Belfast Telegraph

I feel betrayed, says ex-soldier quizzed in Bloody Sunday probe

By Mark Bain

A 76-year-old Army veteran has accused the government of a "scandalous betrayal" after being investigated for the attempted murder of two people on Bloody Sunday.

The former paratrooper - identified only as Sergeant O - is partially paralysed after suffering a stroke. He also lost his wife a few months ago and fears he could now face jail.

The veteran was interviewed by police under caution for attempted murder in April 2016 and said he has been left in limbo ever since.

"I feel very badly betrayed," he said in an interview with The Daily Telegraph.

"The Queen gave me my Military Medal and yet 46 years later they are trying to do me for attempted murder."

Meanwhile, Col Tim Collins, the former Commanding Officer of the 1st Bn Royal Irish regiment, accused the government of preferring "to do deals to appease terrorists and prosecute its own servicemen".

He urged the thousands of veterans who served in Northern Ireland to use human rights laws and write to ministers demanding to know if they are under investigation and why.

"Many services personnel who risked their lives defending democracy now live in daily fear of a knock at their door to tell them they are to be charged 30 or 40 years later," he said. "Today IRA members sit at home relaxed while ageing British soldiers live in trepidation. The time has come to change this."

The development prompted DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson to call for fairness and an end to the "witch-hunt" of former service personnel.

He said: "Currently the only investigations being pursued are against those who were serving the community in the military or police.

"There is the added unfairness that while soldiers are pursued there are terrorists who were handed 'comfort' letters and royal pardons.

"Justice should be applied equally and fairly. Many soldiers feel that there is a witch-hunt against them and protections should be offered to those already investigated and cleared."

UUP MLA Doug Beattie said that the interview by the former soldier is articulating the frustrations of many.

"State records are used to pursue former members of the security forces, often in cases dating back almost 50 years and which have already been subject to investigation," he said.

"Now we are faced with the prospect of a new separate police force - the Historical Investigations Unit - being established to investigate some, not all, murders from the past, completely ignoring the 47,000 injured.

"Needless to say terror groups such as the IRA and UVF have no such records, leading to an inherently biased process right from the start."

Mr Beattie said it was clear that some troops and police officers made mistakes.

He added: "They were made in life-or-death situations in the knowledge they were subject to military discipline and the rule of law. Terrorists had no such restraints."

The PSNI said 17 former soldiers had been interviewed under caution in connection with its criminal investigation into the events of Bloody Sunday with files passed to the Public Prosecution Service.

The PPS said: "The PPS can confirm that prosecutors are considering all offences which might be proven on the available evidence, in strict accordance with the PPS code for prosecutors."

In response to past criticism, the PPS previously noted that it has prosecuted more legacy cases connected with paramilitary offences than military ones.

Belfast Telegraph

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