IOL: Ex-paratrooper saw 'nothing to justify shooting'

Ex-paratrooper saw 'nothing to justify shooting'
30/09/2003 - 18:33:03

A former British army paratrooper did not see any threat that would have justified the shooting dead of civilians on Bloody Sunday, the Saville Inquiry heard today.

David Longstaff, who was in the vicinity of Glenfada Park North, where four people were killed and five wounded, told the Inquiry: “I did not see anything in my area to justify shooting.”

Other members of the anti tank platoon who were in Glenfada Park North have given statements to the Inquiry saying they were confronted by an angry mob, some of whom threw nail bombs.

But Mr Longstaff said he did not hear any nail bombs being thrown in the area.

The former private, who was covering soldiers F and G and J, said he did not see them firing their weapons.

He told the Inquiry that he heard gunfire but could not say whether it came from soldiers or the IRA.

“I remember being aware that the threat to me had increased. I was more alert because of it. I was extra vigilant. I did not turn round to pinpoint where the shots were coming from as it was my job to cover the rear of my mates ahead of me,” he said.

Seamus Treacy QC representing some of the families questioned this recollection of events.

“Why on earth would it be if you heard shots coming from behind you and you did not know whether it was from soldiers and you did not know if it was from the IRA, why would you not have looked round to see whether or not there was shooting occurring which would have posed a risk to your mates?”

The soldier replied: “I trusted the men I was with sir.”

Mr Treacy pressed him, asking whether he had seen members of his platoon opening fire in Glenfada Park North.

“Is it the case that your reluctance to give any evidence at all about what the soldiers who were with you were doing on Bloody Sunday is because even now you do not want to give any evidence which would implicate them as individuals?” he added.

Mr Longstaff insisted again that he saw or heard nothing.

He told the Inquiry that while in Rossville Street he fired a shot at the roof of Rossville Flats after being fired upon but was not asked to make a statement about it at the time.

Asked why he was not asked to make a statement, he said he believed officers were more concerned about other soldiers who had fired on Bloody Sunday.

Earlier, evidence given by a former soldier to the Inquiry appeared to corroborate a statement of a former IRA man concerning plans to mount a nail bomb attack on Bloody Sunday.

Soldier 165 told the Inquiry how he and colleagues were fired upon when they spotted four men in combat gear loading up a green Ford Cortina.

“The men were loading up the car from the back of a shop in the Brandywell area just along from Rossville Street,” he recalled.

Edwin Glasgow QC compared his evidence to a statement given to the Inquiry by former IRA man Paddy Ward, who claimed Martin McGuinness supplied detonators for nail bombs given to eight members of the Fianna, the youth wing of the IRA on the day of Bloody Sunday.

In his statement to the Inquiry Mr Ward said: “The manufactured nail bombs were put into the back of a hijacked green Cortina which was in the next door garage.”

He added that his plan was to meet McGuinness at the back of the Bogside Inn to pick up the detonators.

“There were four of us in the car and we pulled up near the back of the Bogside Inn… I parked the car out of the line of sight of the city walls as we knew there were always soldiers up there.”

But Arthur Harvey QC, representing some of the families pointed out that Soldier 165 made no mention of IRA activity in the Bogside before the march when he gave a statement to the Royal Military Police after Bloody Sunday.

“There is no mention of the men; there is no mention of suspicious activity and there is not mention of it immediately being followed by a shot from the Brandywell,” he added.

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