Jean Smyth killing: security forces may have concealed truth for over 40 years, court hears

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

POLICE and army officers may have concealed the truth about the suspected military killing of a woman in west Belfast for more than 40 years, the High Court has heard.

Counsel for the family of Jean Smyth claimed the discovery of documents pointing towards undercover soldiers carrying out the shooting undermines the PSNI's ability to oversee a new impartial investigation.

The 24-year-old mother of one was killed by a single shot to the head as she sat in a car on the Glen Road in June 1972.

At the time the RUC informed her family that it was probably an IRA gunman who opened fire.

But records uncovered at the National Archives in Kew, London two years ago suggest the British army's Military Reaction Force (MRF) fired shots in the area and were allegedly involved in the killing, a judge was told.

Ms Smyth's family have issued judicial review proceedings amid claims the PSNI lacks the necessary independence to carry out a fresh probe.

Detectives are currently examining nearly 20 shooting incidents as part of wide-ranging inquiries into the MRF's activities.

In court yesterday Hugh Southey QC, for the family, said there was now fresh evidence linking the British state's own agents to the killing of an innocent citizen.

"There's material to suggest the MRF was involved in the systematic abuse of force," he said.

"There's a rigorous need for investigation in circumstances where there's reason to believe the truth has in the past been concealed both by army and police officers.

"It may well be the case that the family have not been told the truth for in excess of 40 years."

The barrister contended that the findings of two previous probes into the death were flawed.

That undermines public confidence in the PSNI conducting an impartial investigation, he claimed.

Referring to the army records, Mr Southey continued: "What the logs suggest is that there were complaints at the time by people in the neighbourhood that military personnel had been involved in the killing.

"So, it would appear the RUC should have been aware of those allegations."

He insisted: "The issue for the court is whether or not a fair-minded observer would conclude there's a real risk of bias (in a new PSNI inquiry)."

The hearing continues.