A man who claims he heard a soldier boasting that he shot one of the Bloody Sunday victims in the head said today he could not identify him because of the passage of time.
Hugh O’Boyle told the Bloody Sunday Inquiry that he could not pick out any of the Paratroopers he saw in Derry’s Bogside on January 30, 1972 when 13 civil rights demonstrators were shot dead.
Giving evidence in the city’s Guildhall, Mr O’Boyle said he was being detained in a military camp in the hours after the killings when he overheard one trooper laugh and say to another: ‘‘I got him. I shot him in the head. He bled like a pig.’’
One of the 13 killed that day, Barney McGuigan, was shot in the head. Photographs of his body lying face up on a pavement in a pool of blood has become one of the defining images of Bloody Sunday.
Questioned by barrister John Coyle, acting for Mr McGuigan’s family, Mr O’Boyle he said he was close to the two men in Fort George - ‘‘close enough for the three of us to have a conversation’’ - and even replied to them: ‘‘You should be proud of yourselves today.’’
Shown a series of photographs of one of the Paratroopers, known as soldier F, with other detainees in Fort George, he was asked if that was the man who made the comments.
He replied: ‘‘Sir, I couldn’t identify the soldier. I really could not. I could not say that was him. I couldn’t identify any of the soldiers. It was 30 years ago almost.’’
A bullet fired from Soldier F’s gun was recovered from the body of Michael Kelly, who was shot dead at a different location from Mr McGuigan.
F and at least two other members of 1 Para’s Anti-tank platoon were also active in Glenfada Park where four of the victims were shot dead.
He is also the only soldier to have admitted firing from Glenfada Park towards the forecourt of the Rossville Flats where Mr McGuigan and another man, Patrick Doherty, were shot dead.
The soldiers who went into the Bogside on Bloody Sunday were officially deployed in the city that day to make arrests in the aftermath of the march but relatives of those killed maintain the ‘‘scoop-up’’ conducted that day was a cover for a plan to kill.
Mr O’Boyle insisted he was involved in none of the disturbances that day and was arrested as he sheltered behind a car from the gunfire.
Hugh O’Boyle rejected the allegations made by a sergeant identified only as 1694 that he was throwing stones from the rubble barricade on Rossville Street.
Public order charges against Mr O’Boyle were withdrawn in the months following Bloody Sunday like the 50-odd other people arrested that day.
Asked about trouble at the rubble barricade, Mr O’Boyle said only about one or two people threw stones from there and he maintained there were no weapons there.
‘‘I would not be standing beside anyone with a weapon in their hands,’’ he said.
Three men - William Nash, 19, Michael McDaid, 20, and John Young, 17, - were shot dead on the barricade.
One witness, Brian Rainey, described hearing shots ring out from the troops moving into the Bogside and simultaneously seeing ‘‘three or four young lads fall at the Rubble Barricade’’.
He stated: ‘‘I could not believe my eyes. I had never seen anyone shot before. I remember the way they fell was most unusual, they just dropped together in a lifeless way, not forwards or backwards, just sideways in a heap on top of one another.’’
The inquiry resumes tomorrow morning for its last day of public hearings before the summer recess.