Many soldiers 'knowingly gave false accounts'

 

TESTIMONIES:Of 13 civilians killed, possibly only one was shot by a soldier 'in a state of fear or panic', writes EITHNE DONNELLANin Derry

MANY OF the soldiers “knowingly put forward false accounts in order to seek to justify their firing”, Lord Saville concluded.

He said that contrary to evidence given to the inquiry by British soldiers, none of the soldiers had fired on civilians in response to attacks or threatened attacks by nail or petrol bombers.

“No one threw or threatened to throw a nail or petrol bomb at the soldiers on Bloody Sunday. There was some firing by republican paramilitaries (though nothing approaching that claimed by some soldiers) . . . but in our view none of this firing provided any justification for the shooting of the civilian casualties,” the report says.

He also ruled that apart from the firing by one soldier, Private T, there was no question of the gunfire which came from the soldiers being accidental or causing accidental casualties.

He found that some of the casualties, like Kevin McElhinney, were shot when crawling away, while another – Jim Wray – was shot as he already lay wounded on the ground.

Lord Saville considered the fact that soldiers, facing a situation in which they or their colleagues might at any moment come under lethal attack, had little time to decide whether they had identified a person posing a threat of causing death or serious injury, and may have had to make that decision in a state of tension or fear.

He found, however, that most casualties occurred when “shots were not fired in fear or panic”.

The inquiry found that of the 13 civilians killed on Bloody Sunday, only one – Jackie Duddy – was shot by a soldier who who had possibly fired “in a state of fear or panic”.

It found that 10 of the civilians had been shot by soldiers who had “not fired in fear or panic”, and that in the cases of the two others who were fatally wounded, it was “unlikely” that the soldiers who shot them were doing so out of fear or panic.

Lord Saville also concluded that apart from evidence given by Pte T, many of the soldiers “knowingly put forward false accounts in order to seek to justify their firing”.

The report says that every soldier serving in Northern Ireland was issued with a yellow card which contained instructions as to when a soldier could open fire. The yellow card in force on Bloody Sunday contained instructions to the soldiers that they should never use more force than the minimum necessary to enable them to carry out their duties, and should always first try to handle the situation by means other than opening fire. It also said if they were to open fire they should give a warning, save when a delay could lead to death or serious injury, or when hostile firing was taking place in his area and a warning was impracticable.

But the inquiry found: “None of the casualties shot by soldiers of Support Company was armed with a firearm or (with the probable exception of Gerald Donaghey) a bomb of any description. None was posing any threat of causing death or serious injury. In no case was any warning given before soldiers opened fire.”

The report also said all the soldiers who were responsible for the casualties, apart from Pte T, had insisted they had shot at gunmen or bombers, “which they had not”, and, “with the possible exception of Lance Cpl F’s belated admission with regard to Michael Kelly, did not accept that they had shot the known casualties, which they had. “To our minds it inevitably followed that this materially undermined the credibility of the accounts given by the soldiers who fired.”

No soldier of Support Company, the one responsible for all the gunfire casualties, was injured by gunfire on Bloody Sunday, the report added.

In relation to the behaviour of specific soldiers whose shots killed and injured people on Bloody Sunday – all of whom are not named – the report blames Lance Cpl F for causing more death and injury than any other individual soldier.

The report says the inquiry is sure that Lance Cpl F fired at and shot Bernard McGuigan and Patrick Doherty, and it was highly probably he was also responsible for shooting Patrick Campbell and Daniel McGowan.