.00pm (2100BST). The RUC said the family, “narrowly escaped death or injury”. There was some damage to the house and a car. At around 4.00pm (1600BST) the Irish Republican Army (IRA) issued a statement that announced that the organisation had begun to decommission its weapons.

The IRA statement included the sentence:

“Therefore, in order to save the peace process we have implemented the scheme agreed with the IICD [Independent International Commission on Decommissioning] in August [2001].”

Later in the day the IICD issued a statement, part of which read: “We have now witnessed an event – which we regard as significant – in which the IRA has put a quantity of arms completely beyond use. The material in question includes arms, ammunition and explosives.” David Trimble, then leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), held a meeting with John de Chastelain (Gen.), then chairman of the IICD, to discuss the act of decommissioning by the IRA. Following the discussions Trimble announced that he would would be recommending to a meeting of the UUP executive on Saturday (27 October 20001) that the UUP ministers retake their seats on the Northern Ireland Executive. The announcements by the IRA and the IICD were welcomed by the British and Irish governments, by the American administration, by Nationalists, and by some Unionists. The Democratice Unionist Party (DUP) and some members of the UUP claimed the move by the IRA was “one-off gesture” or a “stunt”.

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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.

  22  People lost their lives on the 23rd  October  between 1971 – 1993

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23 October 1971


Maura Meehan,  (30)

Catholic
Status: Irish Republican Army (IRA),

Killed by: British Army (BA)
Shot while travelling in car warning local residents of British Army (BA) house raids, Cape Street, Lower Falls, Belfast.

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23 October 1971


Dorothy Maguire,  (19)

Catholic
Status: Irish Republican Army (IRA),

Killed by: British Army (BA)
Shot while travelling in car warning local residents of British Army (BA) house raids, Cape Street, Lower Falls, Belfast.

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23 October 1971


Sean Ruddy,   (19)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: British Army (BA)
Shot by undercover British Army (BA) members, from nearby roof top, during attempted robbery of man outside bank, Hill Street, Newry, County Down. Assumed to be an Irish Republican Army (IRA) member.

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23 October 1971
Thomas McLoughlin,   (27)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: British Army (BA)
Shot by undercover British Army (BA) members, from nearby roof top, during attempted robbery of man outside bank, Hill Street, Newry, County Down. Assumed to be an Irish Republican Army (IRA) member.

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23 October 1971


Robert Anderson,  (25)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: British Army (BA)
Shot by undercover British Army (BA) members, from nearby roof top, during attempted robbery of man outside bank, Hill Street, Newry, County Down. Assumed to be an Irish Republican Army (IRA) member.

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23 October 1972


Michael Naan,  (31)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: British Army (BA)
Stabbed to death at his farm, Aghnahinch, near Newtownbutler, County Fermanagh. His body found on 24 October 1972.

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23 October 1972


Andrew Murray, (24)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: British Army (BA)
Stabbed to death at his workplace, Michael Naan’s farm, Aghnahinch, near Newtownbutler, County Fermanagh. His body found on 24 October 1972.

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23 October 1974
Michael Simpson,   (21) nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Died three weeks after being shot by sniper while on British Army (BA) foot patrol, Racecourse Road, Shantallow, Derry.

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23 October 1975


Peter McKearney,  (63)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)
Shot at his home, Listamlet, near Moy, County Tyrone.

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23 October 1975


Jane McKearney,   (58)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)
Shot at her home, Listamlet, near Moy, County Tyrone.

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23 October 1975
Gordon Hamilton-Fairley,   (45) nfNIB
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Passerby. Killed when bomb attached to the car of Conservative MP Hugh Fraser exploded prematurely, Campden Hill Square, Kensington, London.

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23 October 1990
William Aitken,   (53)

Protestant
Status: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Taxi driver. Shot when he left off passenger at Royal Victoria Hospital, Falls Road, Belfast.

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The Shankill Bombing

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The Bomber

23 October 1993


Thomas Begley,   (23)

Catholic
Status: Irish Republican Army (IRA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed by bomb which exploded prematurely in shop, during attack on the upstairs Ulster Defence Association (UDA) office, Shankill Road, Belfast.

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The Innocent Victims

——————————————–

23 October 1993

4
John Frizzell, (63)


John Frizzell,  (63)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed by bomb which exploded prematurely in shop, during attack on the upstairs Ulster Defence Association (UDA) office, Shankill Road, Belfast.

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23 October 1993

_45418618_sharon226
Sharon McBride, (29)


Sharon McBride,  (29)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed by bomb which exploded prematurely in shop, during attack on the upstairs Ulster Defence Association (UDA) office, Shankill Road, Belfast.

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23 October 1993

NWS_20131023_NEW_006_29372561_I4
Michael Morrison, (27)


Michael Morrison,  (27)

Protestant
Status: Ulster Defence Association (UDA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed by bomb which exploded prematurely in shop, during attack on the upstairs Ulster Defence Association (UDA) office, Shankill Road, Belfast.

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23 October 1993

6
Evelyn Baird, (27)


Evelyn Baird,  (27)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed by bomb which exploded prematurely in shop, during attack on the upstairs Ulster Defence Association (UDA) office, Shankill Road, Belfast.

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23 October 1993

2
Michelle Baird, (7)


Michelle Baird,  (7)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed by bomb which exploded prematurely in shop, during attack on the upstairs Ulster Defence Association (UDA) office, Shankill Road, Belfast.

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23 October 1993

11
Leanne Murray, (13)


Leanne Murray,   (13)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed by bomb which exploded prematurely in shop, during attack on the upstairs Ulster Defence Association (UDA) office, Shankill Road, Belfast.

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23 October 1993

3
George Williamson, (63)


George Williamson,   (63)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed by bomb which exploded prematurely in shop, during attack on the upstairs Ulster Defence Association (UDA) office, Shankill Road, Belfast.

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23 October 1993

10
Gillian Williamson, (49)


Gillian Williamson,   (49)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed by bomb which exploded prematurely in shop, during attack on the upstairs Ulster Defence Association (UDA) office, Shankill Road, Belfast.

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23 October 1993

5
Wilma McKee, (38)


Wilma McKee,  (38)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed by bomb which exploded prematurely in shop, during attack on the upstairs Ulster Defence Association (UDA) office, Shankill Road, Belfast.

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Bits Of Belfast – Shankill Road 1 – 4 with Wayne McCullough

Bits Of Belfast – Shankill Road 1

Bits Of Belfast – Shankill Road 2

Bits Of Belfast – Shankill Road 3

Bits Of Belfast – Shankill Road 4

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Proud to be British – Someone called me a Republican hater yesterday it made me stop and think !

Time for Peace

Someone called me a Republican hater yesterday and it made me stop and think. The twitter in question was from Ireland and accused me of being a loyalist and hating Republicans.

With all due respect she got that right on both counts and I make no apology for being from the Shankill Road, being proud to be British and hating (Sinn Fein/IRA ) Republicans

proud_to_be_british_by_the_angus_burger-d58yegj

That doesn’t mean I hate Catholics or Irish people (I don’t) and would wish any harm on them. In fact during the worst years of the troubles whenever I learnt of the death of an innocent Catholic or anyone else for that matter, my heart would bleed for them and those they left behind.

My sympathy extended to all innocent victims of the conflict, regardless of religious or political background , including the army and other security forces tasked with the impossible job of policing two communities whom at times seemed to want to destroy each other.

The security forces were caught in the middle and were always fighting a losing battle and I salute you all. I am a pacifist at heart and I abhor all murder, especially the murder of innocent people & those committed for political or religious reasons. Life’s to short and  hard enough without having to worry that you will be killed for following a certain political system or worshipping a different god.

The definition of loyalist is :

a. A supporter of union between Great Britain and Northern Ireland

b. A person who remains loyal to the established ruler or government, especially in the face of a revolt.

Growing up in West Belfast during the height of the troubles was no laughing matter and I have seen things that no child should ever have to witness .Death stalked the streets of Belfast day in and day out and there was no escape from the madness that surrounded and engulfed us.

shankill road

The communities from The Shankill , The Falls and surrounding areas arguable suffered most during the Troubles , as not only were we on the “frontline” of the sectarian divide , but the paramilitaries from both sides lived and operated among us.

I have lost count of how many people I grew up with whom have been murdered, imprisoned or had their life’s destroyed as a direct result of the Troubles. As a child growing up in loyalist West Belfast my day to day life was dominated by the conflict and my own family have suffered personally due to the Troubles.

But every other family in Belfast was living the  same nightmare and few escape the legacy of  Northern Ireland’s tortured past.

Ulster_Is_British_magnet

Whilst the Protestants’ clung to their British sovereignty and took pride in the union, our Catholic counterparts felt abandoned and second class citizens in a Unionist run state. The civil rights marches of the 60’s & Republican calls for a United Ireland were the catalyst for the IRA and other Republican terrorist groups to take up arms against the British and feed the paranoia of the loyalist community.

Northern Ireland descended into decades of sectarian conflict & slaughter. An attack on the crown was an attack on the Protestant people of the North and the Protestant paramilitaries took up arms and waged an indiscriminate war against the IRA, Catholic population and each other. Many innocent Catholic’s and Protestant’s became targets of psychopathic sectarian murder squad’s. Murder was almost a daily occurrence and the killings on both sides perpetuated the hatred and mistrust between the two ever-warring communities. It was a recipe for disaster.

1. Irish republicanism is an ideology based on the belief that all of Ireland should be an independent republic.

It may surprise some readers to hear that I have no adverse objections to Republicanism as a concept or a United Ireland and I believe at some time in the far distant future this will come about.

But not in my lifetime or with my support.

imagesmmmm - Copy

I abject to the misery and lost lives the IRA and other paramilitary groups are responsible for and yes I don’t like the IRA and all they stand for.

I was born British into a British country and I am extremely proud of my British & Unionist heritage and it saddens me to see this being slowly eradicated by Sinn Féin//IRA and other Irish Republican groups.

That doesn’t mean I hate Catholics or wish harm on them, it means I have a different point of view and democracy is all about freedom of choice and my choice is to maintain the Union with the UK and embrace and celebrate my loyalist culture and traditions.

1 Teddy with new text

If you have taken the time to read extracts from my autobiography, Belfast Child , you will know that my own family was ripped apart due to the sectarian divide in Northern Ireland and I spent most of my life searching for my missing Catholic mother, whom I thought was dead. Living in loyalist West Belfast I had to keep this dirty little secret to myself and when my father died when I was eleven I longed for my mother to be there, but of course she wasn’t. Times have much changed since my youth and the turbulent early years of the troubles and life is much better and less uncertain for the Children of Belfast today. Hopefully we can all put the past behind us and build a lasting peace and learn to live side by side and respect each other’s history and culture.

“Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.” ― Maya Angelou

The Greysteel shootings – 30 October 1993

The Greysteel Massacre

The Greysteel massacre was a mass shooting that happened on the evening of 30 October 1993 in Greysteel, County Derry, Northern Ireland. Three members of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), a loyalist paramilitary group, opened fire in a crowded pub during a Halloween party, killing eight civilians and wounding thirteen.

The pub was in an Irish Catholic and Irish nationalist area. The group claimed responsibility using their cover name “Ulster Freedom Fighters” and said that the attack was revenge for the Shankill Road bombing a week earlier.

See Shankill Road Bombing

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Disclaimer

The views and opinions expressed in these documentaries 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.

The Innocent Victims

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30 October 1993


Steven Mullan,   (20)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF)
Shot during gun attack on Rising Sun Bar, Greysteel, County Derry.

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30 October 1993


Karen Thompson,  (19)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF)
Shot during gun attack on Rising Sun Bar, Greysteel, County Derry.

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30 October 1993


James Moore,  (81)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF)
Shot during gun attack on Rising Sun Bar, Greysteel, County Derry.

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30 October 1993


Joseph McDermott,   (60)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF)
Shot during gun attack on Rising Sun Bar, Greysteel, County Derry.

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30 October 1993


Moira Duddy,  (59)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF)
Shot during gun attack on Rising Sun Bar, Greysteel, County Derry.

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30 October 1993
John Moyne,  (50)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF)
Shot during gun attack on Rising Sun Bar, Greysteel, County Derry.

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30 October 1993

John Burns,   (54)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF)
Shot during gun attack on Rising Sun Bar, Greysteel, County Derry.

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30 October 1993
Victor Montgomery,  (76)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF)
Shot during gun attack on Rising Sun Bar, Greysteel, County Derry. He died 14 April 1994

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Background

On 23 October 1993, a Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) bomb prematurely exploded in a fish shop on Shankill Road, west Belfast. Eight Protestant civilians, one UDA member and one of the IRA bombers were killed.

The IRA’s intended target was a meeting of UDA leaders, including brigadier Johnny Adair, which was to take place above the shop. Unknown to the IRA, the meeting had been rescheduled. Shortly after two IRA members, Thomas Begley and Sean Kelly, entered the shop dressed as deliverymen and carrying the time bomb under a tray, it exploded accidentally, killing Begley along with the nine others inside the shop at the time. This became known as the Shankill Road bombing.

The UDA launched a number of “revenge attacks” for the bombing. Later that day, it shot a Catholic delivery driver after luring him to a bogus call at Vernon Court, Belfast. He died on 25 October.

On 26 October, the UDA shot dead another two Catholic civilians and wounded five in an attack on the Council Depot at Kennedy Way, Belfast.

Planning

UDA/UFF flags flying in Derry, where the massacre was planned

 

The Londonderry Sentinel newspaper revealed that the massacre had been carefully planned. Those involved in planning and organising the attack were Billy McFarland (‘Brigadier’ of the UDA’s North Antrim & Londonderry Brigade), a UDA commander with the initials ‘RS’, and Brian McNeill.

Stephen Irwin, Geoffrey Deeney and Torrens Knight, all members of the UDA’s North Antrim & Londonderry Brigade, were to carry out the shooting. According to court documents, the gunmen were first briefed on the plans for the massacre on 27 October in a house-office owned by the Ulster Democratic Party at Bond’s Place, Derry.

Before the massacre, the gunmen went to the pub to familiarise themselves with the layout and choose the best positions from which to shoot. Knight turned the office at Bond’s Place into a mock-up of the pub and made Irwin and Deeney rehearse the shooting. It was agreed that Irwin would enter the Rising Sun armed with an AK-47 and keep shooting until the magazine emptied.

Whilst Irwin reloaded, Deeney would fire from his 9 mm semi-automatic pistol. Both would then keep shooting until Irwin’s second magazine was empty. Knight, armed with a shotgun, would ‘cover’ the front door.

Two cars would be used for the attack. The gunmen would drive to the pub in an Opel Kadett with McNeill driving in front as a ‘scout car’. After the shooting, the gunmen would drive the Kadett to a pick-up point near Eglinton, where they would meet McNeill and the Kadett would be burnt.

The massacre

On the evening of 30 October, the three UDA members, two of whom were wearing blue boiler suits and balaclavas, entered the “Rising Sun Bar” in Greysteel. There were about 70 people inside attending a Halloween party,and so the masked men were not noticed until they produced an AK-47 and a 9 mm pistol, and started shooting into the packed crowd in the lounge area.

The leading gunman, Stephen Irwin (who was carrying the AK-47), yelled “trick or treat” as he opened fire.

The scene was chaotic as people inside the lounge began to scream in panic, with women pleading for mercy from the gunmen. Six of those killed were Catholic civilians and two were Protestant civilians. None had any known links to political parties or paramilitaries. The killers, laughing, then made their escape in their getaway car—an Opel Kadett driven by Torrens Knight. Afterwards they were said to have boasted about the killings.

The following day, the UDA claimed responsibility for the attack using the cover name “Ulster Freedom Fighters” (UFF). Its statement said that the “Greysteel raid” was “the continuation of our threats against the nationalist electorate that they would pay a heavy price for last Saturday’s slaughter of nine Protestants”.

A West Belfast UDA member said that his organisation:

“had information that senior IRA men drank in the Rising Sun … Unfortunately they were not there on Halloween but our boys acted on the briefing they had been given”.

The pub is still open in Greysteel. There is a memorial to the victims outside the building that says: May their sacrifice be our path to peace.

Convictions

In 1995, Irwin, Deeney and Knight were convicted along with two others for involvement in the attack.  Knight was also convicted for the Castlerock killings. In 2000, they were released early—along with other paramilitary prisoners—under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

After his release, Irwin joined the Neo-Nazi militant group Combat 18. Knight was also alleged to have had links to Combat 18.

In 2005, Irwin received a four-year prison sentence for slashing a man with a knife. This meant that he also now had to serve the eight life sentences he received for the Greysteel massacre.

In 2006, he abandoned an appeal against the sentences.

In September 2013, Irwin was released from prison a second time after submitting an application to the Sentence Review Commissioners for early release. The commissioners ruled his application should be granted and he was released immediately.

There have been claims in the media that Knight was a paid Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and/or MI5 informer. Knight denied the claims.

In October 2007, a Police Ombudsman investigation concluded that police did not have any prior knowledge that could have helped them prevent the Greysteel attack. The investigators did not find any evidence that Knight was protected from the law.[

The Shankill Bomb

Disclaimer – The views and opinions expressed in these documentary 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.

The Shankill Road bombing was carried out by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) on 23 October 1993 and is one of the most notorious incidents of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. The IRA intended to assassinate loyalist paramilitary leaders, who were to be meeting in a room above Frizzell’s fish shop on Shankill Road, Belfast. Two IRA members were to enter the shop disguised as deliverymen, then force the customers out at gunpoint and plant a time bomb with a short fuse. However, when the IRA members entered the shop with the bomb, it exploded prematurely. One of the IRA members was killed along with a UDA member and eight Protestant civilians.[1] More than fifty people were wounded. Unbeknownst to the IRA, the meeting had been rescheduled.

The loyalist Shankill Road had been the location of other bomb and gun attacks, including the Balmoral Furniture Company bombing in 1971 and Bayardo Bar attack in 1975; but the 1993 bombing had the highest casualties and resulted in a wave of revenge attacks by loyalists. In the week that followed, loyalists killed 14 civilians, almost all of them Irish Catholics. The deadliest attack took place in Greysteel, where UDA members opened fire in a pub frequented by Catholics, killing eight civilians and wounding 13.

The Twelfth in Northern Ireland 2013 (BBC Documentary)

Disclaimer – The views and opinions expressed in these documentary 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

Documentary about Loyalists celebrating their culture on their yearly Orange festival. Contains violence and riotous behaviour.

The Shankill Butchers – Documentary & Background

Click here to buy the book

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

Disclaimer

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

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See Lenny Murphy

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.

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The Shankill Butchers

IRA execute Shankill Butcher leader Lenny Murphy | Belfast | 17th November 1982

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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.[1]

The Butchers brought a new level of paramilitary violence to a country already hardened by death and destruction.[2] The judge who oversaw the 1979 trial described their crimes as “a lasting monument to blind sectarian bigotry”.

Timeline

Background

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.[3]

Formation

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.[4] 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.

Cut-throat killings

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”.[5] “Slaughter in back alley” was the headline in the city’s major afternoon newspaper that day.[6] 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.[7]

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.[8] 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.[9]

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.[10]

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.[11] 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”.[12]

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.[13] “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.[14]

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.[15]

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.[16][17]

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.[18]

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.[19]

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”.[20]

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.[1][17]

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.[21] 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.[22] On his gravestone in Carnmoney cemetery were inscribed the words: “Here lies a soldier”.[23] Murphy’s headstone was smashed in 1989 and had to be replaced.[17]

Other activities

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.[24] 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.[25] 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.[26] The second was James Moorehead, a former police reservist,[27] 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.[28] 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.[29] 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.[30] 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.

Aftermath

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.[31]

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;[32] 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.[33][34] “Mr B”, John Murphy, died in a car accident in Belfast in August 1998.[35] In July 2000, Sam McAllister was injured in an attack during a loyalist feud.[36] 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.[37][38] With Moore now deceased, the only senior figure still alive is “Mr A”.[39]

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.[40]

See Lenny Murphy

Gang members

Lenny Murphy

The following were members of the gang and were convicted of various crimes.[41]

  • Lenny Murphy (1952–1982)
  • John Murphy (1950–1998)
  • William Moore (1949–2009)
  • Robert Bates (1948–1997)
  • Sam McAllister (1955–)
  • Benjamin Edwards (1951–)
  • John Townsley (1961–)
  • Norman Waugh (1952–)
  • Arthur McClay (1953–)
  • David Bell (1953–)
  • Edward McIlwaine (1953–)
  • Edward Leckey

List of victims

The following is a list of known and suspected victims of the Shankill Butchers.

Date Name and age Status
2 October 1975 Marie McGrattan (47) Catholic civilian Shot dead at her workplace; Casey’s Bottling Plant.[42]
2 October 1975 Frances Donnelly (35) Catholic civilian Shot dead at her workplace; Casey’s Bottling Plant.[42]
2 October 1975 Gerard Grogan (18) Catholic civilian Shot dead at his workplace; Casey’s Bottling Plant.[42]
2 October 1975 Thomas Osborne (18) Catholic civilian Shot dead at his workplace; Casey’s Bottling Plant.[42]
25 November 1975 Francis Crossen (34) Catholic civilian Found badly beaten and with his throat slashed in an entry between Wimbledon Street and Bisley Street, middle Shankill.[42]
30 November 1975 Noel Shaw (19) UVF member Found shot dead in a taxi on Nixon Street. The killing was the result of an internal dispute.[42]
10 January 1976 Edward McQuaid (25) Catholic civilian Killed in a drive-by shooting while walking along Cliftonville Road.[43]
6 February 1976 Thomas Quinn (55) Catholic civilian Found with his throat slashed on a grass bank off Forthriver Way.[43]
9 February 1976 Archibald Hanna (51) Protestant civilian Shot, along with Raymond Carlisle, while sitting in a lorry on Cambrai Street. They were assumed to have been Catholics.[43]
9 February 1976 Raymond Carlisle (27) Protestant civilian Shot, along with Archibald Hanna, while sitting in a lorry on Cambrai Street. They were assumed to have been Catholics.[43]
23 February 1976 Francis Rice (24) Catholic civilian Found with his throat slashed in an entry between Mayo Street and Esmond Street, Shankill Road.[43]
2 August 1976 Cornelius Neeson (49) Catholic civilian Found beaten to death at the junction of Manor Street and Cliftonville Road.[43] A hatchet had been used in the attack.
30 October 1976 Stephen McCann (20) Catholic civilian Found with his throat slashed and shot near the community centre off Forthriver Road.[43]
20 December 1976 Thomas Easton (22) Protestant civilian Found beaten to death behind St Andrew’s Church on Forthriver Road. The killing was the result of a personal dispute.[43]
31 January 1977 James Moorehead (30) UDA member Found beaten to death on Adela Street. The killing was the result of a personal dispute.[44]
3 February 1977 Joseph Morrisey (52) Catholic civilian Found badly beaten and with his throat slashed near the community centre off Forthriver Road.[44] A hatchet had also been used in the attack.
30 March 1977 Francis Cassidy (43) Catholic civilian Shot and found with his throat slashed on a grass verge off Highfern Gardens.[44]
10 April 1977 Kevin McMenamin (7) Catholic civilian Killed in a bomb attack on a Republican ClubsEaster Rising Commemoration Parade’, Beechmount Avenue.[44]
10 May 1977 Gerard McLaverty Catholic civilian Found in a back alley off Emerson Street. He had been beaten and stabbed, and his wrists had been slashed. He was the only victim of the Shankill Butchers to have survived his injuries.
17 July 1982 Norman Maxwell (33) Protestant civilian Found beaten to death on waste ground off Alliance Road.[45] He had suffered from a learning disability.
29 August 1982 James Galway (33) Protestant civilian Shot dead and found buried on a building site in Broughshane.[45] He was suspected of being a police informer.
5 September 1982 Brian Smyth (30) UVF member Poisoned in a loyalist club before being shot from a passing motorbike on Crimea Street.[45] The killing was the result of a personal dispute.
24 October 1982 Joseph Donegan (48) Catholic civilian Found beaten to death in an entry off Brookmount Street.[45]

See Lenny Murphy

See Robert ” Basher ” Bates

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