Family of woman killed 40 years ago clear first hurdle

SHOT DEAD: Jean Smyth-Campbell
SHOT DEAD: Jean Smyth-Campbell

THE sister of a woman allegedly shot dead by undercover British soldiers more than 40 years ago has cleared the first stage in a legal battle over investigating the killing.

Margaret McQuillan was granted leave to seek a judicial review amid claims that the PSNI lacks the necessary independence to carry out any probe.

Her sister, Jean Smyth-Campbell, was shot dead in west Belfast in June 1972.

The 24-year-old mother of one was hit in the head as she sat in the passenger seat of the car on the Glen Road.

Until recently her family believed she was killed by the IRA but documents uncovered by an author and researcher suggested that the British army's Military Reaction Force (MRF) fired shots in the area on the same night.

Lawyers for Mrs McQuillan claim the RUC had wrongly blamed republican paramilitaries for her death, heightening their concerns about the impartiality of police to investigate.

Detectives are examining nearly 20 shooting incidents, two of them fatal, as part of a probe into the MRF's activities.

It is unclear whether Ms Smyth-Campbell's killing is among their case-load.

At the High Court yesterday leave to apply for a judicial review over the PSNI's alleged lack of independence.

The case will now proceed to a full hearing next year.

Outside court Mrs McQuillan's lawyer, Barry Woods of O Muirigh Solicitors, said: "The judge was persuaded that an arguable case has been raised by the family in relation to their concern over the PSNI's involvement in this case (investigation)."

Stressing the point about police impartiality, he added: "If successful at the full hearing of this seminal case, it could have significant impact for a great many other landmark cases."