Belfast Telegraph

I saw soldier lose plot on Bloody Sunday: ex-Para

By Claire Williamson

A former Paratrooper is to tell police investigating the Bloody Sunday killings how he saw a soldier "lose the plot" and fire "indiscriminately" – but only after the IRA shot at them first.

A criminal investigation is currently under way into the killing of 14 unarmed civilians by the Army at a civil rights march in Londonderry in 1972.

Up to 20 soldiers still face being formally questioned by police for alleged murder, attempted murder or criminal injury during the notorious incident.

The ex-Para is to be interviewed as part of the inquiry into the deaths on January 30, 1972.

The man, who cannot be named for security reasons, is set to describe how a soldier fired from the hip towards a block of flats, rattling off 20 rounds before being ordered to "cease fire."

The former soldier will be among the first veterans to provide testimony next month at a secret location in Britain.

The PSNI investigation comes four years after the findings of the Saville Inquiry into Bloody Sunday was produced.

Lord Saville found that soldiers fired the first shot without issuing a warning and that the victims were unarmed.

Prime Minister David Cameron then issued an apology over the killings, saying they were "unjustified and unjustifiable".

Following the report, the decision whether to prosecute any individual soldier was left to the PSNI, with the soldiers in their 60s and 70s now facing questioning.

The ex-Para described how two or three soldiers "lost the plot" on the day, but he insisted that troops reacted only after IRA members fired sub-machine-guns at them first.

"I will give the police an entirely unbiased account of what I saw, including the incident of the soldier rattling off 20 rounds from his magazine towards a block of flats.

"He was shooting indiscriminately. Fortunately nobody was injured or killed by his actions," he said.

"I will tell the police how, before any British soldiers opened fire, the IRA fired at us and that, unquestionably, there was a genuine threat to our lives.

"Lord Saville's report painted an unfair picture of the Parachute Regiment, because the conclusions were so dismissive of the active role played by the IRA that day.

"They were firing Thompson sub-machine-guns."

The former Paratrooper has agreed to meet officers from the PSNI next month.

However, as he fears his identity could be leaked to republican terrorists, he has insisted that police officers don't visit him at his home.

He said PSNI detectives had indicated that they were "looking for prosecutions".

When building their cases against UK soldiers, the PSNI cannot use evidence given to the Saville Inquiry, as its aim was not to accuse individuals or institution such as the Army.

They must instead obtain fresh witness statements from soldiers that day.

Lawyers were hired by the Ministry of Defence to represent Paratroopers interviewed under caution or charged with criminal offences.

Paratroopers who engaged with protesters could be found guilty of murder based on the evidence of anonymous witnesses.

The courts will decide whether witnesses can remain anonymous.

The MoD said: "It is for the PSNI to decide whether to look into these allegations.

"If they do, we will support them fully with their investigation."

Belfast Telegraph

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