One soldier to face charges over Bloody Sunday killings

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???Soldier F??? to be prosecuted for murder and attempted murder over 1972 killings in Derry

Relatives of victims react to Bloody Sunday charges ??? video

Only one former British paratrooper is to be charged in connection with the killings of civil rights demonstrators on Bloody Sunday, drawing dismay and calls for accountability from the families who lost loved ones more than 40 years ago.

Northern Ireland???s Public Prosecution Service (PPS) announced the decision after relatives of the 13 people who died on one of the darkest days of the Troubles in January 1972 marched together through the streets of Derry where the victims fell as a symbol of their demand for justice.

But despite examining evidence in 19 cases, the director of public prosecutions for Northern Ireland, Stephen Herron, said only one suspect would be charged.

Herron said: ???It has been concluded that there is sufficient available evidence to prosecute one former soldier, Soldier F, for the murder of James Wray and William McKinney, and for the attempted murders of Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe Mahon and Patrick O???Donnell.

???In respect of the other 18 suspects, including 16 former soldiers and two alleged Official IRA members, it has been concluded that the available evidence is insufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction.???

Timeline

Bloody Sunday timeline: from 1972 killings to charges against soldier

Parachute Regiment soldiers opened fire on demonstrators at a civil rights march in the Bogside area of Derry. Thirteen men were killed; a 14th man subsequently died of his wounds.

The UK prime minister, Edward Heath, appointed the lord chief justice, Lord Widgery, to produce a report into the events of what became known as Bloody Sunday.

The Official IRA detonated a car bomb at barracks in Aldershot where the Parachute Regiment was headquartered. Seven people, mostly female cleaners, were killed.

Lord Widgery produced his report, called Report of the Tribunal Appointed to Inquire Into the Events on Sunday, 30th January 1972. It was dismissed by many as a ???whitewash???.

Colonel Derek Wilford, who commanded Parachute Regiment soldiers on Bloody Sunday, awarded the OBE in the new year honours.

The Labour prime minister Tony Blair announced there would be a new inquiry into Bloody Sunday following pressure from victims??? relatives.

The Saville inquiry into Bloody Sunday opened. It lasted 12 years and cost hundreds of millions of pounds.

Final report of the Saville inquiry published. It stated: ???We found no instances where it appeared to us that soldiers either were or might have been justified in firing.??? The Conservative prime minister David Cameron apologised on behalf of the government, describing soldiers??? actions as ???both unjustified and unjustifiable???.

Police Service of Northern Ireland launched a murder investigation into the deaths of the Bloody Sunday victims. It involved 30 detectives.

Files passed to the Public Prosecution Service of Northern Ireland which considers whether or not to prosecute any Parachute Regiment soldiers for their actions.

Prosecutors announce their decision to charge only one former paratrooper for the murder of James Wray and William McKinney, and for the attempted murders of Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe Mahon and Patrick O???Donnell.

Owen Bowcott

The families said they were ???devastated??? and viewed the decision as a denial of justice.

Earlier, on their way to the City hotel, where details of the charges were first revealed to the families, the relatives paused to sing the civil rights anthem We Shall Overcome. The PPS then formally announced the prosecution decisions in Derry???s Guildhall.

The former serviceman has not been named and will only be identified by the letter used during the 12-year-long Saville inquiry into the events of Bloody Sunday.

The inquiry found the killings were unjustified and that none of the 14 dead was carrying a gun, no warnings were given, no soldiers were under threat and the troops were the first to open fire.

The image of a Catholic priest waving a blood-stained handkerchief as he tried to help a victim to safety on 30 January 1972 was broadcast around the world.

As well as the 13 who died on the day, 15 others were shot and injured. One of the injured died months later from an inoperable tumour; some consider him the 14th fatality.

Profile

Bloody Sunday: the two deaths that led to prosecution

William McKinney, 27

A printer at the Derry Journal newspaper, he was shot dead after he left the safety of cover to try to assist Gerard McKinney (not a relation), who had been shot moments before. He was shot from behind as he bent over.

James Wray, 22

Had been working in England and was engaged. He was shot twice in Glenfada Park. The first bullet travelled ???superficially??? from right to left across his body, the second bullet entered his back and travelled from right to left.

Photograph: Bloody Sunday Trust/PA

The PPS said prosecutors would now consider charges against others in relation to allegations of perjury relating to the reports surrounding Bloody Sunday.

Herron added: ???I am mindful that it has been a long road for the families to reach this point and today will be another extremely difficult day for them.

???There has been a level of expectation around the prosecution decisions in the light of the findings of the Bloody Sunday inquiry. However, much of the material which was available for consideration by the inquiry is not admissible in criminal proceedings due to strict rules of evidence that apply.

???We recognise the deep disappointment felt by many of those we met with today. As prosecutors, we are required to be wholly objective in our approach.???

In its explanation of the decision, the PPS statement says: ???In some cases the only evidence of what individual soldiers did was contained within their own accounts [to the inquiry], which are inadmissible against them.???

Soldier F is to be prosecuted for two murders and four attempted murders in the Bogside streets of Glenfada Park North and Abbey Park.

Responding to the PPS decisions, the defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, said the government would foot the bill for the former paratrooper???s defence: ???We are indebted to those soldiers who served with courage and distinction to bring peace to Northern Ireland. The welfare of our former service personnel is of the utmost importance and we will offer full legal and pastoral support to the individual affected by today???s decision. This includes funding all his legal costs and providing welfare support.

???The Ministry of Defence is working across government to drive through a new package of safeguards to ensure our armed forces are not unfairly treated.

???And the government will urgently reform the system for dealing with legacy issues. Our serving and former personnel cannot live in constant fear of prosecution.???

A statement on behalf of all of the families was read out in Derry???s Guildhall by four people affected by the violence.

John Kelly opened, saying: ???I was going to say good morning, but I don???t think it is. There???s a terrible disappointment at the outcome ??? We have travelled a long journey since our brothers were brutally slaughtered on our streets ??? The full cost of Bloody Sunday cannot be measured just in those who died that day.??? The shootings deepened and prolonged the conflict, he said.

Alana Burke explained that the three aims of the relatives??? campaign had been to overturn the ???whitewash??? of the initial inquiry led by Lord Widgery, have the innocence of the victims recognised and pursue prosecutions of the soldiers responsible for the killings. The third aim had now been achieved, she added.

bloody sunday graphic

Ciaran Shields, a solicitor with the Belfast law firm Madden and Finucane which represents most of the Bloody Sunday families, said that civil cases against the government securing compensation for most of the relatives had already succeeded. The last ones are expected to be agreed by this summer.

???When Soldier F ultimately faces charges [in court] we would expect that his anonymity is struck off,??? Shields added.

The law firm will now examine the prosecution services statement and seek a review of the PPS decisions. ???If those challenges don???t find favour we will then challenge the decisions in the high court in Belfast,??? Shields said. No British soldier convicted of murder in connection with the Troubles had ever served more than three years in prison, he added.

Afterwards, John Kelly said that when the families were told of the decision to only bring charges against one soldier people in the room felt ???totally devastated???.

But Alan Barry, of the Justice for Northern Ireland Veterans group, said that the decision to prosecute Soldier F was ???one soldier too many???.

???It???s very one-sided,??? he said. ???No soldier should be charged. It happened 47 years ago, a line in the sand needs to be drawn and people need to move on.???