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Report of the The Bloody Sunday Inquiry
- Volume VII - Chapter 139



The explosives

Chapter 139: The explosives

139.1 It was submitted to us by those acting on behalf of the family of Gerald Donaghey thatThe fact that no explosive sample was forwarded to the Northern Ireland Forensic Science Department to enable the source of the explosives to be determinedwas one piece ofpowerful circumstantial evidencethat the nail bombs had been planted on Gerald Donaghey.1

1 FS1.2532-2533

139.2 We do not accept this submission for a number of reasons.

139.3 In the first place, Captain 127 told us, and we accept, that he was not surprised that no explosive sample had reached DIFS,because if I had not been asked to provide some of that explosive, I would not have done so”.1Captain 127 also told us that he would normally have handed over aminute amountof the explosive core to the scenes of crime officers (SOCOs) had they been present.2We are satisfied that there was no SOCO present when Captain 127 dismantled the bombs. It seems likely from the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) report of HQNI that the explosive elements were kept available for scientific testing, at least for a time.3

1 Day 380/194

2 Day 380/192-194

3 B1798.026

139.4 In the second place, we accept the evidence of Peter Gurney, an expert on nail bombs engaged by the Inquiry, that, contrary to the view expressed by Alan Hall who in 1972 was a Senior Scientific Officer at DIFS, it was not normal practice to submit explosive samples from every recovered explosive device:… in my view, it was by no means exceptional not to forward explosive for forensic analysis.1Peter Gurney’s views were based on his own Army experience of procedures in Northern Ireland in the early 1970s and on an examination of EOD reports on 101 unexploded nail bombs dealt with in Northern Ireland between 28th September 1971 and 7th April 1972. His job as an Ammunition Technician involved, among other things, bomb disposal in Northern Ireland, for which he was awarded the George Medal.

1 E18.8.1-22

139.5 In the third place, the submission under consideration assumes that it would have been possible from an examination of the explosives to discover whether they had come from paramilitary or security force sources, or at least that one or more of those whose job it was to decide whether the explosives should be examined resolved that they should not do so because they thought that the source might thereby be traced to the security forces. There was no evidence to support either of these assumptions.

139.6 In the fourth place, an 8th Infantry Brigade intelligence summary dated 2nd February 1972 noted the lack of explosive attacks in the preceding week, and drew the following conclusion:1

Comment. Lack of such attacks by the IRA Brady may be due to a shortage of explosives and/or detonators. This is supported by the fact that three of the four nail bombs, found on a dead body after shooting on 30 Jan, were made with quarex [sic], which is not common here and not an efficient type of explosive for such a purpose.”

1 G108.654

139.7 “IRA Bradywas a reference to the Provisional IRA.

139.8 We have no reason to doubt the accuracy of the intelligence summary in identifying three of the four nail bombs as containing an explosive called Quarrex, though we have no specific evidence to indicate how this information reached those who compiled this report. The explosive used in the other bomb was called Gelamex, as can be seen from the wrapping shown in one of the photographs.

139.9 The intelligence summary described Quarrex asnot common hereand not an efficient type of explosive for nail bombs. Dr John Lloyd (one of the experts retained by this Inquiry) and Peter Gurney agreed that Gelamex would have been more effective.1Alan Hall told us that in the early 1970s Gelamex was the explosivemost commonlyused in such devices and that Quarrex wasnot the common terrorist explosive of the time, although it was usedfrom time to time.2

1 E18.5.2; E18.8.7 2 Day 224/114; Day 224/127

139.10 Peter Gurney’s analysis of EOD reports between September 1971 and April 1972 shows that the reports covered 101 nail bombs made safe during the period, of which five were specifically described as having contained Gelamex, two Quarrex and one both Gelamex and Quarrex. The descriptions of 24 bombs were non-specific or referred to other explosive, and the explosive fillings of 69 bombs were not described. Peter Gurney expressed the view that it appeared from the EOD reports that the type of explosive used was not crucial and that bomb-makers used whatever explosive was available. He pointed out that the EOD reports dealt mainly with bombs that did not explode and so only covered a small percentage of all the bombs that were thrown in the 8th Infantry Brigade area during the period.1

1 E18.8.6

139.11 Both Gelamex and Quarrex were manufactured by two companies, Explosives & Chemical Products Ltd and Irish Industrial Explosives Ltd. Both explosives were used in quarrying and similar work.1The fact that the explosives were identified as Gelamex and Quarrex in our view probably provides the explanation for why they were not examined.

1 E18.5.1-15

139.12 In his written evidence to this Inquiry, PIRA 24 (the Officer Commanding the Derry Brigade of the Provisional IRA on Bloody Sunday) said that he did not recognise the brand name Gelamex and could not remember the name of the commercial explosive that the Provisional IRA used in nail bombs in 1972.1In his oral evidence to this Inquiry he said that he thought that the last time the Provisional IRA had used Quarrex was about a month after internment, in other words in about September 1971, and thatWe could not have kept it good or in a safe condition until Bloody Sunday.2We formed the view that PIRA 24 did not really have any clear recollection of the type of explosive used by the Provisional IRA at the time in question.

1 APIRA24.6 2 Day 427/109-110

139.13 In the light of the evidence we have set out above, we are of the view that the fact that three of the nail bombs contained Quarrex and only one Gelamex does not throw any light on the question as to whether the nail bombs were planted on Gerald Donaghey. We are also of the view that, since the explosives had been identified at an early stage as Quarrex and Gelamex, there was little, if any, point in submitting them to DIFS for further analysis.