PSNI reopen 1973 sectarian murder case

PSNI reopen 1973 sectarian murder case

Fresh leads in a 37-year-old murder investigation prompted PSNI detectives to reopen the cold case today.

Eileen Doherty, 19, was shot dead by loyalist gunmen who hijacked the Belfast taxi she was taking home after visiting a friend during some of the worst of the troubles in September 1973.

Police believe she was the victim of a random sectarian killing.

A review of the case by the police’s specialist historical enquiries team (HET) has identified new evidential opportunities.

The investigation has now been transferred to detectives from the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s serious crime branch to take forward.

Reacting to the development, Ms Doherty’s family expressed hope that the killers could be finally caught.

“Eileen was murdered 37 years ago but she has always been in our thoughts,” relatives said in a statement.

“The pain of losing a loved one in circumstances like this never goes away. Eileen had her whole life in front of her and it is a sin that it was taken from her. We knew that the historical enquiries team was looking at Eileen’s case but this development is a surprise. We hope police can get somewhere with it.”

While detectives would not reveal the nature of the evidence, they said it was sufficient to justify re-opening the case.

The officer in charge of the investigation, Detective Chief Inspector John McVea, said: “This is an unusual step but one which we think is worth taking because there are sufficient grounds for believing we can catch the killers.

“I fully appreciate this murder took place a long time ago but I am asking people today, on the 37th anniversary of Eileen Doherty’s murder, to think back to that night in 1973 and tell us what they know.

“Times have changed, secrets may have been shared. I would ask individuals to examine their hearts and their consciences at the same time as my detectives examine these new investigative opportunities. It is the right thing to do.”

Around 10.45pm on September 30 1973, Ms Doherty, a stitcher, called into the Atlas Taxis depot on the Ormeau Road near the city centre to get a lift to her home in Andersonstown in west Belfast.

In the depot, she agreed to share a car with two men who said they were going to nearby Finaghy.

The men, who were in their 20s and appeared to be drunk, sat in the back seat while Ms Doherty sat in the front.

A short time into the journey they produced a gun and ordered the driver to stop the blue Chrysler car.

Ms Doherty and the driver managed to get out and run away but they got trapped by a wire fence near the River Lagan.

The men drove after them and while the taxi driver escaped unhurt, they caught Ms Doherty at the Annadale Embankment and one of them shot her three times in the head and body. She was taken to hospital but died a short time later.

The taxi was found the following morning a mile and a half away in Fountainville Avenue at the bottom of the Lisburn Road.

Mr McVea added: “We have a considerable amount of detail about what happened that night in 1973. Now we have identified new evidential opportunities.

“Police believe that when their victims initially escaped, the gunmen drove round the one-way system to return to catch up with Eileen and kill her. This was a brutal attack on a 19-year-old girl.”

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