The partner of a man murdered by loyalists 20 years ago is to take legal action against police in Northern Ireland after the force admitted retaining part of his skull.
Married father-of-one Tony Butler, 40, was shot in the head after answering the door to two Ulster Defence Association gunmen in south Belfast in Jan 1993.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland has confirmed it retained parts of 64 crime victims and is contacting their families.
According to Mr Butler’s partner Maureen Jameson, officers left her with a decision on whether to bury his skull or incinerate it.
She said: “I am in total shock and very angry. I have been receiving counselling for years and have only just recently come to terms with losing Tony 19 years ago.”
The PSNI’s disclosure was prompted by a UK-wide audit of retained tissue by police forces.
It has apologised to families for keeping the material for so long but said there was no mechanism in place to review what it had until relatively recently.
Around a third of the 64 victims involved were Troubles-related deaths. Most were murdered.
Police explained that sometimes a murder weapon or other piece of evidence is found years later and the injured tissue can be re-examined by pathologists to establish a link.
Investigators kept human tissue and body parts as evidence from 1960 to 2005, with some held for substantial periods. The law at the time did not compel them to seek or secure the consent of families.
Most samples were kept in the state pathologist’s lab but 11 were retained by police.
The Police Ombudsman’s office also said it had stored body parts from four victims.
In 2010, the Human Tissue Authority issued a direction requesting all mortuaries holding postmortem tissue samples to undertake an audit and report back to the authority and all chief constables in Northern Ireland, England and Wales were asked to conduct a review.
Mr Butler lived at Agra Street off the Upper Ormeau Road. Gunmen in boiler suits knocked on his door and forced their way in before shooting him.
Nobody has been charged with his murder.
In a call to a local radio station, the Ulster Freedom Fighters admitted to the killing, claiming he was a member of a republican faction. This was denied by the family and is without supporting evidence.
Some hours earlier the Irish National Liberation Army had attempted to kill a prominent loyalist in Belfast.
Ms Jameson said police called at her door this week and she thought they were coming to tell her they had caught the perpetrators. “It is as if it is happening all over again, this has brought all the pain back,” she said.
A statement from her solicitor, Patrick Madden, said the family had decided to take legal action.
He said: “For whatever reason they [police] have decided not to make relatives aware until now and this has caused extreme distress to our clients. This is totally unacceptable.”
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