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Thursday, 30 March, 2000, 17:07 GMT 18:07 UK
Army Bloody Sunday photos 'gone'
Mural depicting Bloody Sunday in Londonderry
Mural depicting Bloody Sunday in Londonderry
Military photographs taken by soldiers during the Bloody Sunday shootings probably did not survive for long after the conclusion of the first hearings into the events.

The Saville inquiry into the deaths of 14 civil rights marchers in Londonderry on 30 January 1972 has heard that many photographs were destroyed.

The tribunal into the circumstances of the shootings, which is being held in Derry's guildhall is in it fourth day of hearings and is expected to run for two years.

Ten photographers deployed

The Army had deployed ten photographers and a camera crew to record the protest march.

Courtroom artist's impression of Michael Clarke QC
Michael Clarke QC is presenting the evidence gathered so far
The inquiry heard efforts by the assistant solicitor to the team to locate pictures taken in Derry's Bogside by soldiers met "sparse" results and that most were probably destroyed after the first 1972 Widgery Inquiry into events.

Counsel to the present Bloody Sunday Inquiry, Christopher Clarke QC, also said there had been "difficulties" encountered in tracing the movement of the 29 weapons fired during the march.

Documents dating back to 1972 showed that 28 of the rifles were 7.62 mm SLRs and one was said by the Ministry of Defence to be a 7.62 converted sniper rifle.

The tribunal was shown aerial black and white footage of events in the Bogside lasting about two minutes, featuring the big crowd massed at Free Derry Corner for speeches after the parade; paratroopers moving into the area in armoured personnel carriers and arriving in front of Rossville Flats; and the crowd starting to scatter.

The search for photographs about Bloody Sunday was conducted by Donny Scott, assistant solicitor to the inquiry, whose statement said a total of 5,000 images had been uncovered, of which 1,500 related directly to Bloody Sunday.

'No policy of storage'

Of the material sought from the MoD relating to the day of the march, 48 "arrest" pictures were handed over of soldiers standing close to the person they had arrested, as well as 10 poor quality photocopies.

A statement by John Harding of the MoD Army Historical Branch said there was no set policy on where photographs should be stored after their use in a military or court environment had expired.

"What can be said is that in the absence of any systematic policy with regard to the preservation of such material, much of it was probably destroyed not long after (the Widgery Inquiry of 1972) on the grounds that it was not of further use," his statement said.

Shoot to kill command

Earlier the Inquiry heard an amateur tape recording purporting to be of an army attempt to kill a man suspected of throwing a nail bomb.

The tribunal heard that a soldier missed shooting the man by two inches when he fired at him, two days before the events of 30 January 1972.

Mr Clarke said the tape was made of army transmissions by a Mr Porter two days before the civil rights march, on 28 January 1972.

It records an incident in William Street in which a soldier says he can see a nail bomber, who does not appear to have anything in his hand at that time.

He asks his commanding officer if he should shoot him.

The superior officer asks the soldier: "Are you absolutely certain he's the nail bomber?"

When the soldier replies positively, the officer says: "Shoot him dead".

Then there is a pause while several shots are fired, after which the soldier on patrol reports back saying: "I missed him by about two inches".

The officer replies: "Bad shooting."

Mr Clarke said the tape was relevant to the inquiry because it showed a use of lethal weaponry, justified in times of war, but not otherwise.

Counsel also said that, even though the soldier on the tape was not in the parachute Regiment, he must have been subsequently involved in the Bloody Sunday army operation.

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See also:

30 Mar 00 | Northern Ireland
Inquiry hears of army shooting
29 Mar 00 | Northern Ireland
Inquiry hears of police-army dispute
28 Mar 00 | Northern Ireland
Violence 'forecast' on Bloody Sunday
26 Mar 00 | Northern Ireland
Bloody Sunday truth pledge
24 Mar 00 | Bloody Sunday Inquiry
Q & A: The Bloody Sunday Inquiry
24 Mar 00 | Bloody Sunday Inquiry
Challenges facing the Saville inquiry
24 Mar 00 | Bloody Sunday Inquiry
The reporter's story
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