PSNI carrying out ‘robust investigation’ into shots fired over coffin

Incident happened at funeral of former IRA man convicted over corporals’ murder

PSNI Spt Lorraine Dobson: ‘This was not a sign of respect. This was a criminal act with no regard for the wider wishes of lawabiding people.’ Photograph: Paul McErlane/EPA

PSNI Spt Lorraine Dobson: ‘This was not a sign of respect. This was a criminal act with no regard for the wider wishes of lawabiding people.’ Photograph: Paul McErlane/EPA

 

The PSNI has stated that it is carrying out a “robust investigation” into how shots were fired over the coffin of a former member of the Provisional IRA in west Belfast on Monday.

Footage of the incident was posted online showing two men wearing black balaclavas beside the open coffin of Alex Murphy in west Belfast ahead of his funeral. One fires a number of rounds over the coffin into the air.

Mr Murphy was one of two men convicted of the murders of British army corporals Derek Wood and David Howes in west Belfast in 1988, two of the most notorious killings of the Troubles.

The soldiers were first abducted and beaten by a mob when they somehow appeared to drive into the cortege at the funeral of IRA member, Caoimhín Mac Brádaigh. They were then taken to wasteland where they were shot by the IRA.

Mr Mac Bradaigh was one of three men killed by loyalist Michael Stone when he launched a gun and grenade attack earlier that week in March 1988 at the funerals of three IRA members killed by the SAS in Gibraltar.

‘Reckless act’

PSNI Supt Lorraine Dobson said detectives were investigating the video.

“A robust investigation is underway to establish the full circumstances surrounding this incident. Bringing any weapons onto the streets, whether imitation or real, is a reckless act and one that serves no other purpose than to cause fear and intimidation and puts lives at risk,” she said.

“This was not a sign of respect. This was a criminal act with no regard for the wider wishes of lawabiding people, carried out by those who would seek to exploit and control the community through the fear of violence,” she said.

Added Supt Dobson, “The footage shows a man walking out of the front door of a house just yards away from where the shots were fired, while it also shows a young boy standing beside the coffin as the volley of shots was fired. Firing a gun, in such criminal circumstances, will always have the potential to put lives at risk and is simply unacceptable.”

The DUP leader Arlene Foster said “there must be no excuse” for violence. “The man that was being buried yesterday was the man responsible for one of the most brutal and savage murders in 1988,” she told the BBC.

“We cannot be selective in our condemnation of violence, it doesn’t matter where it comes from.”

Police presence

A Sinn Féin spokesman said there was “no place for guns on our streets”.

The Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister said the paramilitary display was predicable.

“Where, therefore, were the PSNI when men wearing black berets paraded the streets of Belfast?”

Supt Dobson said that police were present at Mr Murphy’s funeral. “An evidence gathering operation was in place and any evidence of offences detected will be put before the Public Prosecution Service,” she said.