26 June 2007 Edition
General Jackson back in the spotlight
The Bloody Sunday Inquiry
BY FERN LANE
One of the senior British Army officers on Bloody Sunday, Major Ted Loden, Commander of Support Company and Guinness Force, finished giving evidence to the Saville inquiry last Thursday after ten days in the witness box. On his last day, under questioning by Michael Mansfield QC, he declined to apologise to the family of Barney McGuigan, shot and killed by a solider under his command, saying that he would "await the outcome of the inquiry".
During Loden's evidence, a number of discrepancies between his account and that of General Mike Jackson have emerged and are so serious that Lord Saville is currently considering whether Jackson should be recalled to the inquiry for further questioning.
The confusion centres on a mysterious document, only submitted by the MoD to the inquiry during Loden's evidence. The document was used by the army and government when preparing their case for the Widgery tribunal, and in it a British Army officer lists the number and type of 'engagements' made by the army on Bloody Sunday, including with assorted 'gunmen', 'nail bombers' and 'acid bombers'. When shown the document, Loden suggested that Jackson had written it, although Jackson previously told the inquiry he was not involved in drawing up any list of engagements.
Whilst in the witness box, Loden repeatedly claimed to have interviewed the men under his command after the shootings on Bloody Sunday. He says that, based on what his men told him, he produced a report including a list of 'targets' engaged and had handed it to Battalion HQ to be typed up. Jackson's own evidence was that Loden was not involved in any interviewing process.
It was also pointed out to Loden by Michael Mansfield that as well as General Jackson, no one else at HQ recalled receiving such a list from him, and that none of his figures - numbers of 'gunmen' engaged, live rounds fired or baton rounds fired - tallied with those that eventually made it onto the HQ list, and that prior to the Saville Inquiry he had never before mentioned passing on his list. Loden was unable to explain these discrepancies.
In submissions to the inquiry, it was suggested by Mansfield that the HQ report, allegedly in Jackson's handwriting, was a "bogus" document which had been put together in Battalion HQ days after Bloody Sunday in order to justify the number of rounds used and the number of dead.
The list, he went on, was drawn up after Loden's attendance at battalion HQ, not in the back of a pig as he claims, because "he realised - to use the words of 202 - he was in trouble and that he had to explain to somebody higher up what had happened.
"Interestingly, if you add up the number of people supposedly dead on his shot list, it will not come as any surprise, it comes to 13. We say the only reason this shot list came into existence was to explain 13 deaths."
Lord Saville asked whether the suggestion was that Loden had "sat down with Jackson and compiled an imaginary list of engagements". Mansfield replied that, "all we can do is infer this is not a genuine document.
"It has arisen, we submit, after he went to battalion HQ. One possible route is that he has deputed somebody to go away and compile a report that he can submit, explaining the actions of the day and in particular the engagements that Support Company have been involved in."
During the questioning of Loden, Mansfield pointed out that, amongst the many deficiencies in Loden's so-called list was the absence of any mention of the shooting of Barney McGuigan. He questioned why none of Loden's men had thought to tell him about; a "middle-aged man, sheltering near a telephone box, who walks out holding a white handkerchief and is shot dead".
"They cannot have forgotten when they spoke to you - this is F, actually - F cannot have forgotten when he spoke to you, it must have been one of the last things he did," he said. "It tends to suggest, does it not, Colonel Loden, that they were not being frank with you, if you did the interviewing process?"
Loden insisted that he had interviewed the soldiers. "I do not know how many times I have told you, I interviewed these soldiers in the back of my pig. It is not an invention and you will never ever shake me from that, Mr Mansfield."
If that was indeed the case, asked Mansfield, did Loden "accept any responsibility for what the soldier did who shot Mr McGuigan? Do you accept any responsibility for what happened at the south end of Block 1?"
"I accept responsibility in that I was in command of that company," replied Loden, "but I did not squeeze the trigger on this particular occasion. I was not able to look down the sights of the chap's rifle and therefore I cannot tell you whether he was correct or not in opening fire."