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Bloody Sunday inquiry: families see report

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 15 June 2010

The families of people shot dead and injured during Bloody Sunday are reading Lord Saville's report into the shootings, which will be published later. Alex Thomson, chief correspondent at Channel 4 News, has joined relatives as they made a symbolic march to Londonderry's Guildhall.

The Saville Report, kick-started by Tony Blair and led by Lord Saville, was the longest and most expensive government-funded investigation in British history - costing £190m.

It was initiated by Blair in 1998 following a series of reports for ITN's Channel 4 News by Alex Thomson and fellow journalist Lena Ferguson, who together revealed serious flaws in the official documents of Bloody Sunday.

Thirteen people were shot dead by British soldiers from the Parachute Regiment after a civil rights march in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, on 30 January 1972.

A further 13 were wounded, and one man died within five months of the attack due to related injuries.

It will be published at 3.30pm, to co-incide with a Commons statement from prime minister David Cameron.

More from Channel 4 News on Bloody Sunday:
- Channel 4's role in the Bloody Sunday inquiry
- The day my brother Jackie came home in a box
- Bloody Sunday: what can the report achieve?
- Controversy either way in Bloody Sunday report
- Bloody Sunday Inquiry: a timeline
- What would an 'unlawful' Bloody Sunday verdict mean?

Initial investigations under then-Prime Minister Edward Heath ruled that the soldiers had been fired upon before they started shooting.

While some of the soldiers' actions were deemed "bordering on the reckless", no verdict of unlawful killing was recorded and no prosecutions were made.

In January 1998, more than 25 years later, then-Prime Minister Blair opened a new enquiry, based on the fresh evidence.

Eileen Fox remembers the day her brother Jackie never came home
Our home that was filled with laughter just a few minutes earlier was in shocked silence. We just looked at one another, saying nothing. "No, our Jackie would be fine" we thought, as we tried to convince ourselves that he would soon walk through the door. "Please Jackie, come home now!"

Before we knew it we heard a deep cry, a scream. It was Kay getting half held, half carried into our home. It was not good news. We were not brave enough to waken daddy from his night shift to tell him that he had to go to the morgue to identify his seventeen year old son.

Our Aunt did it for us… another deep cry of pain, "but I warned them not to go!" my dad shouted. Jackie did eventually come home… but he was in a brown box.

The report has been branded "a disaster in terms of time and expense" by justice secretary Kenneth Clarke, but its conclusion has been long awaited by the families of the victims who died 38 years ago.

A fiercely guarded inquiry, the Saville Report will be handed to the victims families five hours before it is published.

Eamonn Mallie asks what would an "unlawful killing" verdict at the Bloody Sunday inquiry mean?

Meanwhile, David Cameron - who was five when the shootings took place - will address MPs on its findings.

Martin McGuinness, Northern Ireland's deputy first minister, said the day was important for the city.

"It's a big day for them [the families], a big day for Derry, big day for Ireland and I suppose a big day for the world because the eyes of the world are looking at what happens here today.

"Really what the people are seeking is very simple, very straight forward. The exoneration of their loved ones. For Saville to proclaim to the world what the citizens of Derry have know for almost 40 years that all of these people were totally innocent civil rights marchers and to see the finger of responsibility pointed where it needs to be pointed; At the British state and the British parachute regiment. the parachute regiment, and I've said this for many many years, are described as a crack regiment of the British army.

The inquiry has collated around 2,500 witness statements, calling some 922 people to give spoken evidence.

The latter included 39 politicians and civil servants, 7 priests, 245 military personnel, 49 journalists and photographers, 9 forensic scientists, 35 paramilitary members, 505 civilians and 33 ROC members.

A hoard of archived evidence was unearthed or reassessed, including 160 volumes, 13 volumes of photographs, 121 audiotapes and 110 videotapes.

During the exhaustive enquiry, the judges considered up to 30 million words of evidence. The inquiry was moved from Derry to London, at a cost of £15m.

Thousands of people are expected to gather in Londonderry as the report is unveiled, in remembrance and in support of the families of those that died in Bloody Sunday.

Alex Thomson, Channel 4 News chief correspondent, is in Derry
Several thousand people now milling around in Bogside. Gerry Adams, Sinn Fein President is here at the front of march, as ever flanked by his Press Officer shadow Richard McAuley.

Relatives of the dead forming up to one side with photos of their loved ones.

Signs of the times that the helicopter buzzing over the Bogside is a TV camera chopper, not the PSNI or RUC as once was.

It's warm and sunny and not a uniformed police officer in sight.

Bogside has come from No Go Area to a No Need To Go area.

The area has the feel of open-air heritage park these days with the tour guides, coaches, plaques and museums.

Read more from Alex Thomson...

The Bloody Sunday Trust said: "It is the families' belief that all the evidence presented to the Saville Inquiry leads to one simple conclusion: all those killed or wounded on Bloody Sunday are totally innocent.

"They also insist that those responsible for the killing and maiming of 28 people should be held to account for their actions."

The Bloody Sunday Trust lists 15 people as injured, and 13 as having died on the day.

The original Widgery Report documented 13 as having died on the day, with 13 injured - not accounting for John Johnston who died four and a half months later.

The parallel Whitehall debate that led to Saville's inquiry
Why did the government concede the Bloody Sunday Inquiry? It was on the nationalist and republican agenda for a very long time - effectively some sort of public admission was wanted from the moment Widgery was published, writes Channel 4 News political editor Gary Gibbon.

The Irish Government lobbied for it for years. Tony Blair was told in 1997/8 that it was a vital part of the "mood music" of the talks, proving that Britain was no longer the old establishment, there was a new approach to Northern Ireland.

The progress towards what became the Good Friday Agreement was going through a rocky patch in January 1998. London and Dublin had just published the Heads of Agreement, which would become the template for much of the final deal, but Sinn Fein wasn't having it and said it wasn't the way ahead.

You might think that the Bloody Sunday Inquiry was used to break a deadlock, avoid a Republican walk-out. Unionists and Tories have told me just that. Someone who was a very senior British official at the time tells me it was nothing of the sort. It was, he says, very much a separate, parallel debate within Whitehall.

Read Gary Gibbon's blog here.

Channel 4 News findings
A Channel 4 News investigation in 1998 found that soldiers from the Royal Anglian Regiment were present on the Derry City Walls and fired towards the areas where the killings took place - this was not mentioned in the original Widgery Report.

Channel 4 News, Thomson and Ferguson were personally thanked by Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern after providing new information from five confidential sources.
The programme put forward previously rejected eyewitness accounts, ballistic findings suggesting some of the victims were hit by bullets from above ground - indicating they were not fired by soldiers from the Parachute Regiment who were at ground level - and intercepts of radio communications between soldiers on the day recorded by a local shopkeeper.

Channel 4's role in the Bloody Sunday inquiry
After successfully battling to defend the identity of his sources, Alex Thomson, chief correspondent at Channel 4 News, reflects on his part in Bloody Sunday inquest.

The two journalists were threatened with a prison sentence for being in contempt of court by refusing to reveal the identity of the five soldiers who spoke to them in confidence.
Thomson and Ferguson were questioned in detail over their reports, specifically asked by Lord Saville to relinquish the names of the anonymous soldiers.

Both refused, but agreed to approach their sources to ask them to come forward themselves. Three of the soldiers agreed and gave their own evidence, the two others decided not to come forward. 
Lord Saville dropped the threat of court proceedings against the journalists and ITN on the last day he gave evidence in court, in January 2004.

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