John Murphy (loyalist)

John Murphy (loyalist)

John Alexander Thompson Murphy (26 August 1950 - 10 August 1998) was a Belfast loyalist who was one of the three leading figures that controlled the Shankill Butchers murder gang in the mid-1970s. A UVF member and a brother of the notorious Lenny Murphy, he was the shady godfather often referred to as "Mr B" by various authors, although never charged with any crimes attributed to the Butchers. With Lenny (Mr "X") and "Mr A" (now a convicted terrorist who also escaped scot free from the activities of the Butchers), John Murphy was involved in the planning and execution of many terrorist acts. With "Mr A" he provided the backup that enabled Lenny Murphy to command the "Brown Bear" gang, as the Butchers became known, with a rod of iron.

Early life

Murphy was the second of three sons born to William and Joyce Murphy, the others being William and Lenny. Outside his terrorist career, little is known about him, though Martin Dillon, author of a book on the Shankill Butchers, observes that both he and William acted as muscle to their younger brother Lenny when the latter was engaged in petty crime at school. Dillon, "Shankill Butchers" p 6]


According to Dillon, John Murphy was party to the murder of rival loyalist Noel "Nogi" Shaw on 30 November 1975. After being shot in a loyalist drinking-den, Shaw's body was thrown into a laundry basket and dumped in an alleyway. Murphy was also involved in the planning of a no-warning explosion on the Falls Road in April 1977 that killed a young boy. He also played an important role in passing orders to the Butchers gang from Lenny Murphy, after the latter's imprisonment in March 1976. Both John Murphy and "Mr A" visited Lenny regularly in prison.

John Murphy appears to have stayed a little more in the background than Lenny Murphy or "Mr A". Other than being charged, along with several of the soon to be unmasked Butchers, with an assault on a man which occurred on 11 April 1977, Dillon pp. 268-71] Murphy appears to have been able to evade being snared by the police. Like Lenny, he was adept at stonewalling detectives during interviews and nothing could induce him, or "Mr A", to admit to any activities in connection with the Butchers. With "Mr A", he was a prominent mourner at the funeral of his brother Lenny in November 1982. Jordan, "Milestones in Murder" p 194]

Later life and death

After his brother's assassination, John Murphy, like "Mr A", returned to domestic life in the Shankill, suggesting that his career as a major terrorist was over. However, Martin Dillon has noted that Mr "A" and John Murphy were overheard discussing the possibility of killing him for what he had written about them. In true Butchers' style, they wanted to slit his throat. Dillon, "Shankill Butchers (2nd edition), postscript]

In 1998, Murphy suffered a blow when his nephew William, son of his surviving brother William, was arrested and remanded in prison for the murder of a 78-year-old war veteran in the Shankill area. The younger Murphy was to be convicted of the pensioner's murder in January 1999 and received a life sentence. A suspended sentence was imposed on his father William for possession of ammunition uncovered during a search of the family home in Brookmount St.

John Murphy died on 10 August 1998 in a car crash at the junction of the Grosvenor Road and the Westlink in Belfast. Jordan, "Milestones in Murder" pp 194-95]


*Dillon, Martin "The Shankill Butchers: a case study of mass murder" (First and second editions, Arrow Books, London, 1990; Routledge, London, 1999).
*Jordan, Hugh "Milestones in Murder. Defining moments in Ulster's terrorist war" (Mainstream Publishing, Edinburgh and London, 2002)
*Taylor, Peter "Loyalists" (Bloomsbury, London, 1999)

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