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Speaking out Former British soldier says Bloody Sunday families deserve justice

Soldier who served in Derry blasts decison not to proceed with prosecutions

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Thirteen civilians were killed after Parachute Regiment soldiers opened fire on civil rights demonstrators on Bloody Sunday in 1972

Thirteen civilians were killed after Parachute Regiment soldiers opened fire on civil rights demonstrators on Bloody Sunday in 1972

Richard Rudkin served in Derry shortly after the Bloody Sunday massacre in 1972

Richard Rudkin served in Derry shortly after the Bloody Sunday massacre in 1972

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Thirteen civilians were killed after Parachute Regiment soldiers opened fire on civil rights demonstrators on Bloody Sunday in 1972

A former British soldier who served on the streets of Derry following Bloody Sunday has said the families of those killed deserve justice.

Richard Rudkin, who served with the Royal Green Jackets, was speaking after news that no further soldiers would be prosecuted over the 1972 atrocity.

Thirteen civilians were killed after Parachute Regiment soldiers opened fire on civil rights demonstrators. A further 15 civilians were wounded.

On Tuesday, the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) upheld its original decision that 15 soldiers reported in connection with the events of the killings would not face court.

Families of some of the victims had requested a review of the March 2019 decision.

The reviews were undertaken by PPS senior assistant director Marianne O’Kane, who was not previously involved in the cases.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Ms O’Kane said: “I have concluded that the available evidence is insufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction of any of the 15 soldiers who were the subjects of the reviews.

“Accordingly, the decisions not to prosecute these 15 individuals all stand.”

Families of loved ones killed said last week they would continue in their fight for justice, despite the decision.

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Richard Rudkin served in Derry shortly after the Bloody Sunday massacre in 1972

Richard Rudkin served in Derry shortly after the Bloody Sunday massacre in 1972

Richard Rudkin served in Derry shortly after the Bloody Sunday massacre in 1972

Mr Rudkin, who served with the British Army for three years on the streets of Northern Ireland in 1972, echoed the families’ call.

He said: “Everybody who has died in questionable circumstances, and the families believe they haven’t been given the truth, then they should have the right to find out the truth.

“If you have lost someone, somehow to a man in uniform who is represented by the Crown, you deserve to find out the truth.

“Now, if it comes out the actual person did have a pistol, did have a weapon, you have the truth.

“But in those days in 1972 the RUC didn’t get involved with investigations to do with the military, it was the SIB, the Army investigated themselves.

“MPs will say, all these were investigated, but they were investigated by the Army. It may well be that the Army got it right, but don’t the families deserve an independent review of those cases to prove those investigations were right?”

Mr Rudkin, who has written extensively about legacy issues, served on the streets of Belfast and Derry at the height of the Troubles.

Born in Liverpool, he joined the Royal Green Jackets aged 17 before being posted to Derry six weeks after Bloody Sunday.

The young soldier’s English infantry was also sent to west Belfast to supplement another Army regiment.

He was stationed just off the Falls Road and was on the streets when the Ballymurphy massacre occurred in August 1972.

Doddle

“I think my time in Northern Ireland shaped my decision to leave,” he told the Sunday World. “I’m glad I joined because it opened my eyes to how things work.

“I went to Derry just after my 18th birthday. Bloody Sunday was in the January and I was there in the March.

“There was 30 of us from the Green Jackets who went to supplement another regiment and we went in to Derry, around the Fountain Street area, a very loyalist area.

“I thought, this is great. We were being brought tea and cakes, and I thought this is a doddle. And when we went to west Belfast in 1972, we were stationed in Broadway off the Falls and I just couldn’t believe the difference, in west Belfast we were told basically every Catholic is suspicious.

“They are either in the IRA or they support the IRA. So you’ve got that mindset of an 18-year-old, it’s not going to end well is it?”

He added: “I was always puzzled about the Troubles because I didn’t really understand it.

“Both my grandparents were Irish. It was only after I left, and don’t forget in those days we didn’t have the internet or anything like that, it is only fairly recently that you can start doing research. I read things and I thought, hold on, that’s not what I was told and that’s how it came about.

“I spoke to John Taggart of Ballymurphy and I had a long chat with John in Belfast and he told me things that sort of corrected what I’d been told.”

Mr Rudkin recalls being told by Army superiors that mother-of-eight Joan Connolly, shot dead during the Ballymurphy massacre, was attempting to pick up a dead IRA man’s gun.

“You’ve got a bunch of lads aged between 17 and probably 20, and you are telling them when gunmen are shot, the women will run out and pick their gun up. And you are going to be there in six months.

“You are going into an area basically where you turn your back and all these people are so evil... I found out things through research which just goes against all of that.

“There was a case of a soldier who was shot outside the Royal Victoria Hospital and his family had been told that the locals tried to take his weapon and tried to run off with his body to try to prevent him from being buried. It came to light that that was never the case at all. The locals had tried to carry him into the Royal to get treatment.

“So you have these people telling you that not only will these people kill you, they’ll run off with your body. So if you paint that picture of where you are going to be, in this particular area, that no-one is going to like you, you aren’t going to be the most friendliest to them. But that was not really the case.

“I left the Army after three years, I’d seen enough, I’d had enough. I am glad I did join because it opened my eyes.”

Asked if he believed there was a “witch-hunt” against the military over legacy killings, Mr Rudkin, who went on to work for the NHS, said he did not.

“You only have to look at the stats, from the Good Friday Agreement more republicans have been arrested than British soldiers.

“And when you look at the British soldiers who were charged at the time there has been four, and all went on to return to the unit after serving jail, and none served more than four years.

“Would it happen in any other organisation?”

He added: “When you talk about cases like Soldier F, you always get comments from someone, former military who relays that this is at the behest of Sinn Féin or the IRA, completely missing the point that the person was an innocent civilian.

“If an innocent person has been killed, and I am sure I am not alone, that everyone has a right to find out why.”