A document which has formed the basis of British army and government statements on the events of Bloody Sunday for more than 30 years is bogus, it was claimed today.
Michael Mansfield, QC, representing some of the families of the deceased and injured, alleged a list of engagements drawn up by an officer was created to justify the extent of Army fire by creating false targets and hostile fire.
Colonel Ted Loden earlier claimed the soldiers who opened fire on Bloody Sunday did not give him a full account of their actions when he interviewed them on the evening of January 30, 1972 after 13 civil rights marchers were shot dead. A 14th man died later.
Col Loden, who was in charge of the army unit which fired more than 100 shots on Bloody Sunday, told the Saville Inquiry in London he made a list of engagements after speaking to troops in the back of his armoured car.
However, Mr Mansfield said today: “We submit it is of extreme importance that this document, we say, is a bogus document.”
Mr Mansfield claimed the document was written after a meeting at battalion headquarters and not directly after troops had pulled out of the nationalist Bogside area, as had been suggested.
“We say the only reason this shot list came into existence was to explain 13 deaths, at least 13 deaths, and it comes about after that attendance, so that is just another factor in the sequence of events that occurred on that day,” he said.
Mr Mansfield said the document was created to counter the growing public concern about the shootings.
“Public disquiet about the number of dead is mounting as the evening goes on.
“Something has to be said quickly. There is going to be a House of Commons statement within, possibly, 24 hours and, in fact, the figures that come out of his, that is Colonel Loden’s engagement list, stick for 30 years, until last year we began to go back to the beginning and see whether the shot list had any relevance to the engagements of the soldiers.
“The fact is, nobody cross-checked and if you put the trajectory map used by the inquiry on top of the trajectories out of this shot list, they do not marry at all.”
Mr Mansfield made the allegations as he applied for the right to put the claims to Col Loden, who is currently giving evidence to the inquiry.
Lord Saville ruled there was no “sensible foundation” for an allegation that Col Loden was in an unlawful conspiracy with others to justify the actions of soldiers in his company.
However, he said Col Loden could be asked whether he compiled a list which he knew to be untrue and if he was not telling the tribunal the truth when he said the notes from which the list was compiled were completed by him in the rear of his armoured vehicle on the evening of Bloody Sunday.
Lord Saville earlier suggested to Col Loden that the list showed he had not been given a full picture of what had happened on Bloody Sunday by the soldiers who opened fire.
He asked: “Colonel, it does look, does it not, as though you were given for whatever reason a far from complete picture of who shot and where.”
“Yes sir, I would agree with that,” Col Loden replied.
Lord Saville asked: “From what we now know, what you were told fell very far short of what had actually happened.”
“Yes, but it has taken an awful long time to discover what did actually happen and, as I say, that was my best effort at the time,” he replied.
Lord Saville asked: “It appears at the moment that there is considerable material for the proposition that your soldiers did not tell you everything that they had done by way of firing that afternoon.”
“Yes, I mean, I have to agree with that sir. But in much slower time and in more detail, then more information came to light and I do not think any person can get all the detail of a military engagement an hour after it had happened,” he replied.
Col Loden was the 749th witness to appear before the Saville Inquiry. He is expected to conclude his evidence tomorrow.
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.