Northern Ireland

Saville report exonerated Bloody Sunday victims and wounded

Lord Saville of Newdigate chaired the Bloody Sunday Inquiry. PICTURE: Brian Little/PA Wire
Lord Saville of Newdigate chaired the Bloody Sunday Inquiry. PICTURE: Brian Little/PA Wire

The key result of the Saville report was that it completely overturned the 1972 Widgery Report by totally exonerating all of the victims.

The Inquiry ruled that none of the dead or wounded posed a threat when they were shot and no warning was given by soldiers before they opened fire.

“We have concluded that none of them (the soldiers) fired in response to attacks or threatened attacks by nail or petrol bombers. No-one threw or threatened to throw a nail bomb or petrol bomb at the soldiers on Bloody Sunday,” the three judges said.

Soldiers were also accused of giving wrong accounts by claiming they shot at gunmen or bombers.

The Inquiry found: “Many of these soldiers have knowingly put forward false account in order to seek to justify their firing.”

Lord Saville was particularly critical of a number of One Para officers, in particular, Lieutenant Colonel Derek Wilford - who led the regiment into the Bogside and Lieutenant N - who opened fire after he claimed the IRA had fired first.

The Inquiry concluded that Wilford failed to obey an order from Brigadier Patrick MacLellan not to conduct a running battle but to arrest rioters. It also criticised Wilford sending additional soldiers into the Bogside and for failing to wait for separation between peaceful protesters and rioters.

The Saville report found that while shots had been fired by members of the Official IRA, the scale did not provide any justification for the shooting of civilian casualties. Saville also said that the late Martin McGuinness was probably armed with a Thompson sub-machine gun but there was no evidence he opened fire with it.

While Lord Saville found that the youngest victim, Gerald Donaghy did not do anything to justify his killing, the Inquiry refused to rule out the possibility that he was armed with nail bombs. When the 17-year-old’s body was inspected at an army base in Derry, nail bombs were found in a pocket. This was despite earlier treatment by a doctor who testified there were no nail bombs. The issue has remained the major cause of concern for the families over the last ten years.