Murder inquiry over Bloody Sunday
A murder investigation into the 1972 Bloody Sunday killings in Derry is to begin in the new year, following in the wake of the findings of the Saville public inquiry.
Senior PSNI commanders today briefed relatives of the 14 people who died after British paratroopers opened fire on civil rights demonstrators in the city 40 years ago.
Earlier this year, police signalled an intent to investigate the incident after they and prosecutors reviewed the findings of the Saville inquiry into the controversial shootings.
Until today it had been unclear when such an investigation would start.
After the 12-year inquiry, Lord Saville found the killings had been unjustified and none of the dead had posed a threat when they were shot. That contradicted the long-standing official version of events, outlined in the contentious 1972 Widgery report, which had exonerated soldiers involved of any blame.
The Saville inquiry prompted British prime minister David Cameron to apologise to the relatives.
Thirteen people died on the day, with a 14th man dying of his injuries a number of months later.
PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie and Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris outlined details of the murder investigation to the families of those who died in the city this morning.
They said the investigation will be “lengthy and complex”. It is expected to last at least four years.
Statements given by witnesses to the Saville Inquiry cannot be used as evidence in criminal proceedings. Police have urged those people to come forward again to make official statements.
“Senior police met a delegation in Derry today representing some of the victims killed on Bloody Sunday,” said a PSNI spokeswoman. “Following consultation earlier this year with the Public Prosecution Service, officers provided an outline of the processes involved and the challenges posed by a criminal investigation into the events of 30 January 1972.
“The delegation was informed about the appointment from Serious Crime Branch of a senior investigating officer and the allocation of resources to create an investigation team which will begin work in the new year.
“For the investigation to be as comprehensive and effective as possible, police will be asking for public support in the form of witnesses who gave evidence to the Saville Inquiry now making statements to detectives. This is because police are precluded from using Saville testimony in a criminal investigation. Details on how this process will be facilitated will be made available in the near future.
“Police have also undertaken to provide updates to surviving victims and all the families who lost relatives on Bloody Sunday through the course of the investigation which will be lengthy and complex.”
Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney welcomed the announcement that an investigation into the murders on Bloody Sunday has now begun.
“Sinn Féin has supported the call by the families for a proper investigation to be carried out into the events of Bloody Sunday,” the Foyle MLA said. ”The announcement today that a full time team of PSNI officers have begun an investigation has to be welcomed as a step forward. In the meeting today, the families have also been given a time line on how the PSNI expect the investigation to progress. This will give the families confidence in that they can monitor how that investigation is progressing.”