Detective recalls four explosions on Bloody Sunday

 

A senior detective today told how he heard three bursts of automatic fire and four explosions, which he assumed were caused by the IRA, 20 minutes before paratroops entered the Bogside on Bloody Sunday.

Detective Supt Neville McCoubrey, who was a 30-year-old Constable during the Civil Rights March during which 14 civilians were shot dead in January 1972, said he heard the shots coming from the general area of Rossville Street/Free Derry Corner.

Mr McCoubrey, who was testifying from behind a screen, said he was on general policing duty in the Diamond area, about 150 yards from the Rossville Street area, when he heard shots, which he believed to have come from a machine gun.

"I cannot be more precise than this. It would be impossible for me to say who was firing. My immediate reaction, thinking that the firing was coming from the Bogside, was that it was enemy fire," he said.

"This was an assumption on my part. It would be unlikely for the police to carry sub-machine guns in a crowd control situation," he said.

Mr McCoubrey said the gunfire, which he heard between 3.30 p.m. and 3.45 p.m., was quickly followed by four explosions, which he took to be nail bombs.

His evidence was challenged by lawyers acting for families of the victims.

Mr Arthur Harvey QC said Mr McCoubrey's account contradicted an enormous amount of what had already been reported to the inquiry.

Mr Harvey said to Mr McCoubrey: "What your report really does is suggest they (the Army) were justified in opening fire because someone had opened up with a machine gun.

"What I want to suggest to you is your recollection was inaccurate."

Ms Mary McHugh pointed out that eight police officers who were much closer to the scene of the shootings had not reported any machine-gun fire in their evidence.

She asked: "If there had been machine-gun fire in the Bogside that afternoon, would you expect that at least some of these constables would in fact have heard that?"

Mr McCoubrey told her that he would have presumed they would have heard it.

Mr Michael Mansfield QC added none of the radio reports made on the day of Bloody Sunday contained any reference to automatic gunfire or explosions.

PA