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7th July 2020

Science Jean Smyth-Campbell: New tests on bullet fragments from 1972 killing

Science Jean Smyth-Campbell: New tests on bullet fragments from 1972 killing

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Image caption

Jean Smyth-Campbell, 24, a civilian, was fatally wounded in 1972

New forensic tests are to be done on fragments of a bullet which killed a woman in west Belfast 48 years ago, in the hope it will help solve the mystery of who shot her.

Jean Smyth-Campbell, 24, a civilian, was fatally wounded as she sat in a parked car on the Glen Road.

There were shooting incidents involving the Army and the IRA around the time.

Speaking as a new investigation gathers pace, her family said: “We just need to put closure to Jean’s death.”

A fresh examination of the case is being conducted by Jon Boutcher, the former chief constable of Bedfordshire, after the family won a court case last year.

Science Alleged Army involvement

They argued the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) would not be independent in carrying out a fresh investigation.

After the original police investigation in 1972, Mrs Smyth-Campbell’s family was told the IRA was responsible.

But in 2014, documents discovered in military archives suggested the Army’s Military Reaction Force (MRF) had fired shots in the area and was allegedly involved in her killing.

Image caption

Jean Smyth-Campbell’s family and Jon Boutcher attend her graveside

Mr Boutcher said he would be relying on developments in forensic science since the PSNI last reviewed the case several years ago.

He said fragments of the bullet still exist.

“We are having those examined to try and establish – which others weren’t able to because of the techniques that were available to them – where that bullet came from,” he explained.

“I personally at this moment in time don’t believe that whoever was responsible for Jean’s killing meant to kill Jean that night.”

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Media captionThe roots of Northern Ireland’s Troubles lie deep in Irish history

As well as new forensic tests, he has also obtained further Army documents.

His team is trying to trace “a red-headed girl” who went to Mrs Smyth-Campbell’s aid following the shooting on 8 June, 1972.

Science ‘Living a lie’

One of Ms Smyth-Campbell’s sisters, Margaret McQuillan, said her family has been “traumatised” by the death.

“We still are. We cannot rest while we have so many unanswered questions,” she said.

“For so many years my mum stood at the window waiting for Jean coming home from work.

“She and my dad both went to their grave not knowing the truth of Jean’s death. It seems as though we have been living a lie for over 40 years.”

Mrs McQuillan said at the time her sister was killed, it was not “uncommon” for people to come out after a shooting, and appealed for anyone who looked into the car her sister was killed in to come forward.

“Please, help us find out what happened that night and why Jean was so sadly taken away from us,” she said.

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