A former paratrooper said today he fabricated his original eyewitness account of the Bloody Sunday shootings that put soldiers in a positive light.
The radio operator in the 1st Battalion of the Parachute Regiment’s anti-tank platoon was taken line-by-line through his statement to the Royal Military Police (RMP) given days after Bloody Sunday when paratroopers killed 13 unarmed men on a Derry civil rights march on January 30 1972.
Today he rejected claims made in this account that he saw gunmen and petrol bombers, saying: "I believe in the first statement which I made I used fabrication - it was coming from me."
The soldier, identified only as 027, told the Saville Inquiry sitting in London: "I’m unable now to recollect precisely my frame of mind or outlook but I believe I would have felt it to be the appropriate and correct thing to do at the time."
His account differs from the official British army view that only justifiable shootings were carried out against rioting gunmen and bombers, the inquiry was told.
Soldier 027 contends that his RMP statement includes facts that have been 'altered and added' as justification for the shootings.
Under questioning by Christopher Clarke QC, counsel for the inquiry, 027 also rejected his original claim that he heard several shots from different calibre weapons coming from Chamberlain Street and Pilot Row.
“I believe that report of weapons firing to be untrue,” he said.
Soldier 027 said there was a possibility that a shot landed within yards of an armoured vehicle.
“I believe what I’m saying is that I’m not excluding the possibility that a shot was struck,” he said.
Soldier 027 also denied his initial claim that he heard someone shout “sniper” as the soldiers sheltered behind the wall at Kells Walk.
He told the inquiry: “I don’t believe its true“.
He accepted that he would have known it was untrue at the time.