Police are preparing a criminal investigation into the deadly Bloody Sunday massacre in Northern Ireland, which could see British soldiers facing murder charges more than 40 years after the shootings, The Sunday Times has reported.
As many as 20 British soldiers could face arrest on charges including murder and attempted murder for the role they played in the deadly Bloody Sunday massacre in Northern Ireland on January 30th, 1972.
In one of the most notorious incidents in the history of the Troubles, the infamous shootings saw members of the British Army’s First Battalion of the Parachute Regiment open fire on unarmed Catholic civil rights protesters in the Bogside area of Derry, killing 14 people and injuring several others.
Now, more than 40 years on, police are preparing a criminal investigation into the massacre, which may lead to the soldiers involved going on trial for murder, attempted murder and criminal injury, the UK’s Sunday Times reported.
Britain’s Ministry of Defence has enlisted lawyers to represent the soldiers, now aged in their 60s and 70s, the newspaper reported.
A source close to the police said: “This is the beginning. It is the first time the soldiers will have been interviewed formally by police as part of a murder investigation. It is possible that some of the soldiers will be prosecuted.”
The launch of the criminal investigation comes three years after the publication of the findings of a landmark inquiry into Bloody Sunday overseen by Lord Saville.
‘Unjustified and unjustifiable’
Costing £200 million and taking 12 years to complete, the Saville inquiry labeled the killings both "unjustified and unjustifiable" and found that, contrary to previous belief, the protesters had been unarmed and had not been throwing stones or petrol bombs when the soldiers opened fire.
A total of 26 soldiers, including privates, corporals, lance corporals and sergeants, had fired shots, with two soldiers, identified only as Lance-Corporal F and Soldier G, shooting between eight and 10 people, said Lord Saville in his report.
After the incident, many of the soldiers "knowingly put forward false accounts in order to seek to justify their firing", it said.
All the soldiers involved gave evidence to the Saville inquiry, though their names have never been made public to protect them from reprisals.
The new criminal investigation is likely to be “lengthy and complex”, a spokesman for the Police Service of Northern Ireland told The Sunday Times.
"For the investigation to be as comprehensive and effective as possible, police will be asking for public support in the form of witnesses who gave evidence to the Saville inquiry now making statements to detectives,” he said.
"This is because police are precluded from using Saville testimony in a criminal investigation."
In 2010, following the publication of the Saville inquiry’s findings, British Prime Minister David Cameron apologised for the events of Bloody Sunday on behalf of the UK government, saying in a House of Commons speech that he was "deeply sorry" for what had happened.
Date created : 2013-10-20