Bloody Sunday: Soldier F faces murder charges


James Wray, left, and William McKinney

Image caption

James Wray and William McKinney were among 13 people shot dead at a civil rights march

A former British soldier faces murder charges over the killing of two people on Bloody Sunday in Londonderry in 1972.

The Public Prosecution Service said there was enough evidence to prosecute Soldier F for the murders of James Wray and William McKinney.

He also faces charges for the attempted murders of Patrick O’Donnell, Joseph Friel, Joe Mahon and Michael Quinn.

Thirteen people were shot dead at a civil rights march on 30 January 1972.

The day became known as Bloody Sunday – one of the darkest days of the Northern Ireland Troubles.

The former paratrooper is being referred to only as Soldier F because all military witnesses were granted anonymity through the Saville Inquiry into the circumstances around the killings.

The PPS said there was insufficient evidence to prosecute 16 other soldiers and two Official IRA men.

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Media captionOne soldier will be prosecuted over Bloody Sunday, the PPS said

James Wray’s brother Liam said he was “very saddened for the other families” of those killed on Bloody Sunday.

“Their hearts must be broken,” he said. “It has been a sad day but the Wray family are relieved.”

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Media captionWhat was Bloody Sunday?

He added: “There are a lot of sad and heartbroken people today.”

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Bloody Sunday gained notoriety around the world, partly due to the image of a Catholic priest waving a bloodstained white handkerchief as he tried to help a victim

Director of the PPS Stephen Herron said: “It has been a long road for the families… and today will be another extremely difficult day for many of them.

“We wanted to meet them personally to explain the decisions taken and to help them understand the reasons.”

Mr Herron said the decisions to prosecute announced on Thursday “relate only to allegations of criminal conduct on Bloody Sunday itself.”

“Consideration will now be given to allegations of perjury in respect of those suspects reported by police,” he said.

Bloody Sunday has ‘cast a long shadow’

by Julian O’Neill, BBC News NI Home Affairs Correspondent

Bloody Sunday might have happened 47 years ago, but it has cast a very long shadow, extending far beyond victims’ families and those involved.

It fuelled the Troubles and, two decades after they ended, it will once again throw a searchlight on how Northern Ireland deals with it past.

Legacy issues, as they are termed, can poison the present day and they have been allowed to fester.

Bloody Sunday has fed into the ongoing debate, with the government considering legislation as part of its next steps.

Will that involve a de facto amnesty from prosecutions in future, and whom might that cover?

This is the bigger picture against the backdrop of the Bloody Sunday decisions, significant as they are in their own right.

The intention to charge a former soldier has clawed at emotions not just in Derry, but among bereaved families and victims in thousands of other Troubles cases left pondering truth and justice.

UK Defence Minister Gavin Williamson said the government would offer full legal support to Soldier F – including paying his legal costs and providing welfare support.

“We are indebted to those soldiers who served with courage and distinction to bring peace to Northern Ireland,” he said. “The welfare of our former service personnel is of the utmost importance.”

The case could come before a court for a preliminary hearing quite quickly, said legal expert Joshusa Rozenberg.

He said he expected Soldier F to be brought before a court in Northern Ireland and to be named.

Solider F would be expected to argue that he has been treated unfairly given the other soldiers have not been prosecuted and will probably argue ‘abuse of process’, Mr Rozenberg said.

A public inquiry conducted by a senior judge shortly after the deaths was branded a whitewash by victims’ families.

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Media captionA soldier is to be prosecuted to the murder of Liam Wray’s brother

A fresh inquiry was eventually ordered by then prime minister Tony Blair in 1998.

Lord Saville’s 5,000-page report stated none of the casualties was posing a threat of causing death or serious injury and that soldiers had lost their self-control.

The prime minister at the time of the report’s publication, David Cameron, apologised for the soldiers’ conduct.

A police investigation into Bloody Sunday followed Lord Saville’s 12-year, £200m public inquiry. A file was sent to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) in November 2016.

In total, police reported 20 suspects to the PPS – 18 of them former soldiers, one of whom died last year.

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

How Bloody Sunday unfolded

The march began shortly after 15:00 GMT and the intended destination was the city centre.

However, Army barricades blocked marchers.

The majority of demonstrators were instead directed towards Free Derry Corner in the Bogside.

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Many demonstrators marched towards Free Derry Corner

After prolonged skirmishes between groups of youths and the Army, soldiers from the Parachute Regiment moved in to make arrests.

Just before 16:00 GMT, stones were thrown and soldiers responded with rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannon. Two people were shot and wounded.

At 16:07 GMT, paratroopers moved to arrest as many marchers as possible.

At 16:10 GMT, soldiers began to open fire.

According to Army evidence, 21 soldiers fired their weapons, discharging 108 live rounds between them.

What was the immediate response?

The shootings led to widespread anger in Derry and further afield.

The British Embassy in Dublin was burned to the ground by an angry crowd.

The day after Bloody Sunday the government announced there would be an inquiry led by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Widgery.



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