Bloody Sunday: Military accused of lying to1972 inquiry

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The Independent Online
Dublin's review of new evidence about what happened on Bloody Sunday in 1972 raises serious doubts about the reliability of the original Widgery Tribunal. Alan Murdoch examines a scathing report.

The Irish government's report on Bloody Sunday claims the Widgery Tribunal's investigation of the shooting dead by British Army soldiers of 14 civilians on 30 January 1972 ignored vital evidence, accepted doctored testimony, and drew "incredible and unsustainable" conclusions.

The 178-page Irish report, prepared by senior civil servants in the Department of the Taoiseach and Foreign Affairs, handed to London last June and published last night, gives a detailed assessment of new medical, ballistic and eye-witness detail not previously published.

A critical issue in the Irish analysis is whether army snipers were firing from Derry's city walls, not admitted by the Army or tackled in the 1972 report by Chief Justice Lord Widgery, who died in 1981.

Dublin's study examines medical evidence on victims' gunshot wounds inflicted with 45 degree downward trajectories showing three victims were shot as a result of Army fire from the walls.

Taken with a November 1996 statement from Dr Raymond McClean, who attended the wounded and later wrote a book about his experience, this clearly points to one victim, William Nash, being killed from shots from the walls, the report says.

Dr McLean's 1996 statement is held to be new in the way it combines medical evidence with the eyewitness accounts of shots from above. The report says this evidence contradicts Widgery's findings and claims he "disregarded or failed to explore" evidence from an assistant state pathologist. It says medical evidence from the bodies of three victims, Nash, McDaid and Young, appears to correspond with that.

New ballistics evidence in the report indicates that impact marks provide corroborating evidence that high-velocity gunfire did come from the city walls.

This emerges from a report compiled by an independent ballistics expert Robert Breglio, who spent 25 years in the New York police ballistics squad. Mr Breglio also presented two medical reports highlighting the similarity of the trajectory lines through the bodies of Nash, McDaid and Young, suggesting they were shot from above the same position.

Official British medical records on the Bloody Sunday dead and wounded are being withheld from the public until the year 2047. Mr Breglio called this "incomprehensible", adding that in 44 years working in the field he had never before been denied reports necessary to complete investigations.

Failing to call expert medical evidence and ignoring ballistic data meant Widgery missed the fact that they corroborated eye-witness accounts which the same tribunal also ignored.

Dublin last year gathered an additional 101 eye-witness accounts, several confirming fire coming from the vicinity of the city walls and testify to the brutality of soldiers' behaviour.They also include descriptions of youths being shot while holding their hands up, while lying on the ground wounded, and of shots being fired towards those trying to attend them.

In a damning passage, the Irish assessment says "the possibility of implicated soldiers lying, so cavalierly dismissed, was ... self-evident from the testimony of civilian witnesses, from the pattern of discrepancies and alternations in the written statements of soldiers and from the sheer inability to match the claims the soldiers had made to the facts as they were known."

Widgery claimed soldiers were looking for and firing at gunmen, and held that two victims were armed, one had been armed earlier, and two more victims were killed while standing close to gunmen who had fired. The report concludes that there was "no credible evidence to support any of these findings".

On Widgery's claims that a mini-arsenal of weapons had been deployed against the soldiers, none of which was ever recovered as evidence, the report observes "the scenario he proposed can only be considered incredible and unsustainable".

"No weapons were recovered from the dead, the wounded or arrested," it says. The army did not come under fire and there was no engagement with assailants."