Military police invented an account of a gunman firing at soldiers on Bloody Sunday in an official statement, it was claimed today.
Soldier 005 said he did not read the military police statement he signed and also admitted lying under oath as he appeared in the witness box at the Saville Inquiry in London today.
The paratrooper told the inquiry he drove an armoured vehicle into the nationalist Bogside area of the city on January 30, 1972, when soldiers shot dead 13 civil rights marchers. A 14th man died later.
Soldier 005’s statement to military police which was signed five days after Bloody Sunday, said he saw a man armed with a pistol fire four or five shots from a first floor veranda of the Rossville Flats and another paratrooper, Soldier R, returning fire with three rounds.
Soldier 005 admitted today he only saw Soldier R fire one shot and did not see any civilian gunmen on Bloody Sunday.
Barry MacDonald QC, representing most of the families of the bereaved and injured, asked: “You accept that you did not in fact see this man with the pistol?” “Yes,” the soldier replied.
Mr MacDonald asked: “And that that was a lie when you say you had?” “Yes, I would take responsibility for that,” he replied.
Mr MacDonald asked: “I want to be clear, is it the case that the RMP (Royal Military Police) made this story up?” “To my mind, yes,” replied the soldier.
“And asked you to sign the statement,” Mr MacDonald inquired.
“Yes,” said the soldier.
Mr MacDonald asked: “So all the details in this statement, all the material details in this statement were put in the statement by the military policeman taking the statement.” “Yes,” replied the soldier.
Soldier 005 said he did not look at the statement when the military policeman asked him to sign it.
“I did not even read it, I do not think,” he added.
Soldier 005 also admitted lying in his statement to the current Saville Inquiry in a passage in which he said he had a vague recollection of a man in the act of throwing something from the Rossville Flats.
Mr MacDonald asked the soldier: “When you got into the witness box today you knew it was wrong and you could not have seen this at all. But the first question you were asked was whether or not this statement was true to the best of your knowledge, and you said it was?”
“I was trying my best,” he replied.
Mr MacDonald put it to the soldier: “You were not trying your best, were you, because you knew this to be wrong?” “Well it is wrong, yes,” replied the soldier.
Mr MacDonald asked: “So you have lied to this inquiry today?” “Yes, okay,” replied Soldier 005.
Mr MacDonald asked: “You say ’yes okay’ in that casual way, do you not think it is a significant matter for you to lie to the Tribunal under oath?” “I am trying my best not to lie,” replied the soldier.
Meanwhile, Soldier INQ 627, a radio operator on Bloody Sunday, earlier told the inquiry soldiers came under fire from the Rossville Flats area as they gathered in a church before deploying into the Bogside.
“While we were at the church, I recall hearing two shots fired in immediate succession,” he said.
“One shot hit a drainpipe three yards from where I was standing, I do not know where the other shot hit.” Soldiers 005 and INQ 627 brought the number of witnesses to appear before the Saville Inquiry to 739.
The inquiry, which usually sits at the Guildhall in Derry, is currently hearing the evidence of 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.