A husband and wife who died on the same day 45 years apart have been buried together, after the widow passed away as his remains lay in a morgue following exhumation.
Joseph Murphy, who was shot dead in the Northern Ireland Troubles in the early 1970s, was exhumed last year by order of a coroner investigating the disputed circumstances of the killing.
His widow Mary, 83, died on Monday after a battle with cancer as her husband’s remains continued to lie in a Belfast morgue. It was the same date Mr Murphy died in 1971.
He was one of 10 civilians shot dead by British soldiers in west Belfast in an incident known as the “Ballymurphy massacre”.
The victims, including a Catholic priest and a mother-of-eight, died in an Army operation that saw paratroopers storm republican strongholds to arrest IRA suspects following the introduction of internment without trial.
Mrs Murphy and her family had long campaigned for justice and requested the exhumation to get to the truth of claims Mr Murphy was fired on a second time when in Army custody.
While in hospital before his death, Mr Murphy alleged he was first shot in the upper thigh on the streets of Ballymurphy, but he claimed soldiers then brought him into a nearby barracks and shot him again through his open wound.
A suspected bullet fragment was found among his remains after his exhumation. The findings will factor in a new inquest into the 10 deaths.
The coffins of Mr and Mrs Murphy were carried together into Corpus Christi church in Ballymurphy for requiem mass.
Parish priest Darach Mac Giolla Cathain noted the extraordinary chain of events that led the couple to be reunited in the church.
“When Joseph’s body was exhumed early on October 27 2015 it was Mary’s fervent desire that he have mass offered for the happy repose of his soul before he was reburied,” he said.
“Little did she think that he would be buried 45 years to the day when he was first buried.
“More than that, that she would have the grace when she died that they would be side by side in the church and be laid to rest together.”
He added: “God’s timing really is perfect.”
After the service, the couple were buried in the family plot in the nearby Belfast City Cemetery.