23 September 1999 Edition
Bloody Sunday families vindicated
Fresh investigations undertaken under the auspices of the Saville Inquiry have confirmed that the forensic evidence used to discredit the victims of Bloody Sunday in Derry was worthless.
The dogs in the street have known for years that the 14 victims were unarmed and gunned down in cold blood, but now at last the travesty of Lord Widgery's whitewash is being torn to shreds as the truth finally outs.
To take just a few of the victims, reviews of post mortem reports show that Jim Wray was shot twice in the back from a distance of about one metre and that Patrick Doherty and Kevin McElhinney were shot from behind as they tried to crawl away. No amount of spin-doctoring by British army apologists can explain away evidence that damning.
Justice now demands that the truth emerges both about who pulled the triggers and who gave the orders.
The Truth about Bloody Sunday
Widgery's assessment rested on two main planks of evidence, forensic and the testimony of British soldiers. Both of those planks have now fallen
By Laura Friel
An unarmed man was shot dead while lying on the ground, two people were shot dead while trying to crawl away, one person was shot through the back of his head with a dum dum bullet (illegal under the Geneva Convention), a fifth person was deliberately framed, the British army lied and the forensic evidence used to discredit the deceased was `worthless'. This is the awful truth about Bloody Sunday, which became a matter of public record last week.
``The Widgery Report is finally being laid to rest,'' says Tony Doherty of the Bloody Sunday Justice Group. ``With each new revelation, Widgery is exposed as the fraud it always was.'' Tony's father, Patrick Doherty, was one of thirteen people killed by the British army during a civil rights march in Derry 1972. A 14th was to die of his wounds later. Civilian eyewitnesses have always asserted that those who died were unarmed and posed no threat to the soldiers that killed them.
In 1972, Widgery claimed that many of those who had been killed had fired weapons, handled weapons or been in the vicinity of a weapon being fired prior to being shot by the British army. ``Widgery's assessment rested on two main planks of evidence, forensic and the testimony of British soldiers,'' says Doherty. ``Both of those planks have now fallen.''
In his report of 1997, Professor Walsh exposed British army evidence by identifying fundamental discrepancies between initial debriefing statements and later testimonies presented to the tribunal. Last week, original forensic analyses were identified as fatally flawed. ``The evidence which sought to discredit those who died and those who saw them die and told the truth, has now itself been discredited,'' says Doherty.
In 1972, Dr John Martin, as a principle scientific officer with the Department of Industrial and Forensic Science, presented reports of `paraffin tests' carried out on the bodies of 13 people shot dead. In a dramatic development last week, Dr Martin admitted the presence of lead on the hands of the deceased did not indicate a ``strong suspicion'' that they had been exposed to firearms.
Martin's reassessment followed a damning indictment of the original forensic evidence presented to the Widgery Tribunal by independent forensic, ballistic and pathological experts commissioned by the Saville Inquiry. A Dr Lloyd dismissed the results of the forensic tests carried out at the time as ``worthless'' and the reports ``nullified by a complete lack of control testing and the likelihood of spurious contamination''.
Examination of post mortem reports indicate that one of the deceased, Jim Wray, was shot twice in the back while lying on his left shoulder on the ground at a range of about 1 metre. The medical evidence corroborates independent eye witness accounts dismissed by Widgery at the time. A review of post mortem reports on Patrick Doherty and Kevin McElhinney concludes that both men were shot from behind as they crawled away.
X rays taken in 1972 showed fragments in the skull of Barney McGuigan. Dismissed as bone fragments by the pathologist at the time, they have now been identified as bullet fragments. Such a wound is most likely to have been caused by a dum dum bullet, illegal under the Geneva Convention.
Widgery accepted 17-year-old Gerard Donaghy had been carrying four nail bombs in his pockets at the time of his death. In direct contradiction, ballistic evidence shows that one of the bullets which killed Gerard Donaghy passed through the pocket of his jacket, one of the pockets in which it has been alleged there was a bomb.
If there had been a blast bomb in the pocket, according to expert assessment, it would have exploded with the bullet's impact. The bomb was recovered undamaged. It could not have been in Donaghy's pocket when he was shot dead. The only conclusion is that the bomb was deliberately planted on the dead man's body.
``None of last week's revelations come as a surprise to the families of those who were killed nor the wider nationalist community of Derry,'' says Doherty, ``we have always known that the people who died that day were unarmed innocent victims of British aggression. What we need to know was who was responsible and why, and I don't mean just the soldier who pulled the trigger, it goes much further than that.''
The British government clearly has a case to answer, said Sinn Fein's Mitchel McLaughlin. British Prime Minister, Tony Blair should end the obstructions which have so far hindered the Saville inquiry, said the Foyle Assembly member.
``Elements within the British establishment and the Ministry of Defence have continually attempted to stall, frustrate and challenge the workings of the Saville Inquiry. It is Tony Blair's responsibility to ensure that the work of the inquiry proceeds unhindered.''
According to a document leaked from the Saville Inquiry, the British government has known for more than 25 years that the Bloody Sunday killings were indefensible.
In February 1973, the then British Defence Minister Lord Carrington was advised by the Attorney General Sir Peter Rawlinson that the British government would have ``no prospect of a successful defence'' if action for damages was taken by the families of four of those killed.
In a further three cases, it was deemed ``unlikely'' that the Crown could be successful in a defence. Rawlinson advised that in two other cases the Crown's position was ``not strong''. As for the remaining four victims, Rawlinson only rated the Crown's ability to defend the killings as ``reasonable.'' In 1974, the British government settled out of court.