The statements of soldiers serving on Bloody Sunday may have been altered to suit the circumstances of the time, it was claimed today.
Soldier S, who claimed he fired 12 shots at one or two civilian gunmen on Bloody Sunday, today apologised for signing statements in 1972, which included inaccuracies.
The retired soldier said accounts that he saw a gunman firing around six shots from a ground floor window of Rossville Flats and nail and acid bombs being thrown at soldiers could not be trusted.
“Those statements were made when I was an 18-year-old soldier on the day of Bloody Sunday,” he said.
“There were sort of, there are definitely inaccuracies in those statements and I am not proud of that fact and I am conceding to the fact that those statements are inaccurate.”
Soldier S told the Saville Inquiry in London he made statements to the Royal Military Police on the night of Bloody Sunday and five days’ later.
“I regret the fact that I have signed a statement in 1972 that is basically inaccurate, it is not wholly inaccurate, but there are bits in there that, that have been added by the RMPs that are not wholly accurate.”
He later added: “I am saying that things may have been altered to, to suit things at the time, the RMPs.
“I think you have to understand that when you are an 18-year-old soldier at the time and the RMP come along and say ’this is what actually happened to you’.
“But if I wanted to make some sort of supplementary statement, you know, they would more or less tell you to shut up and be quiet, just deal with the question that you are being asked to deal with.”
Soldier S apologised for a section in his first statement which read: “Nail bombs and acid bombs were thrown from the top of the flats on the men from my unit who were making arrests.”
“That is something that is an inaccuracy and I would apologise for that,” he added.
Mr Clarke then asked the soldier why in a statement given five days later, he said there were around five nail bombs thrown.
“I cannot explain that sir, I am sorry but as I would say, I would like to re-iterate, I would apologise for that, that is an inaccuracy that, really that I have signed to that actually at the time I should not have, and I realise that,” he replied.
“I am an honest person and I really do feel quite sort of bad about that.”
Soldier S stood by his original claims that he believed he wounded a civilian gunman or gunmen on Bloody Sunday.
He said he was fired at by a gunman from an alleyway at the Rossville flats and returned four sets of three rounds before hitting at least one gunman.
He said that he believed he hit a gunman with two of the volleys, but he was not sure whether he hit one gunman or two separate men as his target was at times obscured by the crowd.
“I have no doubt that this part of the statement has not been added to or enhanced in any way, it is definitely what I saw, it is definitely what happened to me, my experience on the day,” he added.
Soldier S said he could not now remember much about Bloody Sunday because of the passage of time and the fact that he had been involved in many other serious incidents during his military career.
He said he left the Parachute Regiment in 1972 and joined the Special Forces before taking part in a nine-month separatist war overseas.
Soldier S said he left the army in 1974 or 1975 after being seriously injured in a firefight in the Middle East.
Lord Widgery criticised the soldier for firing an excessive number of shots in his 1972 report shortly after Bloody Sunday.
“Soldier S’s firing of 12 rounds into the alleyway between blocks 1 and 2 of the Rossville Flats seems to me to have been unjustifiably dangerous for people round about,” he concluded.
The Saville Inquiry is examining the events of 30 January 1972 when 13 civilians were shot dead by British army soldiers during a civil rights march in Derry. A 14th person died later.
The inquiry, which usually sits at the Guildhall in Derry, is currently hearing the evidence from military witnesses and others in London because of concerns for their safety.
Lord Saville of Newdigate and the Commonwealth judges accompanying him on the Bloody Sunday inquiry began their work nearly four years ago and are not expected to report back until 2004.
The Bloody Sunday inquiry was established in 1998 by British Prime Minister Tony Blair after a campaign by families of those killed and injured.
They felt that the Widgery Inquiry, held shortly after the shootings, did not find out the truth about what happened on Bloody Sunday.