Only one Bloody Sunday army weapon has been traced, inquiry told

Triumphalist graffiti celebrating the Bloody Sunday killings in Londonderry appeared in the city shortly after the shootings.

The Saville inquiry into the events of 30 January 1972 was shown a photograph, taken the next morning, of a slogan daubed near the scene of the killings. Thirteen Catholic men died when paratroopers opened fire during a civil rights demonstration in the Bogside district, and a 14th died later in hospital.

As the hearings in the city's Guildhall entered their second week, counsel to the inquiry, Christopher Clarke QC, also revealed that only one of the weapons, known for certain to have been fired on Bloody Sunday, had been secured. Continuing an opening submission set to continue for weeks yet, he outlined how two of five rifles initially identified as "Bloody Sunday weapons" by the Ministry of Defence, were destroyed after the inquiry team was assured they would not be touched. A further 14 of the 29 weapons used that day had been "disposed of for destruction" between January 1998 - when the inquiry was established - and last September, before the inquiry team had identified them. Mr Clarke said the episode had prompted an investigation by the West Mercia Constabulary into the circumstances surrounding the disposal of the 16 weapons.

Mr Clarke said the tribunal might gain some insight into the minds of the soldiers involved in Bloody Sunday from the evidence of "a display of triumphalism" afterwards. The graffiti photographed on plywood shutters in front of a shop in William Street was spotted by James Porter at 9.15am on 31 January. It was accompanied by pictures of six coffins and crosses along with the date, January 30 1972, the time, 16.45, and signed 1 Para, he claimed. "Within minutes" of having taken the photograph, a van appeared with men in boiler suits who looked like soldiers, who removed the shutters, his statement added.

Statements by other witnesses claiming to have seen graffiti were also read out. One saw the message: "Ha, ha, ha. Hee, hee hee. We've got 13 more than you - 1 Para"; another reported seeing the words "Paras 13 Paddies 0".

Mr Clarke said: "The more difficult question is whether this graffiti represents a celebration of defeat of what were, or were thought to have been, gunmen, without any army loss, or an indication of an over-hyped soldiery." There was also evidence of a sense of foreboding in the time leading up to the march, he said. It suggested a "high expectation" that "something big" was about to happen.

"That sense of anticipation that existed on the military side as well may have contributed to the events of the day," said Mr Clarke.

"On the day itself a number of witnesses noted that soldiers seemed rather grim-looking or threatening or, according to one of them, hyped-up."