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19 September 2002 Edition

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Senior RUC men believed Paras had murdered

The Bloody Sunday Inquiry


BY FERN LANE


The most senior RUC officer on Bloody Sunday, Patrick McCullagh, was recalled as a witness to the Bloody Sunday inquiry last week and admitted that the force did not interview any British soldiers involved in the shootings, even though senior officers had concluded that at least one of them had been guilty of murder. He said that normal practice was for the military police to carry out interviews with soldiers.

His admission came after he was shown a letter from the then Superintendent Michael Finn (now deceased) referring to the death of Jackie Duddy. In his letter, Superintendent Finn said: "There is no evidence to establish which member of the army fired the fatal shot but it is clear that he had just dismounted from the APC before doing so. In my opinion he is clearly guilty of murder but as he has not been identified no further action can be taken."

Harvey asked whether "even in an abnormal society, if a senior officer comes to the conclusion that a person has been murdered by a number, or one of a number of identifiable people, would it not be normal practice for the police to interview him"?

McCullagh responded: "I accept nobody's murder; I accept nobody's murder in any circumstances and do not ask me to reply to you on the basis that I accept that anybody committed murder."

On Monday, John Goddard, who made a film to mark the 20th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, appeared before the inquiry.

He said that during the course of his research he had met with a number of IRA volunteers and "all were adamant that the Provisional IRA had given an undertaking not to be present on the march with any arms and that they had adhered to that undertaking".

The inquiry was also presented with verbatim notes made by his researcher, Neil Davies - himself a former member of the Parachute Regiment - who had interviewed a number of the soldiers who took part in the shootings. One of them, who subsequently denied being present on Bloody Sunday when interviewed by Stoddard himself, told Davies that:

"Some of those soldiers were way too cocky - thought they were the big guys 'cos they could roll a few drunks. Never been anywhere else - no other experience.

"I would say we had bully boys and should have jumped on them - things got out of hand. Yellow Card - fuck who believes in that nonsense? Lots of the guys could get done for murder - crimes, you know.

The notes continue: "Well, we all thought - snatch operation in the Bogside. Fucking watch out - gunmen. Look what happened to the Green Jackets, just before. They couldn't get out of the Creggan. East to get in. Yeah we all thought the flats - got to have people in there. Gunmen. Major Loden didn't brief anybody really - briefed by rumour. Just word was going to give them a lesson.

"Well, when we got the word to go in - listen to the noise - rubber dicks going off - CS gas - water - petrol bombs exploding - Very tense situation... Rumours of radio reports of gunfire - couple of people hit (Irish).

"Adrenaline was up - Roared in gung ho. Screaming let's get them... Pig went too far - driver wasn't sure of area. Everybody shouting get in amongst them. Pig went too far, right into the flats... Can't 25 retreat. Fuck, I thought we'd get done here. Piled out right under the flats - sitting fucking ducks - people running everywhere.

"Crowds pouring round a corner. We all looking up at the flats - bombers, snipers, anything. People charging round a corner... then rifle fire. I don't know over our heads from the officer's Pig. I'm sure some stuff from the walls. Loads of Army snipers up on the walls.

"Well, shit hit the fan then. The lads started firing. Letting loose, people were running, screaming - our guns going off. Shadows became targets. At first it was possibly put some fire into the flats, scare anybody with a gun. Then they started shooting at the barricades - they only had bricks, didn't they? Nobody stopped to check.

"The platoon cracked, really some of them were seeing targets everywhere. Fucking officer - he'd fired - fucking prat - as if we were going to say - oh, only a warning shot. Set everybody off, didn't it... Also it wasn't hard to believe gunmen up there. Well, who is going to say that weren't, that there were no gunmen up in the flats. This was the Bogside - there were gunmen there."

The soldier's comments continue: "I only began to realise after we started loading bodies. Fuck, there will be hell to pay. Of course, we got our stories together - didn't talk about anything else. Got to get it sorted out. Found no weapons of any kind. Threw the bodies in the back on the transport. Major Loden was livid - thought that had ended his climb up the ladder.

"Widgery - It was a matter of keeping our reputation. The platoon was broken after that. Jesus, we got away with murder - cracked up you know. Nobody will talk about it. Not even to other soldiers in the battalion. We were told by the officers and senior NCOs just button your lip on this one.

"Bloody hell, man - some of those guys even fired from the hip - bloody cowboy attitude - craphats only do that. Lost our dignity over that. Some of them tried to be cocky after - but the older soldiers got angry with them. A few fights over beers, I tell you.

"We were lucky with Widgery - show job, wasn't it. Army had to cover up. Nobody wanted to talk. Better left alone."
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