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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 24 September, 2002, 15:18 GMT 16:18 UK
City move for Bloody Sunday Inquiry
Lord Saville, (facing) is charing the Bloody Sunday inquiry
Lord Saville will hear evidence in the Methodist Hall
The Bloody Sunday Inquiry has moved to London for the first time and is hearing evidence from former British army soldiers.

It is expected about 300 military witnesses will testify at the Methodist Hall in Westminster, following almost two years of mostly civilian evidence heard in Londonderry.

The Saville Inquiry is examining the events of January 1972 when 13 civilians were shot dead by soldiers in Londonderry during a civil rights march. A 14th person died later.

Soldiers involved in Bloody Sunday successfully opposed in the Court of Appeal the tribunal's ruling that they should travel to Derry to give their evidence.

Relatives of those killed on Bloody Sunday at the start of the London sitting of the inquiry
Memorial: Relatives of those killed laid a wreath at Westminister Abbey

They claimed they could be attacked by dissident republicans if they made that journey.

The vast majority of the soldiers will be anonymous - known only by a letter or number - but they will give evidence openly and not from behind screens.

Relatives of those who died are in London for the evidence.

They laid a wreath at Westminster Abbey on Tuesday in memory of all the innocent victims of violence.

The proceedings will be relayed back to the Guildhall in Derry where the inquiry has been sitting until now.

Retired general Sir Frank Kitson was the first witness to give evidence on Tuesday.

The commander of 39 Brigade covering Army units in Belfast including that sent to Derry in January 1972, said he had "every confidence" in 1 Para, adding that they were not "excessively forceful" in carrying out their duties.


Members of the regiment exhibited a natural compassion, comforting and assisting the victims of bombs and riots

Sir Frank Kitson Retired army general

He said he had no recollection of the events leading up to Bloody Sunday and had only had a "very general" understanding of the security situation in the city.

Sir Frank was on leave when troops were sent into the Bogside and told the inquiry he only heard of the events of Bloody Sunday when he returned.

He denied that his expertise in counter-insurgency meant he would have been involved in the planning of the Army's role in the Bloody Sunday march.

He said 1 Para had experience of dealing with riots in Belfast and "were good at controlling difficult situations" but said any reputation they might have acquired for "toughness and brutality" was "mistaken".

"On many occasions members of the regiment exhibited a natural compassion, comforting and assisting the victims of bombs and riots," he added.

Equipment duplicated

The soldiers who fired the first shots on the day are not scheduled to give their evidence for at least several weeks.

The soldiers are expected to tell the tribunal that they fired only at gunmen and bombers.

However, the general picture painted by civilian witnesses at the inquiry so far is that the soldiers opened fire without justification.

Many of the relatives of those who died are in London to see the soldiers giving evidence.

The move to London is likely to substantially increase the costs of the inquiry, which have already been heavily criticised by unionist and politicians.

Lord Saville planned to duplicate all the equipment for the inquiry in the Guildhall at the London venue.

The tribunal will also hear evidence in the capital from Conservative former MP Sir Edward Heath, who was prime minister at the time of the shootings.

Lord Saville and the Commonwealth judges who comprise the inquiry began their work nearly four years ago and are not expected to report back until 2004.

The inquiry was established in 1998 by 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.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC NI's Paul McCauley:
"The families say they simply want the soldiers to tell the truth"
BBC NI's Paul McCauley:
"Proceedings will be beamed back to the Guildhall in Derry"
Find out more about the Bloody Sunday Inquiry


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24 Sep 02 | N Ireland
09 Sep 02 | N Ireland
02 Sep 02 | N Ireland
30 Aug 02 | N Ireland
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