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9 October 2003 Edition

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Soldier H and his 19 shots

A former paratrooper denied on Tuesday that he lied about firing 19 shots at a sniper to cover up shooting some of the dead and wounded on Bloody Sunday. Claims by Soldier H that he fired so many times at a gunman in a bathroom window were dismissed as "incredible" by a lawyer for the Saville Inquiry.

Christopher Clarke QC said the soldier - a first class shot - must have been "rather unlucky" to have missed him on 19 separate occasions.

"If that account is right, the upshot must be that the gunman, having been shot at once, must have intentionally moved into the same position of mortal danger in line with a soldier with an SLR who tried to kill him on 18 further occasions," said Clarke.

He put it to the former soldier that he was lying in order to account for all the rounds he fired that day and that those extra shots may have been used to wound or kill some of the victims of Bloody Sunday.

Previous evidence given by soldiers has pointed to seven shots being fired in Glenfada Park North, while it has been established that six people died and seven were wounded by soldiers operating in that area.

Clarke speculated that some of Soldier H's tally could account for this shortfall.

"If your 19 shots in Glenfada Park, or even 18 of them, were not fired into a window at the south of Glenfada Park, there are up to 18 or possibly 19 additional targets available to meet the shortfall," he said.

"If the tribunal was satisfied that the people I am talking about, the known dead and wounded, were shot by soldiers, it might be driven to conclude that those who were shot and who cannot be linked to the evidence of other soldiers who fired, were shot by you."

Soldier H insisted he was speaking the truth.

Clarke said to him: "I want to suggest to you what may be a reason why you should invent such an account. That is because you fired a large number of shots that you realised at the time you would not be able to justify."

Soldier H replied: "No, I think if I was making up a story, sir, I think I would have made up a better one than that. I have only tried to be honest all the way through and say, even though it sounds silly, it is what actually happened."

Soldier H, who fired the most shots on Bloody Sunday - a total of 22 - told the inquiry that despite firing 19 times at the window of a house in Glenfada Park North, he did not break the glass.

"I cannot remember seeing it break and wonder whether it had reinforcement wire in it," he added.

The former soldier, who was giving evidence at Central Hall in Westminster, was one of a group of four soldiers who moved into Glenfada Park North from where six victims were killed and seven wounded. Last week, another one of this group, Soldier F, admitted shooting dead four of the 13 victims. Soldier H claimed in his statement to have shot two youths as they handled a nail bomb just after he entered Glenfada Park North. He said he recalled seeing one youth holding a smoking object in his hands and fired two quick shots at him.

"I hit him with one of my shots possibly both, although I am not sure where on his body he was hit," he added.

Shortly after the young man he shot fell to the ground, he said, a second youth picked up the nail bomb and began running with it.

"I fired one shot at him and hit him in the shoulder. He did not fall to the ground and continued running."

When Soldier H gave his evidence to the first inquiry held in 1972, Lord Widgery disputed his account that he fired 19 times at the window. The former Lord Chief Justice concluded in his report: "Soldier H did not fire 19 shots at a gunman... those bullets were wholly unaccounted for."

Soldier H denied claims from Soldier O27, who has already given evidence, that he fired from the hip on Bloody Sunday.

"I did not shoot from the hip at all that day. In my opinion, it would be virtually impossible to shoot with any degree of accuracy from the hip."

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