Northern Ireland

Alec Murphy: IRA man's home searched after shots over coffin

Mourners at Alex Murphy's funeral on Monday Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption Mourners at Alex Murphy's funeral on Monday

Police investigating the firing of shots over the coffin of a convicted IRA killer have searched the dead man's Belfast home a day after his funeral.

Officers seized a number of items during the search of Alec Murphy's home on the Falls Road, but made no arrests.

On Monday, a video was posted online showing a man firing shots over the late IRA member's open coffin.

Murphy was one of two men convicted of killing two soldiers who were abducted during an IRA funeral 31 years ago.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Police officers stood guard outside Alec Murphy's home during Tuesday's search

The murders of corporals Derek Wood and David Howes were among some of the most notorious and disturbing attacks during the Troubles, particularly because of the presence of TV cameras which recorded their abduction.

The Royal Signals corporals were working undercover and wearing plain clothes when their car strayed into the path of an oncoming IRA funeral on 19 March 1988.

WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGE BELOW

Their vehicle was surrounded by an angry crowd and TV images of the corporals being dragged out of their car, disarmed and beaten were shown around the world.

The soldiers were later stripped and shot dead by the IRA, and their bodies dumped in waste ground.

Alec Murphy later received a life sentence for his role in their deaths, along with another man, Hugh Maguire.

According to his recent death notice, Murphy died "peacefully" at his Falls Road home on 15 August and his funeral took place at St Peter's Cathedral on Monday afternoon.

'Reckless'

The online video of the shooting incident shows two men wearing black balaclavas standing beside his open coffin.

One of the masked men is holding a gun and fires a number of rounds in the air.

Image caption One of two masked men fired a number of shots over the open coffin of Alec Murphy

Police described the shooing incident as a "reckless act", which only caused "fear and intimidation".

Supt Lorraine Dobson added it "put lives at risk" and "was not a sign of respect".

"This was a criminal act with no regard for the wider wishes of law-abiding people, carried out by those who seek to exploit and control the community through fear and violence," she said.

"The footage shows a man walking out of the front door of a house just yards away from where the shots were fired, while it also shows a young boy standing beside the coffin as the volley of shots was fired.

"Firing a gun, in such criminal circumstances, will always have the potential to put lives at risk and is simply unacceptable."

The officer later said that police believe the footage was "recorded sometime over the weekend".

Ms Dobson added that it was clear from the footage that "a number of persons were present and witnessed the volley of shots being fired".

She appealed to those witnesses, or anyone with information, to call detectives.

'Savage murders'

Speaking on Radio Ulster's Good Morning Ulster programme, Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster said "there must be no excuse" for violence.

"The man that was being buried yesterday was the man responsible for one of the most brutal and savage murders in 1988," she said.

"We cannot be selective in our condemnation of violence, it doesn't matter where it comes from."

A Sinn Féin spokesman said there was "no place for guns on our streets".

TUV leader Jim Allister described the paramilitary display as "predictable".