Ballistics experts are working to establish whether the weapon used to kill a Catholic salesman in Belfast more than 40 years ago can be linked to other murders.

Daniel Carson, 29, from Dunmurry, was killed by the Ulster Volunteer Force as he left work at a hardware merchants in the Shankill area of Belfast in November 1973.

A preliminary hearing in Belfast's Royal Courts of Justice was told a top forensic scientist was reviewing the case after documents from the former Department of Industrial and Forensic Science linked two other murders that year to the same type of weapon.

Sean Doran QC, counsel for the coroner, said: "Early forensic tests suggest they can be ballistically connected to each other and the same type of weapon was used in the Daniel Carson murder.

"But it cannot be confirmed that the actual weapon had been used in the Daniel Carson murder.

"That is part of the review by FSNI [Forensic Science Northern Ireland]."

A report on any potential links is expected to be ready next week, the lawyer said.

A fresh inquest into the sectarian shooting was ordered by Northern Ireland's Attorney General.

No one has ever been convicted of Mr Carson's murder.

However, a man who was arrested and interviewed about the shooting is to be legally represented at the inquest.

He was detained four days after the murder and released without charge, the court heard.

In a letter, lawyers for the suspect - referred to as S1, said he should be able to cross-examine witnesses who may allege his involvement.

It stated: "We anticipate that it may be suggested or alleged that our client was responsible, caused or contributed in some way to the death of the deceased, Daniel Carson."

Granting the request, Mr Justice Adrian Colton, who is presiding over the case, said he was satisfied S1 should have an opportunity to fully participate in proceedings.

Meanwhile, the court also heard how the Ministry of Defence has still not traced a former soldier who attended the scene.

"Attempts are being made to trace him through HMRC but so far those attempts have been unsuccessful," said Mr Doran.

During a previous hearing last month, Judge Colton described the MoD's inability to track down the former Lance Corporal as "baffling".

Karen Quinlivan QC, representing the next of kin, called for clarification from the MoD on the steps taken to trace members of a special patrol unit believed to have been operating in the area at the time.

Three weeks have been set aside for a full inquest next February.

Members of the Carson family sat in the public gallery of Queen's Bench number three to hear the brief legal exchanges.

Scheduling another preliminary hearing for next month, Judge Colton said: "It is very, very important to the family that this inquest is dealt with."

The case was adjourned until 24 November.