Chapter 144: Other alleged indications that the nail bombs had been planted
144.1 In their submissions, the legal representatives of Gerald Donaghey’s family list eight pieces of what they describe as powerful circumstantial evidence in support of the proposition that the nail bombs were planted.1
144.2 Among these were the composition and construction of the nail bombs, the failure to send samples of the explosives to DIFS, the failure to question Raymond Rogan and Hugh Leo Young about nail bombs and the failure to photograph more than one nail bomb on Gerald Donaghey’s body. We have already considered these points and, for the reasons that we have given, are not persuaded that they provide evidence that the nail bombs were planted. As to the remainder, our views are as follows.
144.3 In the first place, it was suggested that the evidence regarding the “discovery ” of a nail bomb was bizarre, contradictory and unreliable.1
144.4 We have set out and considered this evidence earlier in this part of the report. We would not ourselves describe the evidence as “bizarre ” and to categorise it as unreliable comes close to assuming what is sought to be proved. However, as will have been observed, there are undoubtedly inconsistencies and contradictions.
144.5 If there had been a conspiracy between a number of police officers to plant nail bombs on Gerald Donaghey, it might be expected that they would have made better efforts to ensure that their accounts tallied. However, it is not always the case that conspirators intend to produce consistent accounts or succeed in doing so.
144.6 If a lone individual planted the bombs, then it could be said that inconsistencies and contradictions in the evidence of others are neither here nor there. However, this takes no account of the possibility that one or more of those not directly involved learned or suspected that one of their colleagues had planted the nail bombs and that the inconsistencies and contradictions in their evidence were the product of attempts to cover up what they knew or suspected. In addition, such an argument assumes that the only suspect has been identified, for otherwise the inconsistencies or contradictions might assist in identifying the culprit.
144.7 In our view the question is whether the nature of the inconsistencies and contradictions is such as to indicate that the witnesses concerned either took part in the bomb planting, or knew or suspected from an early stage that one or more of their colleagues had done so.
144.8 We are not persuaded that this is the case. As we have pointed out when considering the evidence, some at least of the apparent inconsistencies and contradictions might well have a simple and innocent explanation, while to our minds the others are, at worst, no more likely to be evidence of a conspiracy or cover-up than a failure properly to recall events. We return to this point below.
144.9 In the second place, reliance was placed on “The fact that the police and/or army had motive, opportunity and access to the relevant materials to enable them to plant nail bombs ”.1
144.10 So far as motive is concerned, the submission was:1
“There can be no doubt that the security forces had a powerful motivation for planting nail bombs on the body of Gerard Donaghey who had been murdered by the army. We know that the army case at the time was that all those who were shot and wounded were either gunmen or bombers and being able to point to at least one of the deceased being in possession of a nail bomb would help to support their false case. At the very least it would provide convenient propaganda – see, for example, statement of the Irish Government at . ”and Inspector Dickson at
144.11 To our minds there is a fundamental objection to this submission, which is that it assumes that those at the Bridge Camp knew (or at least suspected) that Gerald Donaghey had been murdered by the Army, that “the army case at the time ” was that all those who were shot and wounded were either gunmen or bombers and that accordingly it would assist that false case to plant nail bombs on Gerald Donaghey.
144.12 For the reasons that we have given, we are sure that any planting of nail bombs could only have taken place at the Bridge Camp and that the first nail bomb must have been discovered no later than about 1650 hours. Those at the Bridge Camp might have learned from earlier RUC or Army transmissions that soldiers had fired shots in the Bogside and that a number of civilians had been injured or killed; and might well have assumed or suspected that Gerald Donaghey had been shot by the Army. But those at the Bridge Camp could have had no more reason to suppose that Gerald Donaghey had been shot without justification than that his shooting was justified, nor could they have had any idea of what had actually happened in the Bogside, let alone have known or suspected that the soldiers were going to contend that Gerald Donaghey was shot because he had nail bombs.
144.13 As to the suggestion that the planting of nail bombs would provide “convenient propaganda ”, it seems to us that the same objections apply, since the “propaganda ” would only be “convenient ” on the assumption that it was known or suspected that the soldiers had fired without justification. There had been frequent nail bomb attacks in the city in the recent past, so that there was no other need for such propaganda.
144.14 There is a further consideration. If the nail bombs were planted at the Bridge Camp, they must have been obtained or prepared beforehand and brought to the Bridge Camp with some object in mind, which would have required some degree of pre-planning and which would push the time for motivation back even further. We return to this point below.
144.15 As to opportunity, Detective Sergeant Eugene McTeggart agreed that the security forces would have had the opportunity to plant nail bombs on Gerald Donaghey.1However, this really only states the obvious. Clearly the security forces had such an opportunity, in the sense that the car carrying Gerald Donaghey was brought to the Bridge Camp, which was manned by soldiers and the RUC. The real question is whether such an opportunity was taken.
144.16 As to access, tape and nails were of course readily available. Sergeant Vernon Carson told the Widgery Inquiry that he had access to explosives but denied having any on the day.1Captain 127 would also have had access to explosives, if not complete nail bombs, but since he did not reach the Bridge Camp until after a nail bomb was discovered, and since there was nothing whatever to suggest that he (or indeed his assistant) was in any way complicit with the bomb planter, if such there was, his access to explosives can be disregarded. We should add at this point that we found nothing to suggest that Captain 127 at any stage knew or suspected that the nail bombs had been planted.
144.17 We return to consider Sergeant Carson below.
144.18 In the third place, reliance was placed on what was described as “The fact that there was no attempt or no adequate attempt to preserve the ‘crime-scene’ ” and that there was no fingerprint examination.1
144.19 We have dealt at some length with what was done after the discovery of the nail bomb in Gerald Donaghey’s right trouser pocket. This submission seems to us to assume that it was then or very soon after known or suspected by those who might have been responsible for preserving the scene of a crime that someone had planted a nail bomb on Gerald Donaghey at the Bridge Camp, for otherwise there would be no “crime-scene ”. We have found no evidence that persuades us that there was such knowledge or suspicion on the part of the responsible officers, including in particular Inspector Harry Dickson and the Scenes of Crime Officers, Constable Hugh McCormac and Constable John Montgomery.
144.20 What could be said, however, is that one would expect that police officers presented with the corpse of a young man with a bomb in his pocket would recognise that it was highly likely that one or more serious crimes had been committed by someone, crimes that on the face of it were likely to include the unlawful possession of explosives by the deceased, as well as conspiracy to cause explosions on the part of the deceased and others, quite apart from the possibility that the deceased had been unlawfully killed.
144.21 On this basis it could further be said that the police should have made greater efforts to examine and preserve the available evidence. We do not criticise them for doing nothing at first apart from calling for the ATO, nor do we criticise the ATO for moving the vehicle to the car park, making sure the vehicle was safe, and then removing and dismantling the nail bombs. These in our view were reasonable and prudent first steps to take. However, it seems to us, at least on the basis of modern standards,1that, for example, the car should have been kept for further forensic examination, that at least attempts should have been made to take fingerprints from the car and any other relevant surfaces that might have had fingerprints on them, and that the other occupants of the car should have been questioned about the presence of nail bombs.
1 Warrant Officer Class I Wood pointed out that there were not then the same “crime scene ” procedures “as we have nowadays ” ().
144.22 It can thus be said that there might have been things that the police should have done but failed to do. In our view, however, any such shortcomings are, at worst, no more likely to be evidence of knowledge or suspicion that nail bombs had been planted than an innocent failure to conduct the sort of comprehensive investigation required nowadays.