You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Top Stories

Fury as a British Army veteran WILL be charged over Bloody Sunday: Ex-soldier faces trial accused of two murders in 1972 shootings - but 16 of his comrades will NOT be prosecuted

Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 14/03/2019 Richard Spillett for MailOnline

UP NEXT
UP NEXT
Watch: Bloody Sunday families react to prosecution (ITN)

Military veterans have slammed a decision to charge a former British soldier with the murder of two men in the Bloody Sunday shootings nearly 50 years ago.

The man, named only as 'Soldier F', is one of 17 former members of the 1st Battalion Parachute Regiment who were investigated over the violence which left 13 people dead in Londonderry in 1972.

The ex-soldier, who is now thought to be in his 70s, faces trial for the alleged murders of James Wray and William McKinney and the alleged attempted murders of Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe Mahon and Patrick O'Donnell.

The decision to prosecute him has angered Armed Forces groups, who contrasted his treatment with the many IRA terrorists who have been let off during the peace process.

a man standing in front of a building: Linda Nash, whose youngest brother William Nash died on Bloody Sunday, wept and hugged campaigner Eamonn McCann after it was announced that a British soldier will be prosecuted over the shootings. But critics have hit out at the decision © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Linda Nash, whose youngest brother William Nash died on Bloody Sunday, wept and hugged campaigner Eamonn McCann after it was announced that a British soldier will be prosecuted over the shootings. But critics have hit out at the decision Critics of the probe point out that around 200 IRA fugitives, thought to be behind a series of terror attacks during the Troubles, were sent so-called 'comfort letters', assuring them they were no longer suspects. 

The sixteen other British military veterans who were investigated over Bloody Sunday will not face action, it was announced this morning.  

Watch: Murder charge is 'one soldier too many' say Justice for Northern Ireland Veterans group (PA)

UP NEXT
UP NEXT

The British government said it will support Soldier F and cover all of his legal costs, with Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson praising the 'courage and distinction' of those who fought in Northern Ireland.

But the minister was criticised by fellow Tory MP and ex-Army Officer Johnny Mercer for failing to do enough to protect soldiers from prosecution.

a person posing for the camera: Soldier F will be charged with the murders of James Wray (left) and William McKinney (right) on Bloody Sunday. Mr Wray, 22, was shot twice in the back. Mr McKinney was film-maker who recorded scenes from the march before the shooting started © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Soldier F will be charged with the murders of James Wray (left) and William McKinney (right) on Bloody Sunday. Mr Wray, 22, was shot twice in the back. Mr McKinney was film-maker who recorded scenes from the march before the shooting started At the same time as soldier F's prosecution was announced this morning, authorities revealed that two alleged Official IRA members would also face no criminal action. 

The investigation into British soldiers so many years after the events in Londonderry is highly controversial, with outcry that those who served their country in Northern Ireland now face lengthy criminal probes.   

Related: What happened on January 30, 1972? 

a group of people standing in front of a military vehicle: A photo from January 30 1972 shows demonstrators facing off with British soldiers minutes before paratroopers opened fire, killing 13 civilians on what became known as Bloody Sunday © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited A photo from January 30 1972 shows demonstrators facing off with British soldiers minutes before paratroopers opened fire, killing 13 civilians on what became known as Bloody Sunday Military groups slammed at the decision to bring charges against Soldier F with Alan Barry, the founder of the Justice for Northern Ireland Veterans group, saying: 'It's one soldier too many as far as we're concerned.

'It's very one-sided. No soldier should be charged. It happened 47 years ago, a line in the sand needs to be drawn and people need to move on.

'Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement veterans are being left open to prosecution while terrorists have been cleansed of their past crimes.' 

Related: Bloody Sunday a 'watershed' in the history of the Troubles

Former Grenadier Guard Mr Barry, 54, who served in Northern Ireland in the 1980s, added: 'It's all about appeasement: appeasing the IRA, appeasing Sinn Fein, and if that means throwing one or two veterans under a bus then that's what they'll do.

'It's a disgrace. How old is he? He'll be in his 70s. I want to know why the IRA aren't being prosecuted.'

Former Coldstream Guardsman Vern Tilbury, 58, accused the country of 'spitting on' its veterans.

a group of people posing for the camera: Relatives of those who died said more soldiers should have been charged. Veterans groups said Soldier F is 'one too many' © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Relatives of those who died said more soldiers should have been charged. Veterans groups said Soldier F is 'one too many' Mr Tilbury, who served in West Belfast in 1978-79 and 1982, said: 'This government is looking at us veterans as collateral damage. We're just a thorn in their side. How many more of us are going to have to go through it?'  

a group of people standing in a parking lot: Families of those who died on Bloody Sunday march this morning through the Bogside in Londonderry, Northern Ireland © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Families of those who died on Bloody Sunday march this morning through the Bogside in Londonderry, Northern Ireland The families of those killed on Bloody Sunday said they are disappointed more ex-soldiers won't be brought before court. 

________________________________

Ex-Army MP attacks government failure to protect veterans 

a man wearing a suit and tie © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited

After the announcement that Soldier F would face murder charges today, Conservative MP and former British Army officer Johnny Mercer tweeted that it was the result of 'an abject failure to govern and legislate, on our watch as a Conservative administration'.

'When I speak of a chasm between those who serve and their political masters in this country, I mean this,' he added, referring to the case.

Mr Mercer (pictured, above) posted a video of Theresa May vowing to never let 'left-wing human rights lawyers harangue our armed forces', saying the footage 'stings' him.

________________________________

British Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson confirmed the Ministry of Defence would support soldier F and pay the legal costs.

He said: 'We are indebted to those soldiers who served with courage and distinction to bring peace to Northern Ireland.

'The welfare of our former service personnel is of the utmost importance and we will offer full legal and pastoral support to the individual affected by today's decision. This includes funding all his legal costs and providing welfare support.

'The Ministry of Defence is working across Government to drive through a new package of safeguards to ensure our armed forces are not unfairly treated.

a man talking on a cell phone: Derek Wilford, pictured in recent years, who was the commander in charge on Bloody Sunday said he felt his men had been betrayed © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Derek Wilford, pictured in recent years, who was the commander in charge on Bloody Sunday said he felt his men had been betrayed 'And the Government will urgently reform the system for dealing with legacy issues. Our serving and former personnel cannot live in constant fear of prosecution.'

a man wearing a uniform: Derek Wilford, pictured in 1972, who was the commander in charge on Bloody Sunday said he felt his men had been betrayed © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Derek Wilford, pictured in 1972, who was the commander in charge on Bloody Sunday said he felt his men had been betrayed Relatives of those killed were today joined by supporters close to the scene of the shootings in Londonderry's Bogside estate, ahead of a march through the city.

a group of people in uniform standing in front of a building: British troops search civilians on the day of the Bloody Sunday massacre, January 30, 1972 © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited British troops search civilians on the day of the Bloody Sunday massacre, January 30, 1972 Around 35 supporters from campaign group Justice for Northern Ireland Veterans also gathered, with a banner reading: 'Our veterans fought for you, our veterans died for you, now it's your chance to fight for us.'  

a group of people standing in front of a building: Police began the criminal probe in the wake of the 12-year, £200million inquiry led by Lord Saville, which concluded in 2010. Pictured: Tear gas explosions at the demonstrations on Bloody Sunday © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Police began the criminal probe in the wake of the 12-year, £200million inquiry led by Lord Saville, which concluded in 2010. Pictured: Tear gas explosions at the demonstrations on Bloody Sunday The case comes after years of arguing over one of the darkest days of the Troubles.

Unionists and military veterans insist it is betrayal of those who served and fought in Northern Ireland to now put the soldiers on trial.

The soldiers involved claimed they retaliated after coming under gunfire and former Army chiefs fear servicemen may not follow orders in future if they fear they could face prosecution at a later date. 

________________________________

Anger at 'comfort letters' given to IRA terrorists while British soldier faces court

The anger of Army veterans over the investigation has been increased by the 'comfort letters' given to IRA terror suspects.

The effective amnesty for the fugitives was granted in a secret deal between Tony Blair's Labour government and Sinn Fein around the time of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

They assured 187 Republican terror suspects they were no longer being hunted by the police. 

John Downey wearing a suit and tie: IRA terror suspect John Downey was sent an immunity letter causing his trial for for the 1982 Hyde Park bombing to collapse © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited IRA terror suspect John Downey was sent an immunity letter causing his trial for for the 1982 Hyde Park bombing to collapse

At least 95 recipients were linked to almost 300 murders.

The letters – sent to the so-called 'on the runs' after pressure from Sinn Fein – only came to light during the trial of John Downey, the man accused of the Hyde Park bombing in 1982. 

The trial collapsed in February last year when it emerged the 63-year-old had been told he would not face prosecution for the blast that killed four soldiers and seven horses in London. 

Other IRA fugitives likely to have been sent letters reassuring them they would not be prosecuted include Pól Brennan and Terrence Kirby, two of the 'H-Block four' who escaped from the notorious Maze Prison in Northern Ireland in 1983.  

________________________________

Relatives of those killed insist they are seeking to challenge false claims that their loved ones had been armed.

Ahead of today's decision, the officer who was in charge of British troops on the day hit out at the possibility that his men will be dragged into court nearly 50 years on. 

Lt-Col Derek Wilford, the commander on the day, said yesterday that he and his men feel 'betrayed' and that he is 'very angry' at their treatment by authorities.

The now-86-year-old told The Daily Telegraph: 'I maintain the fact that there was fire and we were part of it. These people on the barricades were out to kill us. You don't need to be a soldier to realise that's what was happening.

'That is why now I have no sympathy with the other side. My sympathy lies with my soldiers, who day after day were obliged to go out into the wilderness of hostility.'

He said he accepted that what happened was bad and he is sorry for what took place, but does not regret what his soldiers did. 

British troops had been sent into the Bogside nationalist housing estate to deal with riots which followed a march, held in defiance of a ban on public processions.

As well as the 13 who died, a total of 15 others were shot and injured. One of the injured died months later from an inoperable tumour and some consider him the 14th fatality.

In 2010, an inquiry by Lord Saville found that those killed were innocent and posed no threat. The soldiers claimed they fired in retaliation after coming under attack from IRA gunmen.

One former soldier who was under investigation previously said: 'We were made to give evidence to the Saville inquiry. We weren't hiding from anyone. But we were told statements given to the inquiry couldn't be used in prosecutions. 

'The next thing we know, the Northern Ireland Public Prosecution Service (PPS) are saying they are deciding on prosecutions. 

'At the time of the inquiry, families were saying they were not interested in prison sentences for soldiers. Now they are saying they want life sentences.'

a group of people posing for the camera: Pictured: The aftermath of the incident. Eighteen former paratroopers were under investigation, but one died last year © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Pictured: The aftermath of the incident. Eighteen former paratroopers were under investigation, but one died last year

Lord Saville, who chaired the investigation into the incident, yesterday insisted its sole purpose was to find out what went on.

Lord Saville told the BBC yesterday: 'I didn't know what was likely to happen. We hoped the inquiry would help the situation in Ireland and I think and hope it did to a degree.

'The question as to whether it draws a line under events or whether there should be prosecutions is not one for me, it's one for politicians and prosecuting authorities.

'If people want more and feel that justice can only be served by prosecutions against those that they believe to be responsible, then that is a matter again on which I can't really comment.'

a group of people posing for a photo in front of a building: The mural depicting those who lost their lives on Bloody Sunday in Rossville Street © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited The mural depicting those who lost their lives on Bloody Sunday in Rossville Street Evidence given to the Bloody Sunday inquiry is not admissible in any potential criminal prosecutions under terms agreed when it was launched in 1998.  But soldiers say there would have been no prospect of prosecutions without it. 

a close up of Mark Saville: A 1998 photograph of Lord Saville of Newdigate chairing the Bloody Sunday inquiry © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited A 1998 photograph of Lord Saville of Newdigate chairing the Bloody Sunday inquiry

An investigation by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) followed the £195 million inquiry and files on 18 soldiers were submitted to prosecutors in 2016 and 2017 for consideration. One former soldier has since died.

Four other soldiers included in the Saville Report died before police had completed their investigation.

A decision is also due to be taken today by the PPS as to whether to charge two Official IRA suspects present on the day.

Papers before prosecutors included 668 witness statements and numerous photos, video and audio evidence. 

Who were the victims of the Bloody Sunday shootings? 

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.

Gerald Donaghey, 17. The IRA youth member was shot in the abdomen while running between Glenfada Park and Abbey Park. While Lord Saville said it was probable that he was in possession of nail bombs when he was shot, he stressed that he was not preparing to throw a nail bomb at the time and was shot 'while trying to escape from the soldiers'.

John 'Jackie' Duddy, 17. 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.

Hugh Gilmour, 17. The talented footballer and ardent Liverpool fan was hit with a single shot as he ran away from the rubble barricade in Rossville Street.

Michael Kelly, 17. The trainee sewing machine mechanic was shot once in the abdomen close to the rubble barricade in Rossville Street by a soldier crouched some 80 yards away at Kells Walk.

a group of people posing for the camera: (Top row, left to right) Patrick Doherty, Bernard McGuigan, John 'Jackie' Duddy and Gerald Donaghey. (Bottom row, left to right) Gerard McKinney, Jim Wray, William McKinney and John Young © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited (Top row, left to right) Patrick Doherty, Bernard McGuigan, John 'Jackie' Duddy and Gerald Donaghey. (Bottom row, left to right) Gerard McKinney, Jim Wray, William McKinney and John Young

Michael McDaid, 20. The barman died instantly after being shot in the face at the barricade in Rossville Street.

Kevin McElhinney, 17. The grocery store worker was shot from behind as he crawled towards Rossville Flats.

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.

William 'Willie' McKinney (not related to Gerard), 27. 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.

William Nash, 19. The dockworker was struck by a single bullet to the chest close to the rubble barricade in Rossville Street.

James Wray, 22. Engaged to be married, the civil rights activist was shot twice in the back in Glenfada Park.

John Young, 17. The menswear shop clerk was killed instantly with a single shot to the head at the rubble barricade. 

a group of people posing for the camera: (Top row, left to right:) Michael Kelly, Michael McDaid, Hugh Gilmore. (Bottom row, left to right) Kevin McElhinney, William Nash and (bottom right) John Johnston, who some consider a victim of the shooting but whose death was put down to a brain tumour © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited (Top row, left to right:) Michael Kelly, Michael McDaid, Hugh Gilmore. (Bottom row, left to right) Kevin McElhinney, William Nash and (bottom right) John Johnston, who some consider a victim of the shooting but whose death was put down to a brain tumour

John Johnston, 59, was shot twice by soldiers positioned inside a derelict building in William Street. He died four months later in hospital, but while many consider him the 14th victim of Bloody Sunday, his death was formally attributed to an inoperable brain tumour.

A timeline of Bloody Sunday and the Troubles

August 1969 - British Government first send troops into Northern Ireland to restore order after three days of rioting in Catholic Londonderry.

30 January 1972 - On 'Bloody Sunday' 13 civilians are shot dead by the British Army during a civil rights march in Londonderry.

March 1972 - The Stormont Government is dissolved and direct rule imposed by London.

1970s - The IRA begin its bloody campaign of bombings and assassinations in Britain.

a group of people walking down the street: British troops in Northern Ireland during the Troubles which began in the late 1960s and lasted until 1998 with the signing of the Good Friday Agreement © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited British troops in Northern Ireland during the Troubles which began in the late 1960s and lasted until 1998 with the signing of the Good Friday Agreement

April 1981 - Bobby Sands, a republicans on hunger strike in the Maze prison, is elected to Parliament. He dies a month later.

October 1984 - An IRA bomb explodes at the Grand Hotel in Brighton, where Margaret Thatcher is staying during the Tory Party conference.

Early 1990s - Margaret Thatcher and then Sir John Major set up a secret back channel with the IRA to start peace talks. The communications was so secret most ministers did not know about it.

April 1998 - Tony Blair helps to broker the Good Friday Agreement, which is hailed as the end of the Troubles. It establishes the Northern Ireland Assembly with David Trimble as its first minister.

a vintage photo of a man: Norman Tebbit, a Conservative cabinet minister at the time, is carried from the wreckage of Brighton's Grand Hotel following the IRA bomb in 1984 © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Norman Tebbit, a Conservative cabinet minister at the time, is carried from the wreckage of Brighton's Grand Hotel following the IRA bomb in 1984

2000s - With some exceptions the peace process holds and republican and loyalist paramilitaries decommission their weapons 

2010 - The Saville Report exonerates the civilians who were killed on Bloody Sunday leading to a formal apology from then Prime Minister David Cameron to the families. 

2019 - Prosecutors announce whether to brig charges against the 17 surviving Paras who fired shots that day.

 

Former British soldier, 77, facing prosecution for shooting of man with learning difficulties at height of the Troubles in Northern Ireland fights for right to have trial by jury 

A former soldier facing prosecution over a shooting during Northern Ireland's Troubles has gone to the UK's highest court to demand a trial by jury.

Dennis Hutchings, 77, a former member of the Life Guards regiment, is charged in relation to the fatal shooting of John Pat Cunningham, a man with learning difficulties killed in June 1974 in disputed circumstances in County Armagh.

a group of people posing for the camera: Dennis Hutchings arrives today for the latest hearing in his challenge against the decision to hold his trial without a jury over the shooting in Northern Ireland during the Troubles © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Dennis Hutchings arrives today for the latest hearing in his challenge against the decision to hold his trial without a jury over the shooting in Northern Ireland during the Troubles Mr Cunningham, 27, was shot in the back as he ran away from an Army patrol, but his family contend that he ran across a field because he feared men in uniform.

Hutchings, of Cawsand, Cornwall, has claimed he never intended to kill or injure Mr Cunningham, but he was firing warning shots to get him to stop. 

a group of people standing in front of a building: Supporters from campaign group Justice for Northern Ireland Veterans clapped and cheered as Hutchings arrived at the Supreme Court in London this morning © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Supporters from campaign group Justice for Northern Ireland Veterans clapped and cheered as Hutchings arrived at the Supreme Court in London this morning More than 40 years on, a case was brought against Hutchings after Northern Ireland's attorney general asked prosecutors to review the case.

Hutchings is due to stand trial in Belfast charged with attempted murder and attempted grievous bodily harm with intent. He denies the charges. 

He has now gone to the Supreme Court in London to challenge a decision by prosecutors that his trial will be heard by a judge alone, rather than by a jury.

Supporters from campaign group Justice for Northern Ireland Veterans clapped and cheered as Hutchings arrived at the court this morning.

a person with collar shirt: Hutchings (pictured at a funeral in 1968) admitted he was 'a bit nervous, obviously' © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Hutchings (pictured at a funeral in 1968) admitted he was 'a bit nervous, obviously' Hutchings thanked them and said: 'Victory for veterans, that's what we want.'

Speaking outside court, Hutchings said he was 'a bit nervous, obviously, although I don't think we will get a decision today'.

He said he was 'reasonably confident' he would win his case, but added: 'I just don't trust the system anymore.'

Hutchings said: 'The thing is whatever decision we get in here today affects every service person.

'If I win, for instance, they will then have a choice between having a judge-only trial and a jury trial; 99.9 per cent of service people will want a jury trial.'

Pointing at the nearby Houses of Parliament, Hutchings added: 'These people sent us there to do the job. Yes, things happened.

'They called it the Troubles because it's easier to call it the Troubles. It wasn't the bloody Troubles, it was a war, as simple as that.'

AdChoices
AdChoices

More From Daily Mail

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon