McAleavey was ‘cracked’ when he shot fellow officers

“CRACKED” was how Michael McAleavey described his state of mind when he shot down three of his Army colleagues in a hail of bullets.

From west Belfast, he was serving with the Defence Forces in south Lebanon on that dark day, nearly 25 years ago.

So what drove the private to riddle three fellow Irish soldiers with bullets?

Early indications during his military trial showed an apparent leaning towards extreme right-wing political thinking.

Arguments with colleagues had broken out at Tibnin Bridge after McAleavey made anti-Jewish remarks to Israeli soldiers.

A few hours later, his three comrades, Corporal Gary Morrow, aged 20, Private Peter Burke, aged 20, and Private Thomas Murphy, aged 20, died from shots fired from McAleavey’s automatic rifle.

The following court martial hearing was the longest in the history of the State, involving up to 65 witnesses.

McAleavey initially said the United Nations peacekeeping post had been attacked by pro-Israeli militia. Later, he said he had “cracked” under a combination of pressure and heat exhaustion.

But his murderous zeal emerged during the trial. He had been brought to book by Corporal Morrow for calling an Israeli a “Jew boy”. McAleavey turned his gun on his colleagues.

Corporal Morrow, badly wounded, managed to crawl from the post but McAleavey stopped him, shooting him in the head at close range. His family yesterday welcomed the 45-year-old’s transfer.

His sister Lorna said the family were delighted.

“It will mean the whole family can be visiting Michael. At the minute my Dad is very ill and hasn’t seen Michael for at least 13 years because he is unable to travel.”

There was no indication her brother would be a threat to society, said Ms McAleavey.

More in this section