Family sue police over Shankill butchers

Published Tuesday, 31 January 2012
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A woman who lost her father at the hands of the savage Shankill butchers 35 years ago is suing police because she believes the killers could have been stopped much sooner, UTV can reveal.

Family sue police over Shankill butchers
Joseph Morrissey was killed in 1977. (© UTV)

Charlotte Morrissey's dad Joseph was one of around 30 victims believed to have been tortured and killed in north Belfast by the gang during the 1970s.

Led by Lenny Murphy, they stalked the streets at night and preyed on those who were alone and vulnerable - both Catholics and Protestants.

In February 1977, Joseph Morrissey became one of the last of their targets when he was dragged into the back of a car as he walked home along the Antrim Road.

His battered body was later found dumped near a community centre on the Forthriver Road, after he suffered the most horrific death.

But Charlotte, who was 21 at the time, believes her father's murder could have been prevented, and she has taken her case to the High Court.

Now she is suing police because she thinks the killers could have been stopped much sooner.

"Today is a very big day for our family," she told UTV, "because we are issuing a legal writ against the Chief Constable.

We feel the RUC at the time let us down, all the investigative authorities let us down - we believe daddy's death could have been prevented.

Charlotte Morrissey

By the time Joseph Morrissey was killed, ringleader Murphy was in jail on weapons charges but was still telling his henchmen what to do.

It was at the height of the Troubles and police resources were stretched to their limits.

In May 1977 officers finally got a breakthrough. A survivor was able to identify his attackers and 11 loyalists were given life sentences - almost 2,000 years between them.

But Murphy, who was later murdered, and two other players were never prosecuted.

Detective Chief Inspector Jimmy Nesbitt, who was charged with catching those responsible, insists police did all they could to catch the butchers sooner.

"I worked with a team of totally professional detectives and we did absolutely everything in our power to catch these people," Mr Nesbitt told UTV.

"I am confident there are no failings in our investigation.

"We had patrols out but if they saw anyone they would abandon their mission and they only operated when there were no witnesses.

"We had looked at all possible suspects but we had no idea who was carrying out these crimes."

But Charlotte Morrissey isn't convinced.

The writ issued against the police alleges missed opportunities that could have prevented the killings - that they knew as early as 1973 that Lenny Murphy was a murderer, and that police failed to act when Murphy was handing out instructions from his prison cell.

Now Charlotte feels it is time for closure and has vowed to fight for answers.

She said: "When the details came through of what had happened to him that was when - while dad had been a victim of this psychopathic gang, when he died we became the victims.

"I will fight on for as long as it takes for justice to be done, for the Chief Constable to explain to me why when daddy's death was so preventable, why was it not prevented?"

Detective Chief Inspector Jimmy Nesbitt says he is willing to speak to the family.

© UTV News
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31 Comments
Ryan in Belfast wrote (910 days ago):
The RUC knew who the shankill butchers were and they allowed it to continue. They even searched the black taxi used for the murders (which was swamped in blood in many cases) but found "nothing". Utter nonsense, every protestant on the shankill knew who they were and didnt care. The RUC are just as guilty as the shankill butchers.
Ulster Republican in Co. Antrim wrote (1,028 days ago):
Bob, *Its very important that nobody out there thinks i am trying to justify the massacre at kingsmill, im not, im just explaining it* Bob, the innocent men at kingsmill were murdered in retaliation to the loyalist murder of innocent catholics the day before. They werent murdered because a group of IRA men got together in a pub and decided to go torture a random protestant to death, Kingsmill was horrific, brutal and subhuman, but it wasnt simply because they were protestant and no other reason. Now again, can any of you find any innocnt protestants murdered because they were proestant and no other reason, again, i didnt think so.
Anon @ Nick Kent in Belfast wrote (1,028 days ago):
Anon, if she's just looking for a payday does that mean she's following Jeffery Donaldson's group who sued Libya? 100% correct, just another excuse to try to make some money from somewhere. Both cases are laughable.
Nick Kent in London wrote (1,028 days ago):
So, one example. And just who in Stormont did it? I find it incredible that everytime unionism mentions Kingsmill they just ignore the fact that six Catholics from two families were shot dead by the security force led Glenanne gang.
Billy in Belfast wrote (1,029 days ago):
This story tells alone alot about the -disbanded-RUC. It's a sad state of affairs when the IRA had to bring the ring leader of the Shankill butchers to justice when the So-Called police failed miserably.What doe's that tell you?Seriously?Thank god the RUC are no-more.
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