Paratroopers used waterboarding to obtain false confession, court told

‘It was like you were just drowning,’ Liam Holden tells Belfast court of 1972 events

He has already been awarded £1m for losses suffered due to the miscarriage of justice. File photograph: Paul Faith/PA Wire

He has already been awarded £1m for losses suffered due to the miscarriage of justice. File photograph: Paul Faith/PA Wire

 

Paratroopers allegedly used waterboarding torture techniques against a west Belfast man in obtaining a false confession to killing a British solider, the High Court in Belfast heard today.

Liam Holden also claimed he was hooded and had a gun pointed at his head before wrongly admitting to shooting Private Frank Bell 50 years ago.

Mr Holden, 68, was the last man in Northern Ireland sentenced to hang.

The death penalty was commuted to life in prison before a 40-year fight to clear his name resulted in his murder conviction being quashed in 2012.

He has already been awarded £1m (€1.2m) for losses suffered due to the miscarriage of justice.

But Mr Holden is now seeking damages from the UK Ministry of Defence for alleged misfeasance in public office, assault, battery and torture.

In 1972 he was arrested after Private Bell was shot in the Springfield Avenue area of west Belfast.

A teenage chef at the time, he was brought to a military post at Blackmountain school where members of the Parachute Regiment allegedly deployed banned interrogation techniques.

Soldiers pinned him to the floor and placed a folded towel over his face, the court heard. Mr Holden said: “They started pouring a bucket of water slowly through the towel.

“The first thing I felt was the cold, then trying to breath and then sucking water in through my mouth and up my nose.

“It was like you were just drowning.”

He described being revived and slapped about the face while soldiers held him by the armpits.

Up to four questioning and waterboarding sessions were allegedly carried out.

At that point he was hooded, dragged out to a chair and taken to a loyalist area of Belfast. “They took me out of the car and brought me into a field, put a gun to my head and said if I didn’t admit to shooting the soldier they would shoot me.”

Asked by his barrister, Brian Fee QC, how he responded to the alleged threat, Mr Holden replied: “I just said I shot the soldier.”

“After that I gave my statement that I shot the soldier, made a cock and bull story about where I shot him from, where I got the weapon, where I dumped the weapon and how I got away. .”

The Ministry of Defence is defending the action by denying liability.

The case continues.