Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 2014

Bloody Sunday: Wilford tracked down... but Paras officer won’t say sorry

Lt Col Derek Wilford, the former commander of the members of the Parachute Regiment involved in the Bloody Sunday shootings

The man singled out for blame over the death of 14 people on Bloody Sunday has again refused to apologise for his actions after he was tracked down by a Sunday newspaper.

Lieutenant Colonel Derek Wilford — who was known in Londonderry as the ‘Butcher of the Bogside' in the wake of the tragedy — was approached by The Irish Mail on Sunday at his home in a tiny Belgian village.

The paper said Wilford (76) has been living at the property in Montignies-lez-Lens with his wife Linda for the past three decades and he teaches fine art nearby.

Last week's Saville report said Wilford ignored direct orders from his army superiors not to pursue suspected rioters through the area given the large number of bystanders.

Lord Saville's report concluded the 1st Parachute Battalion entered the Bogside “as the result of an order...that should not have been given”, a decision which did not only lead to the slaughter of innocent people, according to Saville, but also “strengthened the Provisional IRA, increased nationalist resentment and hostility towards the Army and exacerbated the violent conduct of the years that followed”.

When confronted by a reporter from The Irish Mail on Sunday, Wilford refused to comment on his role on Bloody Sunday.

“I have no comment to make,” he said. “If you want to talk about it you can go to the MoD press office.”

Asked if he had anything to say to the families of those killed on Bloody Sunday, Wilford replied: “It's all been said. I don't want to talk about it.

“I'm afraid you must go to the MoD.”

Wilford was cleared of wrong-doing by the now-discredited 1972 Widgery Tribunal and, months later, was awarded an OBE in Edward Heath's New Year's list.

Lord Saville found that several soldiers involved on Bloody Sunday gave false accounts of their actions that day with Wilford himself saying his soldiers were fired on first — a claim which was rejected by the report.

Saville suggested Wilford “wanted to demonstrate the way to deal with rioters in Londonderry was not for soldiers to shelter behind barricades like (as he put it) Aunt Sallies while being stoned, as he perceived the local troops had been doing, but instead to go aggressively after rioters, as he and his soldiers had been doing in Belfast”.

He added: “His failure to comply with his orders, instead setting in train the very thing his brigadier has prohibited him from doing, cannot be justified...Colonel Wilford should not have launched an incursion into the Bogside.”

Claims made to the Widgery Inquiry as well as an interview given to RTE on the day after Bloody Sunday by Wilford were rubbished by Saville.

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