Eileen Doherty

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has reopened the investigation into the murder of a 19-year-old Catholic girl in September 1973.

Loyalist gunmen hijacked a Belfast taxi and shot Eileen Doherty as she was making her way home from her friend's home during the height of the Troubles in 1973. It is believed that she was a victim of a random sectarian killing.

New leads have now been discovered and the investigation has been transferred from the Historical Enquiry Team (HET) to the detectives of the PSNI. In January 2006 the HET took in 3,000 unsolved murders which took place during the Troubles.

In a statement Eileen's relatives said "Eileen was murdered 37-years-ago but she has always been in our thoughts…The pain of losing a loved one in circumstances like this never goes away. Eileen had her whole life in front of her and it is a sin that it was taken from her. We knew that the historical enquiries team was looking at Eileen’s case but this development is a surprise. We hope police can get somewhere with it.”

Detective Chief Inspector John McVea spoke to the Irish Times. He said: “This is an unusual step but one which we think is worth taking because there are sufficient grounds for believing we can catch the killers.

“I fully appreciate this murder took place a long time ago but I am asking people today, on the 37th anniversary of Eileen Doherty’s murder, to think back to that night in 1973 and tell us what they know.

“Times have changed, secrets may have been shared. I would ask individuals to examine their hearts and their consciences at the same time as my detectives examine these new investigative opportunities. It is the right thing to do.”

He added "We have a considerable amount of detail about what happened that night in 1973. Now we have identified new evidential opportunities.

“Police believe that when their victims initially escaped, the gunmen drove round the one-way system to return to catch up with Eileen and kill her. This was a brutal attack on a 19-year-old girl.”

On September 30 1973, Eileen Doherty called into Atlas Taxis office on the Ormeau Road, near Belfast City Center. She was going to take a car home to Andersonstown, west Belfast. In the office she agreed that she would take a car with two men who were going nearby to Finaghy.

The two men were in their 20s and appeared to be drunk. They sat in the back seat and Eileen sat in the front of the blue Chrysler. Shortly after they started their journey they produced a gun and ordered the driver to stop.

Eileen and the drive managed to get out of the car and run but they got trapped by a wire fence by the River Lagan. The two men followed them.

Although the driver escaped they caught up with Eileen on the embankment and shot her three times in the head and body. She was taken to hospital where she died a short time later.

The following morning the taxi was found a half a mile away in Fountainville Avenuue at the bottom of the Lisburn Road.