20 February 2003 Edition
Orde forced to retract Bloody Sunday comments
The Bloody Sunday Inquiry
BY FERN LANE
PSNI Chief Constable, Hugh Orde, has joined forces with the UUP and the DUP to denounce the Bloody Sunday Inquiry as a "waste of money". His outburst to the Financial Times on Monday came as he learned of Sinn Féin's request that the Police Ombudsman be provided with proper powers to investigate the past wrongdoings of the RUC. He complained that he was "investing in too much history".
"Apart from making lawyers millionaires, will it satisfy the families?" he asked. "I don't think so. Will it satisfy the public? They've given up with it. The army? Sinn Féin? Does anyone come out of it winning? It must be heading for £200m. That's two police colleges."
On Tuesday evening, however, Orde issued a statement saying that his comments were not intended to "cast doubt on the legitimacy" of the inquiry.
This followed calls for his resignation from Bloody Sunday relatives. Sinn Féin national chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin said Orde had "once again highlighted the political nature of both his and the PSNI's role".
Meanwhile, at the inquiry itself, a former British Army soldier has admitted that he lied in the statement he gave after Bloody Sunday.
Last Wednesday, the inquiry heard how Soldier 151, then a member of the Royal Green Jackets said in his statement to the Royal Military Police in 1972 that he was positioned in an observation post, possibly the Embassy Ballroom, and at around 12.30pm he heard the explosion of a nail bomb.
However, he told the inquiry that he does not now believe that there was any nail bomb and that "maybe the RMPs were putting words into my mouth".
He said that he was "terrified" of the RMP because they were "a law unto themselves" and that he found the interview with two of its officers "intimidating.
"Why I made that statement that I heard a nail bomb being thrown, I really don't know, because I didn't see any nail bomb being thrown at all." He told the inquiry that he had not written the statement, but had merely signed it "to get out of the interview and be done with it".
Asked by Counsel why he felt intimidated by the RMP at his interview, Soldier 151 said: "Bearing in mind that a lot of people had been shot that day, I suppose I was scared to give evidence - I was just scared that I had done something wrong." He was, he said, frightened "of saying the wrong things".
When asked by Counsel whether he was suggesting that the RMP had told him to say he heard a nail bomb, Soldier 151 said: "It is possible, yes - I think that the morning of that interview they was looking for something to justify what happened."
Soldier 151's 1972 statement also records that he saw a shot being fired from Glenfada Park which struck the roof of the Abbey Taxis building. He told the Saville Inquiry that he had in fact not seen or heard any shot at all and did not know how the claim came to be included in his statement.
He added that he had the impression that the statement takers had little or no idea of the geographical layout of the Bogside.
His claim that he had been "frightened" of the RMP was challenged by Edwin Glasgow QC, acting for some of the soldiers, who suggested that he was merely "apprehensive" about providing a statement. Soldier 151 responded by saying that "that day I was so mixed up I was scared, frightened".
Arthur Harvey QC, for some of the families, asked the former soldier whether "it would be correct to say that, when you were asked to make a statement to the RMP, it was against a background where you believed what was expected of you was to provide evidence which may provide justification for the events that happened later that day"?
"I believe that is what has happened, or what did happen," replied Soldier 151. "We knew we had done something dreadfully wrong."
On Thursday last week, a former bombardier with the Light Air Defence Regiment, identified as INQ 754, told the inquiry that he saw the body of a young man in the back of a car with two nail bombs strapped to his legs. He said that he had seen the body in a left-hand drive VW Beetle at the military compound on Letterkenny Road on the evening of Bloody Sunday.
"I could see the body of a young man who I believe was aged about 20. He had blonde hair and was of average build and weight," he said.
"I could see that there was a bullet wound in the left side of his neck, closest to me. It looked like an entrance wound as it was relatively small. I was unable to see an exit wound and did not notice any blood on him. He was obviously dead.
"The nail bombs had then been taped to the inside of his legs with white masking tape. I believe that one nail bomb strapped to the inside of one thigh was slightly higher than the other so that they fitted one underneath the other between his legs?
Although the inquiry heard that he was the only person to report seeing the vehicle he described, INQ 754 refused to accept the suggestion of both Christopher Clark QC and Lord Saville that what he had actually seen was the body of Gerard Donaghy and that after 31 years his memory was faulty. Donaghy was shot on Bloody Sunday and subsequently had four nail bombs planted on his body as he lay in the back seat of a car.