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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 May, 2003, 11:47 GMT 12:47 UK
'Innocents' killed on Bloody Sunday
Soldiers on street on Bloody Sunday
The inquiry is examining the events of 30 January 1972
A former soldier has told the Saville Inquiry that he had no doubt some innocent civilians were killed on Bloody Sunday in Londonderry.

Sergeant O, who claims to have shot gunmen, said that while he was sure innocent people were shot he did not think this was done deliberately.

The Saville Inquiry is examining the events of 30 January 1972 when 13 civilians were shot dead by British army soldiers during a civil rights march in the city. A 14th person died later.

Barry MacDonald, QC, representing most of the families of the deceased and injured, suggested anyone in the area was liable to be seriously assaulted or shot by soldiers just because they were there.

But Soldier O, a former sergeant in the Parachute Regiment, denied this and told the Saville Inquiry in London that paratroopers intended to arrest as many rioters as possible.

The former soldier admitted troops cocked their weapons before they emerged from their armoured cars.

Mr MacDonald asked the soldier: "You personally cocked your weapon ready to shoot people, did you not?"

"Not ready to shoot people, I cocked my weapon so that I could defend myself if the need arose," Soldier O replied.

Mr MacDonald put it to the soldier that he and his colleagues entered the Bogside with rounds in the breech "ready to fire on civilians".

"Not ready to fire at civilians, with a round in the breech, there was no reason to fire at civilians," the soldier replied.

The soldier denied soldiers were not concerned about the dangers to civilians.

Soldier O earlier told the inquiry he fired a total of eight shots at three different gunmen on Bloody Sunday.


The soldier said he returned fire after coming under attack from a number of gunmen in a carpark near Rossville Flats.

Soldier O said he was shot at about 20-30 times from several positions in the flats before he fired three shots at a man armed with a pistol.

He said the gunman fired six rounds at him from behind a red Cortina, before the soldier struck him with two or three shots, hitting him in the centre of the chest.

Soldier O said within minutes he then fired another three shots at a man who fired a rifle at him from Block 3 of the Rossville Flats, probably hitting him in the head.

The soldier said he also fired two rounds at a third gunman but he believed he missed as he went around a corner and out of sight.

The inquiry, which usually sits at the Guildhall in Londonderry, is currently hearing the evidence from 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.

They are not expected to report back until 2004.

The Bloody Sunday 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.

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