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Report of the The Bloody Sunday Inquiry
- Volume VI - Chapter 114



Patrick O’Donnell and the incident at City Cabs

Chapter 114: Patrick O’Donnell and the incident at City Cabs

Contents

Paragraph

Alex Bradley 114.13

Frankie Boyle 114.24

Mary McCourt 114.27

114.1 We now turn to consider what happened to Patrick O’Donnell after his arrest. We have already examined the circumstances in which he came to be wounded in the right shoulder while sheltering behind a fence on the eastern side of Glenfada Park North.1 According to accounts Patrick O’Donnell gave in 1972, after he had been hit, he “rolled” around the corner of the southern end of the eastern block of Glenfada Park North (often referred to as the gable end). Patrick O’Donnell then sat down against the gable end. He saw about 15 other people crouched down against that wall, including Fr Denis Bradley. They were then arrested.2

1 Paragraphs 104.494–520 2AO35.7-8; AO35.18; WT6.43

114.2 Of the accounts Patrick O’Donnell gave in 1972, the earlier was his statement to the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA), dated 7th February 1972. That account included an allegation that after he, and others sheltering in Glenfada Park North, had been detained, a soldier hit Patrick O’Donnell on the head with a baton causing a wound which required stitches. The statement recorded:1

“The soldiers arrived immediately and with guns pointed at us ordered us up and marched us down Glenfada Park. They ordered hands up and I couldn’t put my right hand up as my right shoulder was shot and they butted with their rifles in the back and wrist and eventually I got my arm up. We marched down towards Rossville St. and I being at the front of the line and unable to look round (the soldiers kept telling us not to look round) turned up William St. as far as City Taxis. There were two taxi drivers and at least three women there and they took me in to sit down. A few moments later a soldier burst in the door and I jumped up and ran to the other side of the room. He grabbed me and pushed me out on to William St. and just one step outside the door a soldier battoned me on the head (7 or 8 stitches in this wound). I then saw Fr. Bradley who was pleading with the soldier to leave me alone. Somebody in charge came along and said ‘Leave that man alone, he is shot, he’s alright’. The two taxi drivers put me in a car and took me to Creggan to the first aid centre. A woman took me from the centre to her house in Swilly Gardens. She rang Dr. Fallon who came and took me to Altnagelvin.”

1 AO35.8

114.3 Patrick O’Donnell’s later accounts have not varied in substance. He was treated at Altnagelvin Hospital, and discharged on 9th February 1972.1The records of his medical treatment confirm that he suffered a “1½ inch wound of the scalp”.2A short report3dated 11th February 1972 from Mr HM Bennett, a consultant surgeon at Altnagelvin Hospital, to the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) records that Patrick O’Donnell’s head injury was “a small scalp wound just at the junction of forehead and hair-line on the left side of the forehead”. Mr Bennett considered the possibility that this injury may have been caused by a fall or blow from a baton. While he concluded that the injury “looked much more like an injury from a fall” he said that the possibility that it was caused by a baton blow could not be “completely excluded on medical grounds alone. Dr Richard Shepherd and Mr Kevin O’Callaghan noted in their report to this Inquiry on the injuries sustained by those injured on Bloody Sunday,4that without a more detailed wound description, it was not possible to determine how Mr Bennett reached the conclusion he expressed in his short report on Patrick O’Donnell’s scalp wound.

1 D0902.1

2 D0890; D0898

3 D0902

4 E10.010

114.4 City Cabs (which Patrick O’Donnell called City Taxis) was also known as Bradley’s Taxis. It was on the south side of William Street, one building to the west of the junction of this street and Rossville Street, shown in the following photograph.

114.5 The following photograph, taken on Bloody Sunday by Constable Robert S Simpson, shows people standing outside the City Cabs office.

114.6 Pictured in the photograph above are, from left to right, William John Dillon, an unidentified soldier, Corporal INQ 25, Joseph Cauley, Mary McCourt, Alex Bradley, Joseph Leitch and another unidentified soldier. William John Dillon, who as we have described earlier,1had been arrested in the Eden Place waste ground, was one of a group of arrestees standing against the wall to the east of City Cabs.

1 Chapter 33

114.7 In his 1972 accounts,1Fr Bradley described being held with other arrestees against a wall in the courtyard of Kells Walk. This was an error and Fr Bradley must have been describing the wall on the western side of the eastern block of Columbcille Court, where as we have explained in the previous chapter,2those arrested in Sector 4 were held for some time. Fr Bradley said that one of the arrestees standing at the wall told him that he had been shot in the shoulder and “showed me the blood”. He later learned that this person was Patrick O’Donnell. Fr Bradley made an unsuccessful attempt to tell the soldiers guarding the arrestees of Patrick O’Donnell’s injury.3The arrestees were then made to walk towards William Street. In his Widgery statement, Fr Bradley said:4

“As I arrived in William Street I saw the man who had been shot in the shoulder leaning with his hands against the wall. He half turned from the wall in a daze and was batoned on the head by a soldier. I went to his aid and showed an officer who was in charge in William Street at this time that this man had been shot and badly needed medical attention. I was allowed to put him into a car along with some people, who took him away for medical attention. The rest of the people were marched from William Street into Sackville Street and I was left alone with the soldiers in William Street.”

1 H1.43; H1.36

2 Paragraph 113.3

3 WT4.39

4 H1.43

114.8 Two arrestees at the wall next to the City Cabs office, Charles Canning and James Charles Doherty, describe seeing a somewhat similar incident. Both were facing the wall and for that reason their view would have been limited. James Charles Doherty stated that he was afraid to turn my head . Charles Canning stated that a soldier dragged a man from the next building, while James Charles Doherty thought that a soldier dragged a man into the building. Both Charles Canning and James Charles Doherty describe the person who was involved as a man and both said that a priest intervened.1

1 AD69.4; AC25.3

114.9 Corporal INQ 25, who is shown in the above photograph, and who was a member of Composite Platoon, also described in his evidence to us someone who in our view was clearly Patrick O’Donnell. He told us that he vaguely remembered this person being brought out of the taxi office by another member of Composite Platoon, who hit him with his baton, splitting his head open, though he told us he recalled that the blow was not too hard and that since the person was struggling to escape, in his view his colleague had used the minimum of force given the situation. Corporal INQ 25 said that it was after seeing this that a priest intervened. He also told us that he was unable to identify the soldier who had hit Patrick O’Donnell.1

1 C25.3; Day 300/88-91

114.10 Although Fr Bradley’s recollection of this incident differed somewhat from that of Patrick O’Donnell, we are sure that the latter was hit on the head by a soldier, sufficiently hard to require stitches; and that this happened when he was close to the City Cabs office. In view of the fact that there were about six soldiers in the vicinity and all the other arrestees were under control,1we can see no justification for what this soldier did. We have been unable to identify him.

1 Day 300/91

114.11 It is convenient at this point to consider a submission made on behalf of some of the soldiers that in all probability, a second, much younger man was also taken from Bradley’s taxis with a gunshot wounds [sic]”.1

1 FS8.135; FS8.1386-1393

114.12 The basis of this submission is the evidence of Alex Bradley, Frankie Boyle and Mary McCourt. None of these witnesses gave any account in 1972.

Alex Bradley

114.13 Alex Bradley told us, in his written statement to this Inquiry,1that in 1972 he ran the taxi business and an undertaker’s from the City Cabs office.2

1 AB55.1 2 According to Seamus Carlin it was John Bradley who ran the office (Day 163/155).

114.14 In this statement Alex Bradley described seeing arrestees at a wall near Kells Walk when he was with a friend, Denis McLaughlin, and they decided to go back to the office. Shortly afterwards a young lad ran in through the office doors of City Cabs and into the rear office. This young lad was described by Alex Bradley as about 18 years old and had a longish, fashionable haircut. He was wearing a casual, light blue bomber jacket.1He could see that this young lad had been injured in the shoulder. A woman who was in the front office with Alex Bradley said that she thought he had been shot. The young lad was followed by two soldiers, who ran into the front door followed by a third. Frankie Boyle, who was in the office, thrust a broom at a soldier, who then hit Frankie Boyle on the top of the head, causing blood to start to run down Frankie Boyle’s forehead.

1 AB55.3

114.15 According to Alex Bradley, the soldiers left the office, though they did not arrest the young lad who had run in; Alex Bradley then drove the young lad in a Vauxhall Victor with about 14 other people in the car.

114.16 In his oral evidence to this Inquiry,1 Alex Bradley conceded that this was an exaggeration, but told us that about nine people got into the car, all frightened and trying to get away from Rossville Street. The young lad, who was in the rear of the car, did not realise he had been injured. Alex Bradley said that he recalled that the young lad was worried about his shoes, which his mother had just bought, but one of which he had lost; and that this young boy was dropped off at the corner of Central Drive/Fanad Drive.2

1 Day 98/158

2 Day 98/159

114.17 In his oral evidence, Alex Bradley could not say for certain that this person with the injured shoulder was the only person with an injured shoulder who entered the taxi office that day.1 He said that he did recall that other injured persons had entered the cab office with less serious injuries, some of whom were bleeding from the head.2 He told us that the man with the shoulder injury was the only person with such an injury whom he drove in his vehicle to the Creggan.3

1 Day 98/155

2 Day 98/169

3 Day 98/165

114.18 According to this account the man with a shoulder injury seen by Alex Bradley was about 18 years old; ran into the back office; and went out again without being arrested. Patrick O’Donnell was 41 at the time; he described walking, not running, into the office; said he had not gone into the back office; and described being pushed out of the office by a soldier. It seems unlikely that in the circumstances Patrick O’Donnell would be worried about losing a shoe that his mother had just bought him.

114.19 For these reasons it is submitted that Alex Bradley saw someone other than Patrick O’Donnell with a shoulder wound. Presumably, because Alex Bradley said nothing about the cause of the youth’s injury, reliance is placed on his account that a woman in the office said she thought the youth had been shot.

114.20 We do not accept this submission.

114.21 Alex Bradley acknowledged in his oral evidence that he could have been confused about the person’s age.1There is also no doubt that he was wrong about a soldier hitting Frankie Boyle. When Frankie Boyle was asked about Alex Bradley’s account in his oral evidence to this Inquiry, there was the following exchange:2

“Q. Can we then move on to the third line, he says:

‘Frankie Boyle went at the third soldier with a brush shaft.’

Leaving aside whether it was the third soldier or the first soldier; that is your evidence, is it not?

A. That is right, sir.

Q. ‘He had the brush head under his armpit and thrust the shaft at the soldier. I think he was trying to distract his attention.’

Then Mr Bradley said this:

‘The third soldier then struck Frankie Boyle on the top of the head with his baton.’

A. He tried to but he missed me.

Q. Mr Bradley goes on:

‘Everything seemed quiet for a moment and then blood started to run down Frankie Boyle’s forehead.’

Did that happen?

A. No, it did not, it did not happen.”

1 Day 98/167

2 Day 122/80-81

114.22 As noted above, Alex Bradley told us that blood started to run down Frankie Boyle’s forehead . In his statement to the RUC taken on 4th February 1972,1Patrick O’Donnell had recorded that after he was hit, blood streamed down my face”. In view of Frankie Boyle’s denial that he had been hit on the head and the close correspondence between Alex Bradley’s description of the bleeding injury and that sustained by Patrick O’Donnell, we are of the view that he has confused events and muddled seeing Patrick O’Donnell with a head injury and what may well have been an altercation between Frankie Boyle and a soldier. Our view is reinforced by the fact that taking Alex Bradley’s account at face value, and accepting, as we do, the accuracy of the accounts given by Patrick O’Donnell, would mean that there were two incursions into City Cabs by a soldier or soldiers and two instances of a man with a shoulder wound going into the office.

1 ED61.5

114.23 We consider that time has distorted Alex Bradley’s memory. In our view his account provides no support for the submission that someone apart from Patrick O’Donnell went into the City Cabs office with a gunshot injury.

Frankie Boyle

114.24 Frankie Boyle’s account to us was to the effect that he saw a boy in his late twenties, who had been shot, dragged into the taxi office, and that he threw this boy into the back office, where coffins were stored. Soon after a soldier came into the office and pointed a rifle at him. He then threatened the soldier with a sweeping brush. The soldier was called outside by another soldier, after which he took the boy from the back office up to the Creggan. He said that he later discovered that this boy was Patrick O’Donnell, when the latter came to thank him for saving his life.1

1 AB48.3; Day 122/71

114.25 Patrick O’Donnell did not go into the back office and told us that he did not know Frankie Boyle.1It was suggested that Frankie Boyle’s account of Patrick O’Donnell thanking him was not convincing; presumably intending to suggest that this might have been said to conceal the fact that the person was someone else.

1 Day 157/16

114.26 Again we are not persuaded that this evidence establishes or even suggests the possibility that someone in addition to Patrick O’Donnell came into the office with a shotgun wound. As with Alex Bradley, this would entail two incursions by soldiers into City Cabs, one of which we are sure happened from Patrick O’Donnell’s accounts, but which Frankie Boyle somehow failed to notice or remember. As with Alex Bradley, we consider that time has distorted Frankie Boyle’s memory.

Mary McCourt

114.27 Mary McCourt gave us an account of a scuffle while she was in the City Cabs office, when a soldier came in, possibly followed by another. She told us she recalled leaving the office and getting into a car full of people sitting on top of one another. There was a young fella who was also in the back of the car. Someone said that he had been shot in the shoulder. She recalled blood running down his forehead and had a vague memory that someone had brought him out of the taxi office. The man kept repeating Me Ma will kill me because I’ve lost my shoes. The wounded man was dropped off at a first aid post in the Creggan.1

1 AM501.4; Day 409/8

114.28 Mary McCourt had described the man as young and in his twenties. Asked in her oral evidence to this Inquiry if he could have been 40, her reply was Well, I remember he was no teenager anyway”.1

1 Day 409/12

114.29 In our view Mary McCourt saw Patrick O’Donnell. To our minds it is too much of a coincidence that two people, one Patrick O’Donnell, both with bleeding head wounds and shotgun injuries to the shoulder, should be taken from City Cabs to a first aid post at the Creggan. The fact that she may have recalled the man as being young and remembered a remark, as Alex Bradley did, about losing a shoe or shoes, does not to our minds change this view. It was clearly a chaotic situation: it would be only too easy afterwards to recall mistaken impressions and to misascribe remarks made by one person to another.