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RFJ release report into the murder of Joseph McCrystal

TOGETHER: Donna and Joe McCrystal holding the report into their father’s murder TOGETHER: Donna and Joe McCrystal holding the report into their father’s murder
By Michael Jackson

RELATIVES for Justice has published a comprehensive new report into the killing of a North Belfast man – believed to have been murdered by the UDA in 1972.

Joseph McCrystal was shot dead while walking home along Arthur Road, Newtownabbey, around 11pm on Sunday November 12th of that year. Work colleagues who shared the car-ride home after a late shift in Courtaulds Factory, Carnmoney, had just left him off. As he began to walk to his home in Longlands Park, a single gunman shot him twice with two weapons of different calibre, once in the back of the head and once through the jaw. The second shot, according to an eyewitness, was fired when Joseph was lying on the ground.
Mr McCrystal’s death was never properly investigated by the RUC, who refused to inform the family of its progress. They received no updates about arrests, forensics or ballistics information.

An inquest into Mr McCrystal’s death was held in September 1973 recorded an open verdict.

At the inquest, Joseph’s brother, Robert, told the coroner that when he had been detained in Long Kesh for 13 weeks, reports of court hearings in the media incorrectly noted his address as Longlands Park, where Joseph McCrystal lived. The revelation led to speculation that killers, intending to murder his brother, had targeted Joseph in error.

Mr McCrystal’s murder is further mentioned in the book Killing For Britain, which was authored pseudonymously by John Black, a loyalist who claims to have been recruited into the British army’s covert MRF unit.

Joseph McCrystal Jnr has little memory of his father – he remembers his face as he lay in the coffin, but has vivid memories of the campaign of intimidation that followed.

“I remember the peelers and the Brits raiding the house regularly,” he said.

“We had bullets fired through the window and all sorts of intimidation really.
“The peelers were always cruel to me.”

Joseph Jnr told Daily Belfast how his father never wanted him to join any paramilitary organisation, and despite taunts from the RUC about the murder, he honoured his father’s wishes.

“I was afraid of being approached to join,” he said.

“I was also afraid of the peelers trying to do to me what they did to my da. They used to taunt me about it. The amount of beatings I got in Greencastle Barracks – I was no angel by no means and I was arrested on many occasions.”

Aged just 16, Joseph Jnr fled to the Isle of Man after the RUC made an approach that he suspects was a bid to recruit him as an informer.

While living in North Belfast again, he said that uncertainty about his father’s murder continues to fill much of his life.

“I wouldn’t say it has taken over our lives, but it has filled a gap where we should be thinking of happy times, or having time with my da – that gap is now filled with ‘who, why, where and when?’,” he explained.

“There is not a day goes past when you don’t think about who did it and why they set him up.

“It’s just hard. It really is hard, and it’s harder today (November 12) because he was shot on the 12th of November and died on the 13th.

“Whenever they shot him they took his life. He died on that bridge.”

He continued: “My da is number 630 (Lost Lives). 630 – that’s all he is to the British state. He’s a small file on shelf somewhere, and nobody has any interest in who did it.”

He added: “They were cowards. They wouldn’t face him – they needed a gun. That was the only way they could get him.”

Reflecting on the new report by RFJ, Joseph Jnr added: “Mike (Ritchie) and Pat (Convery) from RFJ have become two friends –  they have given me hope.

“I always knew it was going to be hard, but we couldn’t have done it without RFJ. I also have to thank Alan McBride from WAVE, who has been a rock to me. I can’t thank them enough for the work and the hours they’ve put into it. There is not one corner they haven’t been in.”

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