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PPS to probe shooting of North Belfast teen

JUSTICE: Maureen Griffin and Patricia Friel with a treasured portrait of their brother Michael Neill JUSTICE: Maureen Griffin and Patricia Friel with a treasured portrait of their brother Michael Neill
By Staff Reporter

THE family of a 16-year-old Catholic who was shot dead by the British army in North Belfast in 1977 have welcomed a decision to refer their case to the Public Prosecution Service.

Michael Patrick Neill was shot three times by a member of the 38 Battery, 40 Field Regiment Royal Artillery on October 24, 1977. At the time police claimed he was one of a number of youths who stopped and set fire to a bus on the Cliftonville Road. Michael’s family have always denied this and insist that Michael was returning home after visiting his friends in the Bone area.

An inquest into Michael’s death in December 1978 returned an open verdict.

His family made an application to the Attorney General requesting that he direct a new inquest into the circumstances of his death.

In 2016, a Facebook post was published by a man claiming to have been part of a police patrol that had been tasked with escorting buses down the Cliftonville Road due to the high levels of hijackings.

The man said he pretended to take an emergency call and left the bus unattended while an undercover unit of special ops lay in wait in a derelict house on the Cliftonville Road.

The Attorney General has considered the new evidence brought to his attention and has decided to refer the matter to the Director of Public Prosecution to consider if it is appropriate case for the DPP to require the Chief Constable to investigate.

Welcoming the decision, Michael Neill’s sister Maureen said: “Our family was blown apart that night and we never, ever recovered. Our poor mammy died just over a year and half later, she just gave up, she couldn’t cope with what had happened to her wee son.

“Michael would have been 58 last April, we always wonder how his life would have turned out had he lived. We have missed out on so much, maybe we would have had more nieces and nephews, our children would have had their uncle and cousins, there is such a sense of loss.”

Maureen continued: “The HET said they were looking into Michael’s murder but we never had an ounce of faith in them, Englishmen investigating Englishmen and claiming to be impartial, that was never going to work. That is why we welcome the Attorney General’s decision to refer this case to the PPS, we need the truth to come out and we need answers.”

Family solicitor Pádraig Ó Muirigh said: “I requested that the Attorney General should direct a fresh inquest into the death of Michael Neill for several reasons, Michael was shot and killed by a soldier, the family believe that an undercover unit lay in wait in a derelict house on the Cliftonville Road in anticipation.
“A former RUC officer has stated that security forces set up the killing. A Facebook post on 11th January 2016 states that ‘An undercover unit of special ops was lying in wait.’

The Neill family have always believed that the police carried out a flawed investigation into Michael’s death. The soldier who fired the fatal shot was not asked to give evidence at the original inquest nor were multiple witnesses who were present at the scene. These witnesses could have provided crucial information,” Mr Ó Muirigh added.

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