The Shankhill Butchers

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‘The Shankhill Butchers’ is a name given to an Ulster loyalist gang from Northern Ireland who were responsible for the brutal killings of at least 30 innocent people in Belfast during the 1970’s. They became infamous for their late night abductions of Catholic civilians in the Shankhill Road area of the city, torturing and killing their victims before dumping the bodies in places where they would be seen and found the next morning.

Despite an extensive police effort to catch the killers there was a wall of silence erected around the killers, people in Belfast from both Catholic and Protestant communities had a fear of talking to the police for fear or repercussions. Despite a lack of leads most of the killers were eventually apprehended and handed the longest prison sentences in the history of the United Kingdom. The leader of the gang, Lenny Murphy, avoided prosecution. He was however later executed by the provisional IRA, probably in collusion with loyalist paramilitary leaders who believed that he was a threat to their leadership.

In this 2011 documentary by the BBC, The Shankill Butchers, television and radio presenter Stephen Nolan returns to the place where he grew up to explore just why the murderers got away with killing for so long without being caught. The court files from the prosecution case were released to the BBC for the first time in order to assist with the production of the documentary, while there are also interviews with the head of the CID at the time of the murders and members of the victims families. The documentary is highly critical of the way that the police conducted their investigation.

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