Coroner rules against exhuming body of man shot dead in Belfast in 1971

Professor Jack Crane

The body of a man shot dead by the British Army at a Christmas dance in Belfast in 1971 should not be exhumed, a coroner has ruled.

Joseph Parker's family want tests to be carried out on bullet fragments in an attempt to identify the weapon used.

Coroner Joe McCrisken said it would be impossible to make a match because the guns had been destroyed and it was not an inquest's function to try to trace potential suspects.

He said: "It seems to me that there is a no good reason for exhuming the body of Mr Parker."

The 25-year-old married father-of-one was killed in disputed circumstances when soldiers opened fire at a community centre in Ardoyne during a disco 45 years ago.

The episode unfolded when troops entered Toby's Hall, which no longer exists, claiming to be searching for a suspect.

Previous inquest hearings were told that after Mr Parker's death, there had been no attempt to recover the bullet fragments from his body to examine them.

Former state pathologist Professor Jack Crane told the coroner this was surprising.

He said the fragments could assist in determining the type and calibre of the bullet, as well as the exact weapon used.

Professor Crane concluded that the injuries were consistent with a high velocity bullet such as those fired from a military weapon.

The coroner said: "In Professor Crane's opinion, the entrance wound was caused by an intact bullet. It was not as a result of a ricochet or bullet fragment.

"It seems to me, having considered the evidence of Soldier J that the man who fired outside the hall fired aimlessly, extremely unlikely that any of these bullets struck Mr Parker so as to cast doubt on original post-mortem findings and those of Professor Crane."

He said significant resources are being deployed by the Coroners Service in an effort to obtain further evidence and to the trace the soldiers involved.

"If cogent evidence is provided in advance of the inquest or during the inquest that discloses a good purpose to exhume the body, then I am prepared to re-visit my decision," he said.

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