The head of the British Army, General Sir Michael Jackson, denied yesterday that he played a central part in a cover-up after the Bloody Sunday massacre in which 13 people died.
Sir Michael, the Chief of the General Staff and the country's most high-profile military figure, was accused of producing a blueprint which tried to portray the civilians shot by paratroopers as gunmen and bombers.
The Saville Inquiry was shown a report - or "shot list" - handwritten by Sir Michael hours after the killings on 30 January 1972 in Londonderry, when he was a captain in the Parachute Regiment.
General Jackson, lauded as the hero of Kosovo after leading Nato forces into the former Yugoslav province, was recalled after the chance discovery of the report at an Army barracks in Northern Ireland. Sir Michael had originally given his evidence last April, taking a break from commanding British troops in Iraq. The inquiry was not aware at the time of the existence of the "shot list". Sir Michael said he had forgotten writing it. Yesterday he said this was merely a report compiled from positions in maps of individual soldiers in the shootings, and notes made by a superior officer, Major Ted Loden.
Sir Michael said the maps were passed to the 1972 Widgery tribunal, which originally investigated Bloody Sunday, along with his report. But Lord Saville was told yesterday that no such additional documents were found in the trawl through the Widgery papers.
General Jackson's "shot list" was unearthed by a soldier clearing out offices of the Army's 8th Brigade in Ulster in 1998. It was found by chance, left on a photocopier. But it was not until this June that the Ministry of Defence sent the list to the inquiry, leading to General Jackson's recall.
In a statement to the inquiry yesterday, before giving evidence, General Jackson said: "If it is to be suggested that there was an attempt by anyone to 'sanitise' or otherwise alter a true version of events for any reason, I emphatically reject that suggestion.
"I can say with complete certainty that I was not involved in any attempt to distort or cover up what had happened that day, and to the best of my knowledge, information and belief, neither was anyone else."
Michael Mansfield QC, representing the families of the bereaved, said the report was the basis for the Government's justification for the Londonderry shootings "all the way up to the House of Commons, at home as well as abroad".
In increasingly acrimonious exchanges with the general, Mr Mansfield asked: "The big question mark, in everyone's mind is that this list does not explain any of the 13 civilian dead; did you know that? The point is, General, the ones who were killed were not bombers and were not firing weapons. That has been accepted on behalf of the Army; do you follow?
"The whole point of the list, I suggest originally was to justify publicly why people have been shot so they were described as 'nail bombers', 'pistol firers', ' carrying rifles' and so on. Do you see all that?"
General Jackson said he compiled the "shot list" after being ordered to by Army headquarters in Londonderry. "I was effectively a scribe, taking statements in response to an order from senior officers, and both my job and availability determined I was the man to undertake the task," he said.
In March, 2000, before the Saville inquiry, General Jackson said in an interview: "I was simply a cog, if quite an important cog ... One has little enough control over where you are at any particular time. I mean nothing strange or any conspiracy theory should be read into that. What happened was a tragedy; from whatever point of view, it is a tragedy. None the less, the event took place, and the aftershocks, as we see, still go on."Reuse content