Relatives of those shot dead and wounded on Bloody Sunday have been informed that formers soldiers suspected of carrying out the shootings on January 30, 1972 will be questioned by police next month.
Confirmation of the move came in a letter to relatives from PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harrison, the man in charge of the PSNI murder investigation into the events of Bloody Sunday.
The letter states that the eight former Patratroopers involved at the heart of the investigation will be subjected to ‘caution interviews’ during March and that further ‘caution interviews’ with other former soldiers will extend into April. The letter from the PSNI also states: “Given the number of persons to be interviewed it is likely that the interview process may extend into May 2016.”
The police launched the murder investigation in 2012.
All of the forthcoming interviews will take place in line with a High Court ruling made in December 2015 and that the soldiers to be questioned will present themselves on a voluntary basis to police stations for the interviews to take place.
Seven of the eight soldiers lodged objections at the High Court last year stating they wanted advance notification of the interviews and that they would not be taken to Northern Ireland to give information on their roles on the day in question.
The legal move came after the arrest and questioning of a soldier known only as ‘Lance Corporal J’ in Antrim last November. He was questioned at a Belfast police station over his role on Bloody Sunday. It is believed It is believed he was interviewed in relation to the killings of William Nash, Michael McDaid and John Young. It is also understood he was questioned over the wounding of Alexander Nash on January 30, 1972 in Derry’s Bogside area.
The remaining seven soldiers cited via their legal teams they believed that the arrest of ‘Lance Corporal J’ was ‘politically motivated’ and also cited fears for their personal security if they were taken for questioning to Northern Ireland. Their concerns were upheld by the High Court.
In the letter received by relatives of those killed and wounded in Derry 44 years ago, Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harrison said: “Having taken into consideration the recent ruling of the High Court I do not intend to release any details which could potentially lead to the identification of the former soldiers to be interviewed. I appreciate that the families would wish to know this information however I wish to avoid any situation which could potentially result in further legal challenge and delay to the overall inquiry.”
One relative whose brother was killed and whose father was wounded on Bloody Sunday has told the ‘Journal’ she is very sceptical about the latest move in the investigation.
Kate Nash said that her “biggest fear” that this is a stalling tactic and that it is designed to go past the scheduled period for the Northern Ireland Assembly elections in May.
“I fear they are waiting until they can move the Bloody Sunday murder investigation under the new Historical Inquiries Unit if a political deal with regard to dealing with the legacy of the past can be reached at Stormont after the election. The proposed legislation about this is not good for victims or their relatives as it involves the use of ‘national security’ to block the truth.
“We have heard the PSNI say consistently that they do not have the resources to carry out legacy investigations and I fear they want rid of the responsibility for the Bloody Sunday investigation,” she said.
Ms Nash added that she would be seeking assurances that the PSNI investigation will continue as it was originally set out and not subsumed into any future arrangement.