Northern Ireland

Bloody Sunday commander Derek Wilford left 'terrible legacy' says victim's son following his death aged 90

Derek Wilford (pictured in 1972) was commanding officer of the First Battalion, the Parachute Regiment in 1972. Picture by PA Photo.
Derek Wilford (pictured in 1972) was commanding officer of the First Battalion, the Parachute Regiment in 1972. Picture by PA Photo. Derek Wilford (pictured in 1972) was commanding officer of the First Battalion, the Parachute Regiment in 1972. Picture by PA Photo.

Bloody Sunday Parachute Regiment commander, Derek Wilford, who has died, left a “terrible legacy”, said the son of one of the victims of the 1972 atrocity.

Chairman of the Bloody Sunday Trust, Tony Doherty said the victims’ families would not mourn the death of the former British officer.

Wilford, who led the First Battalion of the Parachute Regiment into Derry’s Bogside on Bloody Sunday died on Friday at the age of 90.

He had been suffering from Parkinson’s Disease for many years.

Despite the findings of the Saville Inquiry into Bloody Sunday, Wilford always claimed his soldiers were fired on before they opened fire on an anti-internment protest on January 30 1972.

Thirteen men and teenagers were shot dead on the day while a 14th victim, John Johnston, died from his injuries later.

Former Parachute regiment officer, Derek Wilford said Bloody Sunday "destroyed" his life. Picture by BBC
Former Parachute regiment officer, Derek Wilford said Bloody Sunday "destroyed" his life. Picture by BBC Former Parachute regiment officer, Derek Wilford said Bloody Sunday "destroyed" his life. Picture by BBC

Following the publication of the Saville Report in 2010, exonerating all of the dead, then prime minister, David Cameron issued an unprecedented apology to the victims, describing the killings as “both unjustified and unjustifiable”.

The Saville report was also highly critical of Wilford, who was a lieutenant colonel a the time, finding that he ignored orders not to send his soldiers into the Bogside on Bloody Sunday. Following the killings, Wilford was awarded an OBE  which was seen by many as a reward for his actions on Bloody Sunday.

A photograph of Bishop Daly leading a group as they carried victim, Jackie Duddy from the Bogside became one of the iconic images of Bloody Sunday.
A photograph of Bishop Daly leading a group as they carried victim, Jackie Duddy from the Bogside became one of the iconic images of Bloody Sunday. A photograph of Bishop Daly leading a group as they carried victim, Jackie Duddy from the Bogside became one of the iconic images of Bloody Sunday.

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Mr Doherty, whose father Patrick was shot dead on Bloody Sunday, said: “The passing of Derek Wilford, while felt by his family, will not be mourned by the families of the innocent men and boys whose lives were taken by armed British paratroopers on Bloody Sunday.

“Colonel Wilford lived in a constant state of denial, never once accepting any measure of responsibility for his actions on that fateful day. History, though, will ensure that his actions led directly to the deaths of many innocent people which, in turn, led to years of conflict and hardship for our communities. He left a terrible legacy and will rightly be remembered for that.”

Liam Wray’s brother, Jim (22) was initially shot and wounded on Bloody Sunday before being shot and killed as he lay on the ground.

Mr Wray told BBC radio: “For his family, I understand, there’ll be sorrow. I take no delight in his death but I’ll not be shedding any tears either.”