Detective makes vow over disputed Military Reaction Force killing
A detective overseeing the exhumation of a man shot dead by a controversial Army unit has vowed to get to the truth about the disputed killing.
Daniel Rooney, 18, was killed by soldiers from the secretive Military Reaction Force (MRF) in the St James Crescent area of west Belfast on September 26 1972.
The exhumation has been ordered to discover if any bullet fragments lie among the teenager’s remains.
No post mortem was undertaken at the time of his death, but a medical report noted a bullet entry wound but made no mention of an exit wound.
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The complex dig at Milltown cemetery in west Belfast is part of a wider investigation by detectives into allegations the MRF carried out random and unjustified shootings during the Troubles.
Detective Chief Inspector Neil McGuinness said while the circumstances around the shooting of Mr Rooney were very much disputed, he was running the inquiry on the same lines as a murder investigation.
“What I am after is the truth of what happened,” he said.
The wide-ranging probe by the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s Legacy Investigations Branch (LIB) was triggered after a referral by Northern Ireland’s Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory.
Mr McGuinness said the investigation was probably the most complex he had experienced in 20 years in policing.
The exhumation process was complicated by the fact Mr Rooney is buried in a family plot along with a number of other loved ones.
“Myself and my team are determined to get to the truth of what happened both for the Rooney family and for all the other families involved in the this investigation,” said Mr McGuinness.
The detective said he expected to be interviewing former soldiers as part of his enquiries.
Rooney family solicitor Padraig O Muirigh said it was a very emotional time for Daniel’s relatives.
“This is very difficult time for the family,” he said.
“It’s very distressing but they understand the necessity of this exhumation today and they understand it may lead to further investigative opportunities for the ongoing investigation and also assist the forthcoming inquest.”