Boutcher to probe murder of Belfast woman shot dead in 1972

The unsolved murder of a woman in west Belfast 47 years ago is to be investigated by the chief constable of Bedfordshire Police, the PSNI has revealed.

Chief Constable Jon Boutcher from Bedfordshire Police
Chief Constable Jon Boutcher from Bedfordshire Police

Jean Smyth-Campbell was shot dead as she sat in a car on the Glen Road on June 8, 1972.

More than a year after the murder of the 24-year-old mother of one, a newspaper report suggested that Mrs Smyth-Campbell and the male driver of the car may have been mistaken for Army personnel and attacked by the IRA.

However, the same article also speculated that plain-clothes soldiers from the Military Reaction Force (MRF) could have been involved, according to the book Lost Lives.

Following a meeting with the murdered woman’s family on Wednesday, PSNI Chief Constable Sir George Hamilton said his Bedfordshire Police counterpart Jon Boutcher would lead the new investigation.

Mr Boutcher is also heading up the inquiry into the activities of the Army spy within the Provisional IRA known as Stakeknife (Operation Kenova) but the two probes are not connected.

In March this year a court determined – known as the McQuillan Judgment – there should be a thorough investigation to establish “whether a possible cause of the shooting dead of Ms Smyth was a shot discharged by a soldier.”

Sir George said: “I recognise the frustration of Jean’s family and representatives at the lack of progress in this case, and I am deeply sorry there were previous investigative failures into the circumstances surrounding her death.

“Without prejudice to my intention to seek leave to appeal elements of the McQuillan Judgment, I have now directed that an effective and practically independent investigation, with the capacity to be Article 2 ECHR compliant, begins into the death of Mrs Jean Smyth.”

Sinn Fein MP Paul Maskey said he hoped the decision will “deliver on the family’s right to an independent investigation”.