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13 September 2001 Edition

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Witnesses describe cold-blooded executions

Bloody Sunday inquiry resumes



BY FERN LANE

The Bloody Sunday inquiry has resumed in the Guildhall in Derry, sitting for the first time since British soldiers called to give evidence were told that they would have to do so in Derry. Legal representatives for the men had argued that they should be allowed to give evidence in London because of fears for their safety, but their case was dismissed by the tribunal. In his ruling last month, Lord Saville said that allowing soldiers to give evidence elsewhere would destroy public confidence in the inquiry.

One of the tribunal's reserve judges, Canadian Justice William Esson, resigned in August citing health problems, and has not as yet been replaced.

Since 3 September, the inquiry has been hearing witness accounts of the deaths of Michael Kelly, John Young, William Nash, Hugh Gilmore and Kevin McElhinney, all of whom were killed at a barricade in Rossville Street.

In a written statement, Ronnie Ballard recounted how Alexander Nash, father of William, had tried to rescue his fatally wounded son. He said that Alexander Nash ran towards the barricade, calling out, and had almost reached his son before he collapsed. Another witness told the inquiry that he had seen Nash Senior being shot and wounded as he went to the aid of William. ``The man had his arms up and his palms open... The man may have been shouting something like, `Don't shoot' but I cannot be sure,'' said Ballard.

Another witness, Frances McCullagh, who gave evidence on 4 September, broke down when she was questioned about the scene she had watched unfolding at the rubble barricade from inside a nearby block of flats.

She described how she had seen Alexander Nash moving across the barricade, crouching and waving his arm in the air as he tried to help the victims.

``As I looked at the old man, tending to the bodies and waving, I saw a soldier standing in Rossville Street. He had one knee on the ground and one knee raised,'' she said. ``He seemed to take aim with his rifle and then I saw his body jerk as he fired it. As he fired the rifle, I saw the old man fall.

``I am not sure exactly what the old man did next but I believe he got up and waved his other arm at which point I saw the soldier fire again and again. ``Alexander Nash was,'' she said, ``a total hero. He did everything he could to get help for those young fellas and all the Army could do was shoot him.''

George McGinley, who was 14 at the time, told the inquiry that he had watched from a nearby house as paratroopers had dismounted a Saracen at the barricade where William Nash, Michael McDaid and John Young all lay dead.

``One of the paras tried to drag one of the bodies over the rubble barricade towards the Saracen,'' he said. ``I think the para placed his arms beneath those of the body and tried to lift it. The body must have been too heavy for him as another para then had to help. The two paras took one arm and one leg each, and threw the body into the back of the Saracen like a sack of coal.''

Some of the most startling evidence came from Alice Doherty, who told the tribunal that she had witnessed British soldiers firing into an army vehicle containing the some of the dead and dying.

When challenged by Peter Clark, QC for some of the soldiers, as to why she had never spoken about the incident, Doherty said that until now she had felt it would be too distressing for the families. ``I just brought it out because I thought it was time; that the families should know the truth of some of the things that was covered up on that day. I know it is going to be hard on them,'' she said.

Eamon McAteer, the son of the late Eddie McAteer, Nationalist MP for Foyle, told the inquiry that he had seen several people being shot and described the day as resembling ``a grouse or a turkey shoot. The men were running at speed but still got shot.''


He also described seeing a young man - who he believes to have been Kevin McElhinney - making a ``long painful crawl on his elbows towards the Rossville Flats, chips and bullets coming off the pavement around him''.

He recounted how he saw three men who had been with him run in the opposite direction across Glenfada Park North, ``not doing anything other than trying to make their escape''. Then, he said, ``I heard three shots, bang, bang, bang, and two just dropped, one after the other. I do not know what happened to the third one.''

He saw a group of soldiers as they came around the corner holding their rifles ``ready for action''. They were, he said, ``loose cannons - casual but ready to kill and they did not seem to have a plan''.

McAteer was arrested and taken with other prisoners to Fort George army base, where he was made to run between two lines of soldiers towards the door of a hangar. ``One soldier hit me on the back of the head with a baton and then cursed me either because the baton broke or the strap broke. He gathered himself up and hit me again,'' he said.

``At the end of the line near the door was an RUC man and he tripped me as I came through the door. I could hear dogs barking and saw a soldier restraining a dog.'' Along with other prisoners, he was then put up against a wall and made to stand touching it with his fingertips.

Another witness, Olive Mottram, broke down in tears as she described the shootings at the Rossville Street barricade. She watched the events from the same block of flats as Frances McCullough and explained how she had seen the body of a young man with another kneeling beside him.

She said: ``As he was kneeling, he kept bending over the body with his hands outstretched, as if he was lamenting. He was obviously distressed. He clearly had nothing in his hands. He was in his late teens, casually dressed. There seemed to be nothing to make him stand out.''

``As I watched him, he straightened himself up. I do not know why. Perhaps somebody shouted to him. Still kneeling, he put his hands in the air with his hands open and approximately at head height. There was nothing in his hands. I am sure of that. He still had his back to the soldiers when I heard a shot. He fell. I knew he was shot.''

Speaking later, she said that she had seen ``a young man with a body in front of him who was shot for no reason. He had his back to the soldiers with nothing in his hands. I can remember blood running from the barricade into a puddle. It could have been his or the other boy's blood.''
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