Former Ballykelly commander Bob Stewart says he was a ‘kind of a torturer’

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A Conservative MP who was the British Army officer in command on the night of the Droppin’ Well bomb in Ballykelly in 1982 has told BBC radio he was a “kind of a torturer” during his tours in Ireland in the 1970s.

Colonel Bob Stewart, told 5 live Daily: “Before 1977, I was actually a soldier in Northern Ireland and there were five forbidden techniques introduced in 1977, some of which I’d used prior to that: spreadeagling, sleep deprivation.

“So in a way, technically, as you look at it today, I was a kind of a torturer. Of course it was acceptable then. It’s now unacceptable and now it’s defined as torture.”

The Beckenham MP made the candid acknowledgment as his party leader Theresa May was in North America preparing to become the first international leader to meet the new President of the United States, Donald Trump.

During the US presidential election campaign, Mr. Trump said he would be willing to approve torture techniques such as waterboarding, claiming it “absolutely works”.

Mr. Stewart was company commander in the Cheshire Regiment based at Shackleton Barracks when an INLA bomb killed 11 soldiers and six civilians who had been socialising at a disco in the Droppin’ Well bar in Ballykelly on December 6, 1982.

In his maiden speech to the Westminster Parliament after being elected as an MP in South East London in 2010, he recalled the atrocity.

He said: “Just after 11 o’clock, on December 6, 1982 in a place called Ballykelly, a bomb exploded.

“I heard it. I was the commanding officer of A Company, 1st Battalion, the Cheshire Regiment.

“I got there in two or three minutes and found 17 people killed.

“What was most horrific for me was that six of the dead were from my company, including my clerk and my storeman.

“I was the incident commander. In one night, of 115 soldiers, I had seen six men killed and more than 30 wounded. That is a 30 per cent casualty rate and it marks me.”

According to his online biography Mr. Stewart completed seven tours of the North, serving as Platoon Commander, Intelligence Officer, Company Commander, and Commanding Officer during that time.