A former army captain was today accused of participating in a conspiracy of lies and deceit to justify the events of Bloody Sunday.
Soldier 200, who commanded a unit of the Parachute Regiment told the Saville Inquiry he was mistaken when he said in a television interview that he saw two gunmen as paratroopers opened fire in the Bogside area.
The tribunal, currently taking evidence at Central Hall in Westminster, is investigating the events of January 30, 1972 when 13 unarmed civilians were shot dead by soldiers during a civil rights march in Derry. A 14th person died later.
The former captain said he no longer believed he saw a man on the third floor of Rossville Flats firing a pistol or a second man at the rubble barricade in Rossville Street carrying a rifle.
“I accept on oath that my perception at the time was wrong and that I have doubt in what exactly I saw then,” he added.
Brian McCartney, a barrister representing some of the families put it to him that television interview he gave along with three officers was an attempt at damage limitation.
“You were a willing participant in a conspiracy of deceit that was being woven immediately after these events,” he said.
Mr McCartney claimed senior officers had deliberately set out to twist events to stall for time.
“This was really a case of all hands to the pumps; everybody is expected to do their bit. The regimental ship is going down here in a frenzy of media criticism and we are expected, in the traditions of the Parachute Regiment to come out fighting back.”
Soldier 200 replied: “I cannot agree with the picture you are painting. That was not my view at the time.”
Michael Mansfield QC representing some of the other families, asked the former captain about accounts given to him by his men at an army camp at Drumahoe immediately after Bloody Sunday.
Mr Mansfield said there were serious discrepancies between those accounts and statements given later by the same soldiers to the Royal Military Police.
“There are really only one or two possibilities in this case because of the magnitude of the discrepancies. Either you were seriously negligent that night in bothering to take the accounts or there have been serious attempts at fabricating what really happened.”
The former officer denied that he had been negligent in trying to find out what had happened.
“I was not involved with the taking down of evidence at Drumahoe… nor did I get involved in much further questioning with the soldiers, apart from identifying the four specific points I wanted to know about; how many shots had been fired, who had fired them, from where and where at,” he added.
Mr Mansfield referred to an account given to him by Soldier L in which he reported firing at a barricade.
“I suggest to you if you were told this, the one thing on a genuine record you would want to know is firstly why he was firing at the barricade and secondly whether he hit anyone.”
Soldier 200 replied: “I can understand your argument now but at the time this is what I was told and I have written it down, this is in the very early days.
“I knew we were in the very early days. I knew there was going to be a full investigation after that and these statements would be taken. I was not involved in any fabrication.”
The hearing continues on Monday.