Ex-British soldier arrested over 1972 Bloody Sunday shootings

PSNI’s Legacy Investigation Branch say they arrested man (66) in Co Antrim

PSNI detectives have arrested a former British soldier in connection with the 1972 Bloody Sunday killings in Derry. He is being questioned about three of the killings.

The 66-year-old man, a former member of the British Parachute Regiment which shot dead 13 civilians in Derry on January 30th, 1972 with a 14th dying later from his injuries, was arrested on Tuesday in Co Antrim where he now resides.

Known as Lance Corporal J from the 2010 Saville report into Bloody Sunday, he is being questioned about the killings of William Nash (19), John Young (17) and Michael McDaid (20), security sources confirmed.

Mr Nash, Mr Young and Mr McDaid were shot dead near the rubble barricade in front of the Rossville Flats in Derry on Bloody Sunday.


The ex-paratrooper is being questioned in Belfast by detectives from the PSNI’s Legacy Investigation Branch investigating the events of Bloody Sunday. He is the first person and the first former soldier to be arrested about the Bloody Sunday killings.

Lord Saville’s Bloody Sunday report addressing these three killings referred to how Lance Corporal J claimed that he fired at a nail bomber; and another soldier, Corporal E claimed that he fired at a man with a pistol in the Rossville Flats.

“We reject each of these claims as knowingly untrue. We are sure that these soldiers fired either in the belief that no one in the areas towards which they respectively fired was posing a threat of causing death or serious injury, or not caring whether or not anyone there was posing such a threat,” reported Lord Saville.

“In their cases we consider that they did not fire in a state of fear or panic,” he added.

The officer leading the investigation, Detective Chief Inspector Ian Harrison, said the arrest marked a “new phase in the overall investigation” which would continue for some time.

Peter Madden of Madden and Finucane solicitors who represent most the families, including those of Mr Young and Mr McDaid, said that Lance Corporal J was a member of the anti-tank platoon of the 1st Battalion of the Parachute Regiment.

“This is a very welcome development,” he said. “Following the publication of the Saville Report we made extensive submissions to the police and Public Prosecution Service concerning the overwhelming evidence of joint enterprise between Soldiers P and J in relation to the murders of John Young and Michael McDaid,” he added.

“In the event that criminal charges follow, those charged must face public trial and will lose their anonymity,” said Mr Madden.

The British prime minister David Cameron apologised for the Bloody Sunday killings after the report was published. He said he was “deeply sorry” and that the killings were “unjustified and unjustifiable”.

Derry Sinn Féin Assembly member Raymond McCartney described the arrest of the former British solder as a “step forward in the campaign for justice”.

“This is the first arrest to be carried out as part of the new investigation into the murders carried out on Bloody Sunday. I would call on the PSNI to ensure the relatives are kept up to date of all developments on the investigations,” he said.

“Sinn Fein will continue to support the Bloody Sunday families in the campaign for truth and justice,” added Mr McCartney.

SDLP Councillor and member of the Bloody Sunday Trust, Brian Tierney, also welcomed news of the arrest. “The families of those murdered by British Soldiers on that day in 1972 waited far too long for the truth about what happened, they should not be forced to wait any longer for justice,” he said.

“The investigation into this atrocity committed against the people of Derry must now advance in earnest. I hope that today’s arrest is an indication of a step change in the process and that we will see more progress in the time ahead,” added Mr Tierney.

“The SDLP will continue to support all victims in their pursuit of truth, justice and accountability. That will be the acid test for the current talks process and any outcome,” he said.

William Nash’s sister Kate also welcomed the arrest as a “positive step” in the search for justice for the Bloody Sunday families and victims. It is understood that Lance Corporal J is also being questioned about the shooting of her father Alexander who sought to rescue William Nash on Bloody Sunday.

Mr Nash who was shot through the arm and side died in January 1999. Ms Nash has spoken about how Bloody Sunday not only physically but “mentally seriously injured” her father.


William Nash (19) – The dockworker was struck by a single bullet to the chest close to the rubble barricade on Rossville Street. Witnesses said he was unarmed, but an initial Government inquiry into the shootings, the much-criticised Widgery Tribunal, claimed he had probably been firing a gun. Saville rejected both this assertion and soldiers' claims that those they shot at the barricade had either nail bombs or guns.

John Young (17) – The menswear shop clerk was killed instantly with a single shot to the head at the rubble barricade. Based on lead particles allegedly found on his left hand, Widgery found that he had probably fired a gun. Saville rejected this finding, concurring with witnesses who insisted he was unarmed.

Michael McDaid (20) – The barman died instantly after being shot in the face at the barricade on Rossville Street. The downward trajectory of the bullet entry wound led to claims he was shot by soldiers positioned on top of Derry's historic stone walls, which overlooked the scene. But Saville rejected that suggestion, insisting no one was shot from the walls.


Patrick Doherty (31) – The married father of six was shot from behind as he attempted to crawl to safety from the forecourt of Rossville flats. The active civil rights campaigner died at the scene. A soldier who fired at him claimed he had been armed with a pistol, but a photograph of the factory worker taken moments before he was hit showed no evidence of a firearm.

Gerald Donaghey (17) – Intense controversy has surrounded the question of whether the IRA youth member was armed with nail bombs when he was shot in the abdomen while running between Glenfada Park and Abbey Park. Lord Saville said it was probable that he was in possession of the bombs, but he stressed that he was not preparing to throw one when he was shot.

John "Jackie" Duddy (17) – The keen boxer was the first to be killed on Bloody Sunday. He was running away when he was shot in the chest in the car park of Rossville flats. Lord Saville said he probably had a stone in his hand at the time.

Hugh Gilmour (17) – The talented footballer and ardent Liverpool fan was hit with a single shot as he ran away from the rubble barricade on Rossville Street. A student nurse attempted to treat his wounds but he died at the scene. A solider who fired at him claimed he aimed at a man with a hand gun, but a photo taken of the stricken teenager moments after he fell showed no evidence of a weapon and witnesses insisted he was unarmed.

Michael Kelly (17) – The trainee sewing-machine mechanic was shot once in the abdomen close to the rubble barricade on Rossville Street by a soldier crouched some 80 yards away at Kells Walk. Lord Saville said a paratrooper had falsely claimed the teenager was a nail bomber.

Kevin McElhinney (17) – The grocery store worker was shot from behind as he crawled toward Rossville flats. Witnesses, including a Roman Catholic priest, claimed the rock and roll devotee was not armed.

Bernard "Barney" McGuigan (41) – The father of six was going to the aid of Patrick Doherty, waving a white handkerchief in his hand, when he was shot in the head with a single round. He died instantly.

Gerard McKinney (35) – The father of eight was running close behind Gerald Donaghey in Abbey Park when the bullet that killed both of them hit him first. The bullet passed sideways through his body but did not wound either arm, indicating that his hands were possibly raised at the time.

William "Willie" McKinney (27, not related to Gerard) – The keen amateur film-maker recorded scenes from the march with his hand-held cinecamera before the shooting started. The camera was found in his jacket pocket as he lay dying after being shot in the back in Glenfada Park.

James Wray (22) – Engaged to be married, the civil rights activist was shot twice in the back in Glenfada Park. The second shot was fired as he lay mortally wounded on the ground.

John Johnston (59) – The draper was shot twice by soldiers positioned inside a derelict building in William Street. He died four months later in hospital. This incident took place about 15 minutes before the main shootings and at a location away from the other killings. The soldiers who fired were targeting 15-year-old Damien Donaghy, who was struck in the thigh.

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty is the former Northern editor of The Irish Times