Former UK soldier to face murder charges over Bloody Sunday killings

London: A former British paratrooper is to be prosecuted for two murders and four attempted murders on Bloody Sunday 47 years ago, Northern Ireland's Public Prosecution Service (PPS) has announced.

The veteran, known as Soldier F, will face prosecution for the murders of James Wray and William McKinney and the attempted murders of Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe Mahon and Patrick O'Donnell in Londonderry in 1972.

Families hold photographs of the victims of Bloody Sunday and march through the Bogside in Londonderry on Thursday.Credit:PA via AP

Sixteen other former soldiers and two suspected ex-members of the Official IRA, all of whom were also investigated as part of a major police murder probe, will not face prosecution, the PPS said.

Thirteen civil rights demonstrators were shot dead on January 30, 1972, on one of the most notorious days of the Northern Ireland Troubles.

Northern Ireland's director of public prosecutions Stephen 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. In these circumstances the evidence Test for Prosecution is not met."

In this January 30, 1972 file photo, soldiers take cover behind their armoured cars in Northern Ireland. A former British soldier is set to be prosecuted in connection with the deaths of two civil rights protesters more than 40 years ago.Credit:PA via AP

Relatives of the Bloody Sunday families were visibly upset after learning of the prosecution decisions on Thursday.

Ciaran Shiels, a solicitor for a number of them, said they were "disappointed that not all of those responsible are to face trial".

He said: "This is a remarkable achievement by the families and victims of Bloody Sunday.

Shiels said the families had secured the "complete vindication and declaration of innocence of all of the victims of Bloody Sunday" and now secured the prosecution of Soldier F for the murder and attempted murder of six innocent people.

"We are disappointed that not all of those responsible are to face trial."

Shiels said that may ultimately be challenged in the High Court.

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

Bloody Sunday helped galvanise support for the Provisional IRA early in the Troubles.

An image of a Catholic priest waving a bloodstained handkerchief as he tried to help a victim to safety went around the world.

A priest holds a white flag as British soldiers shoot at civilians on Bloody Sunday in 1972.

A public inquiry conducted by a senior judge shortly after the deaths was branded a whitewash by victims' families and a campaign was launched for a new public inquiry.

Relatives sought to right the wrongs of false claims that their loved ones had been armed.

A fresh probe was eventually ordered by then prime minister Tony Blair in 1998.

A decade-long investigation by Lord Saville of Newdigate concluded that the troops killed protesters who posed no threat, and seriously criticised the decision to send them into the Bogside estate in vehicles.

Following the inquiry's conclusion in 2010, then prime minister David Cameron said the killings were "unjustified and unjustifiable".

A murder investigation by Northern Ireland police followed and files on 18 soldiers were submitted to prosecutors in 2016 and 2017 for consideration. One has since died.

Four other soldiers included in the Saville Report died before police had completed their investigation.


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