Northern Ireland news

Man jailed over IRA killing of British army corporals dies in west Belfast

Alex Murphy, who was jailed for his involvement in the murder of the British army corporals in 1988
Brendan Hughes

A WEST Belfast republican who was jailed during the Troubles for his involvement in the murders of two British army corporals at an IRA funeral has died.

Alex Murphy, thought to be aged in his early sixties, died peacefully yesterday at his home on Falls Road.

At the age of 15, Murphy was among the youngest republican internees in Long Kesh prison in the early 1970s.

He was one of two men who received life sentences over the IRA killing in March 1988 of corporals David Howes (23) and Derek Wood (24).

They had driven into the path of a funeral for Caoimhín Mac Brádaigh, one of three people murdered days earlier in an attack on Milltown Cemetery by loyalist Michael Stone.

Read More: MPs demanded date to withdraw from Ireland after murders of British soldiers

Amid a time of heightened tensions, mourners said they initially believed they were again under attack from loyalists when the plain-clothed corporals drove into the funeral cortege.

The soldiers were dragged from their car and brought to Casement Park where they were stripped and beaten, before being taken to wasteground and shot.

Television crews and an army observation helicopter captured the attack on film, making their deaths among the most harrowing of the Troubles.

Among the most striking and poignant images of the conflict was Fr Alec Reid kneeling beside one of the corporals giving him the last rites.

Read More: 14 bloody days that changed Northern Ireland

Murphy received a life sentence, but was released in 1998 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement having served about 10 years in prison.

Danny Morrison, Sinn Féin's former director of publicity, yesterday recalled his memories of Murphy during the Troubles.

"My first memory of him is coming into Long Kesh in 1973, I think he was 15 years of age. There was a number of them who were called the 'schoolboy internees'," he said.

Alex Murphy led into Belfast magistrates court charged over the murders of corporals Derek Wood and David Howes

He said he understood Murphy later spent time in Crumlin Road jail before being moved to the H-blocks.

Mr Morrison added: "He struck me as a fairly quiet and reflective type of person.

"He was just a quiet person as far as I can remember and a deep thinker, and kept himself to himself."

A death notice described Murphy as a "beloved" father of Sean, Mairghread, Piaras and Conall.

Funeral arrangements have yet to be finalised.

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