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The Shankill Butchers were an Ulster loyalist gang—many of whom were members of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)—that was active between 1975 and 1982 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. It was based in the Shankill area and was responsible for the deaths of at least 23 people, most of whom were killed in sectarian attacks.
The gang was notorious for kidnapping, torturing and murdering random or suspected Catholic civilians; each was beaten ferociously and had their throat hacked with a butcher’s knife. Some were also tortured and attacked with a hatchet. The gang also killed six Ulster Protestants over personal disputes, and two other Protestants mistaken for Catholics.

Most of the gang were eventually caught and, in February 1979, received the longest combined prison sentences in United Kingdom legal history. However, gang leader Lenny Murphy and his two chief “lieutenants” escaped prosecution. Murphy was murdered in November 1982 by the Provisional IRA, likely acting with loyalist paramilitaries who perceived him as a threat. The Butchers brought a new level of paramilitary violence to a country already hardened by death and destruction. The judge who oversaw the 1979 trial described their crimes as “a lasting monument to blind sectarian bigotry”.

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