Remains of teenager shot dead by undercover army unit to be exhumed
THE remains of a west Belfast teenager shot dead more than 44 years ago by an undercover British army unit in disputed circumstances are to be exhumed.
Daniel Rooney (18) was shot by the Military Reaction Force (MRF) as he stood talking to a friend at St James’s Road on September 26 1972. He died in the early hours of the following day.
A fresh inquest into the death was directed by the attorney general in September 2014 after further appeals for information by the family’s legal team.
Police also initiated a fresh investigation into killings by the shadowy army unit in the wake of a BBC Panorama documentary into the activities of the MRF during which former soldiers said they were trained to act outside “the normal rules of the army”.
An order to exhume Mr Rooney’s remains from Belfast’s Milltown Cemetery was granted by the coroner earlier this month. Exhumation is to be carried out at the start of next week.
No postmortem examination was carried out at the time of the killing and no explanation ever given to the family as to why this was the case.
However, the family’s legal team unearthed a medical report from his admission to hospital noting that there was a bullet entry wound and no corresponding exit wound.
The exhumation is being carried out to retrieve a bullet believed to have remained lodged in Mr Rooney’s body.
Solicitor Pádraig Ó Muirigh said that although the exhumation is “distressing for the Rooney family” it was necessary because of the flawed original investigation into the death
“If such a bullet exists it could be an important piece of evidence in this case which could assist the forthcoming inquest and police investigation,” he said.
“The Rooney family have also engaged an independent forensic anthropologist to attend the exhumation.”
A spokesperson for the teenager’s family said: “Whilst the family are distressed by this development, as it disturbs the burial ground of the whole family, we understand the coroner’s reasons for granting the order and that it may assist the pursuit of the truth of what happened to our innocent brother Daniel back in September 1972.
“Daniel was an innocent boy standing beside another innocent boy when he was shot by undercover soldiers.”
Last year the body of father-of-12 Joseph Murphy, who was shot during what has become known as the Ballymurphy massacre, was exhumed after conflicting accounts of how he died.
Mr Murphy, who died 13 days after being shot in west Belfast in August 1971, told his family he was shot by a soldier while he was already injured in Henry Taggart temporary army base before being transferred to hospital.
A bullet was recovered from his exhumed body, corroborating the family’s version of events. It was sent for forensic examination.