A detective investigating the shooting dead of an 18-year-old in Belfast by a controversial army unit in 1972 said an ‘object of interest’ has been found after the man’s body was exhumed.
The detective leading the investigation confirmed that the body has been removed from a cemetery in west Belfast and will now undergo forensic testing.
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 of his body from a cemetery had 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.
The complex dig at Milltown cemetery in west Belfast came as part of a wider investigation by detectives into allegations the MRF carried out random and unjustified shootings during the Troubles.
The wide-ranging probe by the PSNI’s Legacy Investigations Branch (LIB) was triggered after a referral by Northern Ireland’s Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory.
Detectives have now confirmed that they have now finished the exhumation process at Milltown cemetery in the Falls Road area.
Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Chief Inspector Neil McGuinness, said: “This part of the investigation relates to the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Daniel Rooney in the St James Crescent area of west Belfast on 26 September, 1972.
“Mr Rooney’s body has now been removed to allow some forensic work to be carried out however at this stage, we can confirm that we have found an object of interest that will be submitted for further forensic tests in due course.
“We are continuing to liaise with the family in relation to this and will keep them informed of any further developments.
“I would once again ask media to treat this sensitively, being mindful of the fact this is a difficult time for the family.
“There are no further details available at this stage.”
Mr McGuinness said earlier that 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 had been 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 and they understand it may lead to further investigative opportunities for the ongoing investigation and also assist the forthcoming inquest.”