Witnesses ‘saw paratroopers firing from the hip’

The Bloody Sunday Inquiry today heard more accounts of paratroopers firing from the hip at the scene where six of the 13 men killed that day were shot.

The Bloody Sunday Inquiry today heard more accounts of paratroopers firing from the hip at the scene where six of the 13 men killed that day were shot.

Two witnesses told the tribunal in Derry of seeing soldiers firing their rifles carelessly from waist level on the city’s Rossville Street, with one claiming it resembled a pigeon shoot.

Day 121 of the inquiry’s public hearings was also given an account of a military personnel carrier deliberately knocking down a defenceless teenage girl - and then trying to run over her again.

And another witness described seeing one of the dead gunned down as he tentatively moved out to the aid of another victim.

The inquiry, chaired by Lord Saville of Newdigate, is conducting a fresh examination of events of January 30, 1972 when the 13 were shot dead after troops opened fire in Derry’s Bogside district in the wake of a civil rights march.

Claims that soldiers were firing from waist level on Rossville Street - the main road into the Bogside - surfaced for the second time at the inquiry in recent days.

Brendan Harley, who was 14 at the time, said: ‘‘At least one soldier was firing as if he was on a pigeon shoot. He was shooting from the hip southwards down Rossville Street without aiming properly.’’

Soldiers from 1st Battalion the Parachute Regiment are known to have entered Bogside that day armed with self-loading rifles.

However, Mr Harley said that during the course of the afternoon ‘‘I am certain that I heard shots of a repetitive nature and which I would describe as automatic gunfire’’.

Later Patricia Canning, who was watching events from a flat overlooking Rossville Street, described soldiers lining up behind a low wall jutting out from Kells Walk on to the street - a scene already described to the inquiry and captured on a photograph.

She said she saw one trooper holding his weapon at shoulder level, looking through the sight and firing repeatedly.

But she added: ‘‘It appeared to me that other soldiers were firing from waist level.

‘‘The soldiers did not seem to me to be taking aim but were just shooting in different directions and towards the rubble barricade on Rossville Street.

‘‘I believe the soldiers started firing immediately after taking up their positions by the wall at Kells Walk.’’

Six of the 13 men killed on Bloody Sunday were shot on or beside the rubble barricade straddling Rossville Street.

Mrs Canning described seeing three young men lying on the barricade, almost certainly Michael McDaid, 20, John Young, 17 and William Nash, 19.

Later she saw the troops drawing up beside the barricade in an armoured car and ‘‘picking the bodies up like sacks’’ by the arms and legs and throwing them into the back of the vehicle - a description similar to other witness accounts.

She also looked from the other side of the flat into the car park of the Rossville Flats where ‘‘I could nearly swear that soldiers were firing shots towards people in front of them who were running for shelter wherever they could’’.

Another witness, Frank Campbell, described an Army vehicle coming into the car park, striking Alana Burke against the wall of a garage and then trying to ram her a second time.

Ms Burke, who was then 16 years old, survived the incident and testified to the inquiry earlier this year. Mr Campbell said: ‘‘She was hit first and then the Saracen (Armoured Personnel Carrier) drove at her again and that is when I caught her and ran with her behind the wall.’’

He claimed troops were driving deliberately towards civilians, adding: ‘‘I was amazed how under the rule of law people could do this sort of thing.

‘‘If one of the Saracens hit you then you would be dead. To me that isn’t justice.’’

The tribunal also heard from a woman who described the shooting of Barney McGuigan, 41, at another spot in the Bogside, as he went to the aid of another man.

Other witnesses claim Mr McGuigan - famously photographed lying dead in a pool of blood - was trying to rescue the dying Patrick Doherty, 31, who was said to have been calling out that he did not want to be left to die alone.

Kathleen Crossan, who was 15, said: ‘‘I remember that he had tried to make his way out gently so, it seemed to me, that he could go the assistance of the man who was lying on the ground.’’

‘‘He had only taken a few steps forward and was a good five paces away from the man on the ground when he was shot and I saw him fall.

‘‘I remember screaming to people in the house, ‘there’s a man been shot - he was only trying to help someone’.’’

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