Bloody Sunday accused Soldier F appears in court

Bloody Sunday
Image caption,

Thirteen people were shot dead by the British Army on Bloody Sunday

  • Published

The former paratrooper known as Soldier F has appeared in a court for the first time since being charged with murders on Bloody Sunday in Londonderry in 1972.

His lawyers are mounting a challenge to have the case against him dismissed ahead of his trial.

Until today, he had not attended any hearings in person since being charged in 2019.

Soldier F is accused of two murders and five attempted murders.

In court behind a screen

Relatives of those killed on Bloody Sunday, and their supporters, were in court for his attendance.

Thirteen people were shot dead when the Army's Parachute Regiment opened fire on a civil rights march in Londonderry.

A large floor-to-ceiling blue curtain screened Soldier F from public view.

He is accused of murdering William McKinney and James Wray when soldiers opened fire on civil rights’ demonstrators on 30 January 1972.

His lawyer told a hearing in Belfast there was an “insufficiency of evidence” to put him on trial.

A prosecution lawyer said its case is that Soldier F was part of a group of paratroopers who opened fire on civilians who were running away from them.

He stated they could not have acted in self-defence.

“Each soldier who fired in those circumstances must have intended to kill,” he claimed.

The judge said he would deliver a ruling on whether the trial would proceed at a later date.

At the start of proceedings, he also ruled that an order granting the veteran anonymity should remain in place.

Image caption,

Soldier F is accused of murdering James Wray and William McKinney

Who is Soldier F?

  • A former British soldier who served with the Army's Parachute Regiment in Northern Ireland during the Troubles

  • He cannot be named due to an interim court order granting his anonymity

  • Soldier F is being prosecuted for the murders of William McKinney and James Wray on Bloody Sunday

  • He also faces charges of attempting to murder Patrick O'Donnell, Joseph Friel, Joe Mahon, Michael Quinn and an unknown person on the same date

Image source, Pacemaker Press
Image caption,

Members of William McKinney's family and other Bloody Sunday relatives attended the hearing on Friday, where Soldier F appeared in person for the first time

The decision on whether to prosecute Soldier F involved several legal challenges and U-turns.

Having weighed up 125,000 pages of material, prosecutors said in March 2019 that they would send Soldier F to trial for the murders of Mr Wray and Mr McKinney, as well as several attempted murders.

However, in 2021, prosecutors dropped the case after the collapse of the trial of two other Army veterans who were accused of another Troubles-era killing.

At the time, the families of the Bloody Sunday victims said the decision was a "damning indictment of the British justice system" - their legal challenge against the decision was successful.

The court then rejected an attempt by the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) to have its own appeal referred to the Supreme Court.

Prosecutors subsequently announced that they had decided to resume the prosecution in September 2022.

He was returned for trial in December 2023 but no trial date has been given.