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Report - - The Crumlin Road Courthouse, Belfast 14/06/08 | Other Sites |

Report - The Crumlin Road Courthouse, Belfast 14/06/08

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I should have danced all night
28DL Full Member
Visited with BillAnd, Slinky2000, Irishmanlost, Pacie and later bumped into another 4 explorers from Flickr.

Well I wasn't joking when I said I was looking at Within 2 hours of seeing BillAnd's report of this place, I had booked my ticket and started packing. It was the first of five sites to see on the first leg of my Belfast trip (full report coming soon) and it didn't disappoint. I'd been up since 5am and BillAnd came to collect me at the airport but no time for resting. I was straight off the plane and into the courthouse to take some photos. The courthouse itself is a stunning building but what went on in there is what makes this explore all the more special. Here's a little bit of history I have nicked from various places:

The Crumlin Road courthouse was completed in 1850 from designs by Belfast’s famous County Surveyor, Sir Charles Lanyon. He was the architect behind a large number of well-known buildings in Belfast, including Queens University’s main building, Belfast Central Library, the Customs House, the Theological College in Botanic Avenue (which was used for Northern Ireland's first parliament before Stormont was built), the Palm House in Botanic Gardens (the first in the world and built 10 years before Kew Gardens famous palm house) and Belfast Castle. He later went on to become Belfast Lord Mayor and a MP for the area.

Sir Charles Lanyon was instructed that the cost of the building should not exceed £16,000, though eventually a tender of £16,500 was accepted and the courthouse was completed and formally opened in 1850. Across the road from the courthouse stood the old Crumlin Road prison (another Sir Charles Lanyon design), which was connected to the courthouse an underground passageway. This was used to escort prisoners to court. Many of the most famous IRA members and those involved in the political unrest were tried here and sent to the jail across the road including Gerry Adams, Ian Paisley, Paddy Devlin and David Ervine to name a few.

An article written by Lisa Smyth of the Belfast Telegraph about the jail
Beyond the dark imposing structure of the Crumlin Road jail lies 150 years of history - including some of the most haunting episodes of Northern Ireland’s bloody past

The bleak stone structure opened in 1845 during the Famine and remained in use throughout the Troubles before officially closing in 1996.
When it opened, Crumlin Road jail with its radial wings and underground link to the courthouse was a model of Victorian excellence.

But little changed over the years and when it finally shuts its doors the primitive conditions under which prisoners were housed were widely held to be unacceptable.
Inmates complained bitterly of the squalor, in which the smell of urine and human excrement was overpowering and mice and cockroaches rife in the cells.
Speaking at the time the jail closed, one its most famous inmates, former UVF commander Gusty Spence, told the Belfast Telegraph of his joy at its demise.

He said: “I’ll dance on its grave. I always promised myself I would do that one day - and I will.

“Shutting it is not enough. I want it razed completely to the ground.”

During its lifetime as Northern Ireland’s best-known prison, 17 men were executed within the walls of the building between 1854 and 1961.
The last person to be executed at the jail was 26-year-old Newry man Robert McGladdery who was convicted of murdering Co Down girl Pearl Gamble.
She was killed after a dance at Newry Orange Hall in a case that caused sensation at the time.

I could go on. There's so much to learn about the history of this place but here's some photos that might do it more justice than my ramblings. A big thanks to all of Team NI for being so accommodating and BillAnd for being not just my taxi for the day but crutch carrier, tripod carrier and all round history teacher. Cheers guys:thumb

Chair still chained to the floor


Looking down to the door that leads to the jail

Looking up



One of many heavy green doors


Names carved into the seats

BillAnd in silhouette

Heavy locks



Upstairs where the offices are situated

Looking through a smashed wall

Upstairs hallway


Court Room Number 1-this is where all the bigger cases took place

Team NI + 1

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I should have danced all night
28DL Full Member
Re: The Crumlin Road Courthouse, Belfast 14/06/08 REPORT

Some more:)

Courtroom Number 1


Old signs painted over now become visible



Main entrance hall



Courtroom Number 2


Chained chair

Some more of the courtroom






Some outside shots


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I should have danced all night
28DL Full Member
Re: The Crumlin Road Courthouse, Belfast 14/06/08 REPORT


The "Shankill Butchers" were a group of Ulster Volunteer Force members in Belfast, Northern Ireland, who abducted Roman Catholics usually walking home from a night out, tortured and/or savagely beat and killed them, usually by cutting their throats. Most of their victims had no connection to the Provisional Irish Republican Army or any other paramilitary group.

The leader of the Shankill Butchers was Lenny Murphy. At school he was a bully and a thief, and as soon as he left at the age of 16, he became a member of the Ulster Volunteer Force.[citation needed]

By 1972, age 20, Murphy gathered together a gang of equally violent young men, the core being Murphy himself, Robert "Basher" Bates, and "Big" Sam McAllister, who used his huge frame to intimidate the Butchers' victims. In what is said to have been retaliation for the Bloody Friday bombings by the Provisional IRA, a Catholic man, Francis Arthurs, was abducted, beaten, and stabbed for over an hour before being killed.

The murder of Tom Madden is seen as one of the most terrible examples of the Butchers' brutality. Madden was abducted and then stripped naked. He was hung upside down from the beam of a lock-up garage, and slowly skinned alive. He eventually died of slow strangulation.

On September 28, 1972, Murphy shot and killed William Pavis, who was suspected[citation needed] of selling arms to the IRA. Murphy and his accomplice, Mervyn Connor, were arrested shortly afterwards and held in prison awaiting trial. However, Murphy killed Connor in prison, just after forcing him to write a confession to Pavis' murder. The charges against Lenny Murphy relating to the murder of Pavis collapsed, although Murphy was held behind bars for a number of escape attempts.

In May 1975, Murphy was released from prison. He married and fathered a daughter, but like the rest of his gang he cared little for domesticity and would spend most of his time hanging around pubs on the Shankill Road, drinking heavily and plotting crimes. That October they raided a shop, and on finding out the four employees there were Catholics, Murphy shot three of them dead and ordered an accomplice to kill the fourth.

Another key figure of the Shankill Butchers was William Moore. He had worked as a butcher and had stolen several large knives and meat-cleavers from his old workplace, tools that would be put to a horrific use. Over the coming months, the gang began kidnapping Catholics late at night and viciously killing them.

Francis Crossan, aged 34 and father of two, was walking home from a night out, when he was spotted by one of the gang. This was around 12-12:30am. He was hit from behind with a wheel brace, and dragged into a taxi, which drove into the Shankill area. Francis was then tortured and badly beaten. He was repeatedly hit by Murphy, both punched and with the wheel brace. Murphy repeatedly said things like, "I'm going to kill you, you bastard!" Francis was then dragged into an alley, and his throat cut almost through the spine by Murphy. Pieces of glass found in Francis' head showed that a beer glass had been shoved into his head, either in the black taxi, or in the alley. The other victims were killed in a similarly horrific manner.

The Shankill Butchers also got into a loyalist feud with another gang, which quickly ended when Murphy brutally killed a member of the rival gang. There is much evidence to suggest Murphy and his fellow murderers were more like serial killers than terrorists, and that the political situation in Ulster allowed them a respect within their community they never would have had otherwise. They occasionally used guns, but preferred knives and cleavers, and rather than carry out crimes that were carefully planned, the gang usually went out hunting on a whim, usually at night after spending all evening drinking heavily. On one occasion Murphy and Bates impulsively shot and killed two Protestants, believing incorrectly that they were Catholics.

In March 1976, Murphy shot and injured a Catholic woman. He was arrested and subsequently pleaded guilty to a firearms charge. He ordered the murders to continue, and over the next year, with William Moore acting as the new leader, several more Catholics were abducted, tortured and hacked to death.

In May 1977, a young man named Gerard McLaverty, was abducted by the Butchers and found alive, albeit badly wounded after he had been stabbed and hacked with an axe. He had been left for dead by the gang, but the freezing night air had slowed his bleeding and he was discovered and hospitalized. The police drove him around the haunts of the gang, whom they had long suspected, and he identified all of them. Moore, Bates and McAllister all confessed their guilt. They also said that Murphy had been their leader but they later retracted these claims.

The rest of the Shankill Butchers came to trial in February 1979. Eleven men were convicted of a total of 19 murders between them, and the 42 life sentences handed out were the most ever in a single trial in British criminal history. William Moore pleaded guilty to 11 counts of murder and Bates pleaded guilty to 10. They were sentenced to life with no chance of release, but were eventually released under the Good Friday Agreement of 1998). In his book The Shankill Butchers, Martin Dillon said that his own investigations suggest the gang were responsible for a total of 30 murders.

His sentence for the firearms conviction complete, Murphy was released from prison in July 1982. A few weeks later he shot to death a car salesman in a dispute over money. Murphy reassembled a new gang around the time a member of the Ulster Defence Regiment, Tommy Cochrane, was kidnapped. Murphy decided to kidnap a Catholic and demand the release of Cochrane for the Catholic. Murphy hijacked a black taxi and headed to the Falls Road where Joseph Donegan waved them down. He was taken to Murphy's house and tortured. He had his teeth pulled out with pliers by Murphy until only 3 were left. He was finally killed by Murphy. Murphy again demanded the release of Cochrane. Finally, his body was found in the back of Murphy's house. Murphy was arrested but there was no evidence to suggest that he had committed the crime. Cochrane's body was found a week later, and showed signs of having been beaten.

Prompted by Donegan's death, Murphy was assassinated by a Provisional IRA hit squad on November 16, 1982 on the Shankill Road. Many assert that the UVF assisted the IRA in slaying Murphy, as it would have been very difficult for them to know his movements otherwise. This result suited both sides, with the IRA showing it could kill an enemy of the nationalist population, and the UVF able to wash its hands of the death of a man some extreme loyalists regarded as a hero.

The first member of the Shankill Butchers to be released was William Townsley, who had only been 16 when he was arrested. In October 1996, "Basher" Bates was released after reportedly "finding religion" behind bars. He was shot and killed on the Shankill Road the following year. The IRA and other Republican groups denied the killing, and it is now believed that Bates' killer (who has never been caught) was a vengeful relative of a Protestant (the son of the man they killed in the Windsor Bar) barman Bates had killed in the mistaken belief that the victim was a Catholic.[citation needed]

In November 2004, the Serious Crime Review Team in Belfast said they were looking into the unsolved death of Rosaleen O'Kane, aged 33 at the time of her death, who was found dead in her home in September 1976. Her family and authorities believe the Shankill Butchers may have been involved in her death.