Inquiry hears soldier believed he shot nail bomber
A lieutenant in the 1st Battalion of the Parachute Regiment told the Bloody Sunday Inquiry yesterday that he still believed that a man he targeted and shot in Derry's Bogside thirty-one years ago was a nail bomber.
The former paratrooper, known as Soldier N, told the Inquiry that although he had over the years frequently doubted that the man he shot in the left leg was a nail bomber, he was still "convinced I was shooting at a nail bomber".
Thirteen civilians were killed and thirteen others wounded when paratroopers opened fire during an illegal civil rights parade on January 30th, 1972.
Soldier N told the Inquiry's three judges that he saw the nail bomber behind a wall in the car park to the rear of the Rossville Flats from his position close to the bottom of Chamberlain Street.
"I, I had no doubt in my mind that when I fired that shot, I was convinced I was shooting at a nail bomber, but since then, with nothing to go on but all the press reports saying that there was no shooting that day, there were no nail bombs, there was nothing, then, as each years passed, I began to wonder if the, if my man, had a nail bomb or not, but at the time I fired that shot I was convinced I was entirely justified in doing so", he told the Inquiry.
"I only saw him for a split second but my immediate reaction was that he had a bomb and was about to lob it. I can't remember now why I thought this at the time, I may have seen smoke or it might have been something else. From a standing position I brought my rifle to my shoulder and fired an aimed shot at the man's chest.
"I saw the man clutch his left leg with his right hand and that he then twisted back behind the wall. I recall that he clutched his right thigh with his left hand", he added.
"Whatever doubts I have had over the years about shooting the man, and I have thought a lot about this incident, I am now and have always been convinced that at the moment that I fired I thought he was in the act of throwing a nail bomb", he added.
The witness was then shown photographs of Michael Bridge, who was shot in the left leg by a soldier in the Rossville Flats car park on Bloody Sunday. Two photographs showing Mr Bridge immediately before he was shot and one showing him receiving medical treatment minutes after his wounding, were shown to Soldier N.
Asked by Mr Christopher Clarke, QC, counsel to the Inquiry, if the man he shot was Mr Bridge, the witness replied "no".
Mr Clarke told the witness that there was "no other victim shot in the leg in this area and no other soldier says that he shot someone in the leg here or indeed someone in this position or in the position where you say that your target fell".
When he asked the witness how confident he was of his recollection of the shooting, Soldier N replied "very".
Mr Clarke then asked Soldier N how he could explain how no other soldier, either on Bloody Sunday or subsequently, "has said either that he shot this man or that he saw anybody else shoot this man when he appears to have been shot in daylight in a square which was empty around him?", the witness said he had no explanation for that.
Soldier N, who also admitted firing three shots over the heads of civilians in Chamberlain Street on Bloody Sunday, will resume his evidence tomorrow.