Elderly ex-paratroopers could be charged with murder within weeks, 47 years after Bloody Sunday
Elderly former Parachute Regiment soldiers fear they will face criminal charges over the Bloody Sunday killings in Londonderry, according to reports.
Well-placed sources have suggested in today's Daily Telegraph that four ex-paratroopers, now in their 60s and 70s, fear being told they will face murder charges.
Northern Ireland's Public Prosecution Service (PPS) is to announce on March 14 the decision on whether any of the former soldiers will face charges in connection with the shooting of 14 men at a protest march.
Thirteen people died when soldiers from the Parachute Regiment opened fire on civil rights marchers in Londonderry in January 1972, with a 14th victim dying later.
The landmark Saville Inquiry concluded in 2010 that all those killed or injured were innocent.
Prime Minister David Cameron issued an official apology in the House of Commons, describing the killings as "unjustified and unjustifiable".
Two years later, in 2012, the PSNI launched a murder investigation and passed the files to the PPS in 2016.
The police concluded that charges related to Bloody Sunday could be brought against 18 former soldiers.
In January, thousands of people took part in the annual Bloody Sunday commemoration, marking 47 years since the atrocity.
Johnny Mercer, a Conservative MP and former Army captain who served in Afghanistan and Northern Ireland, told the Daily Telegraph it was "outrageous" that veterans could be charged so long after the event.
Mr Mercer said: "What is the point in prosecuting soldiers almost half a century after the events who have been through an investigation on these events already?
"I think the British public will take a dim view of a decision taken to charge veterans some 47 years after the event."
It's understood victims' relatives have been contacted by the PPS for Northern Ireland informing them the decision will be made on March 14, and that victims' families will be told before any announcement about whether or not any of the former soldiers are to be charged.
Regina McLaughlin, whose father Gerry McKinney was killed on Bloody Sunday, told the Daily Telegraph: "What's the point in putting them in jail? Their children and grandchildren are going to lose them, just as I lost my daddy.
"I do want them to be prosecuted just to show that they didn't get away with it. These soldiers are old men now. They are dying, and some of them are dead already."
If found guilty of murder, the soldiers could face spending the rest of their lives in jail.
A PPS spokesperson said: "This is a wholly speculative article which is likely to cause significant and undue distress to the Bloody Sunday families.
"The PPS is currently making arrangements for the communication of its decisions to all parties on March 14 2019. We will not be providing any information in relation to prosecutorial matters in the intervening period."