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Report of the The Bloody Sunday Inquiry
- Volume VII - Chapter 145


Chapter 145: Conclusions

145.1 The evidence of those who said that they were with Gerald Donaghey on Bloody Sunday before he was shot was to the effect that he was not carrying nail bombs while they were with him. It is possible that these witnesses simply did not notice that Gerald Donaghey had heavy and bulky objects in his pockets. However, on balance (and making the assumption that these witnesses were telling us the truth), we consider that if Gerald Donaghey was in possession of the nail bombs when he was shot in Abbey Park, then he probably acquired them after he had been separated from the last of his companions in Glenfada Park North and shortly before he was shot. If the bombs were planted on him, we are sure that this could only have happened at the Bridge Camp after Corporal 150 had seen the Medical Officer (Captain 138) examine Gerald Donaghey, had moved the car and had left the scene; and before the report of the discovery of a nail bomb was radioed to Brigade Headquarters at 1650 hours and to the RUC Communications Centre at Victoria Barracks shortly thereafter.

145.2 We have already expressed the view that no nail bombs were visible or identifiable when Gerald Donaghey was carried into 10 Abbey Park, tended there, or carried to the car and driven to Barrier 20 in Barrack Street, for had this been the case, one at least of the civilians there would have noticed and the nail bombs would have been removed. However, we are far from certain whether at these stages any of the nail bombs later found in Gerald Donaghey’s pockets would have been visible or identifiable had they been on him all along. Thus we cannot conclude on this basis and without more that they must have been planted on him.

145.3 There is evidence, to which we have referred above, that one or more of these civilians would have been bound to have noticed heavy and bulky objects in Gerald Donaghey’s pockets had such objects been there, but that they did not do so. Again, however, for the reasons we have given, we remain unsure about this.

145.4 In these circumstances we cannot exclude the possibility that there were nail bombs out of sight in Gerald Donaghey’s pockets, and that these objects, heavy and bulky as they were, were not noticed by witnesses who were faced with an emergency and whose overriding concern was not to note or examine the contents of Gerald Donaghey’s pockets but to try to save his life.

145.5 So far as the position at the Bridge Camp is concerned, there is no evidence of any kind that indicates that any soldier or soldiers present there could have planted the nail bombs and, in our view, any suggestion to the contrary is unsustainable.

145.6 There remain therefore the police officers at the Bridge Camp.

145.7 The proposition that one or more of the police officers planted the bombs on Gerald Donaghey runs into a number of difficulties.

145.8 In the first place, as we have already observed, it would seem that any plan to plant bombs would have had to have been hatched, at least in outline, well before Gerald Donaghey arrived at the Bridge Camp, and probably before Bloody Sunday. One or more of the officers would have had to have prepared or obtained the nail bombs (one of which appeared to be some weeks old) and brought them to the Detention Centre, which was a temporary facility. Both Sergeant Vernon Carson’s report to the Station Sergeant and Inspector Harry Dickson’s report to the Superintendent suggest that they were only detailed for duty at the Detention Centre on the morning of Bloody Sunday; and to our minds this was probably the case with the other police officers.1It seems an unlikely coincidence that all the police officers detailed for duty there on the day would have been part of a pre-existing conspiracy to plant bombs, which means that the bombs would have had to be hidden from the view of those not in the plot. It also seems to us unlikely that a plan to plant nail bombs was first conceived on the morning of Bloody Sunday, for this would have involved obtaining or preparing nail bombs at very short notice. Thus, we consider that if there was a plan it could only have been to obtain or prepare nail bombs in advance so that they could be planted when an opportunity arose; and that such an opportunity was thought to have arisen when one or more of the parties to the plan was detailed for duty at the Detention Centre. What motive could have existed for making such a plan is to our minds a matter of mere speculation.

1 JC6.1; JD3.1

145.9 In the second place, we find it hard to imagine what the details of the plan could have been. The police had no reason to suppose or expect that a dead civilian would be brought to the Bridge Camp in circumstances that would allow a bomb or bombs to be planted without detection, and so could hardly have planned in advance to plant bombs on a corpse. If the plan was to plant nail bombs on a live person or persons, this must have been changed or abandoned for some reason, since other civilians were brought to the Bridge Camp that afternoon. Furthermore, while it might have been physically possible to plant nail bombs on one or more civilians during an interview or interviews, it is difficult to see how the police officer or officers doing this could have planned or expected to get away with such conduct without at least raising suspicions.

145.10 In the third place, as we have already observed, the suggested motives for planting the nail bombs are to our minds unsustainable.

145.11 In the fourth place, to place one or more nail bombs on a body in a car at the Bridge Camp, with soldiers as well as police around, would in our view run a serious risk of being discovered.

145.12 In the fifth place, if the intention was to plant incriminating evidence on a civilian, one bomb would have sufficed. The placing of four bombs into pockets that on any view were far from voluminous would necessarily have taken substantially longer than placing one and would thus have added unnecessarily to the already serious risk of being discovered.

145.13 We have found nothing that suggests to us that there was a bomb-planting conspiracy involving two or more police officers, or that there was any attempt by police officers to cover up what they believed or suspected had been done.

145.14 No attempt was made by those submitting that the nail bombs were planted to identify the particular individual or individuals alleged to be responsible.

145.15 We have found nothing that suggests to us that Woman Constable Clara Hamilton might have planted the nail bombs and it was not suggested to her that she had done so. As to Sergeant Carson, it could be suggested that the accounts that he gave differ significantly from almost all the other available evidence, since he claimed responsibility for the discovery of a nail bomb; since he said that the driver of the car had identified himself and had been shown the bomb; and since (in his written statement for the Widgery Inquiry) he recorded that he had been handed the remains of the nail bombs when they had been dismantled by Captain 127 and had himself packaged them. In addition, Sergeant Carson had, as he told the Widgery Inquiry, access to explosives.

145.16 In our view, however, these matters neither indicate that Sergeant Carson gave knowingly untruthful accounts nor provide any sound basis for suggesting that he planted the nail bombs.

145.17 None of the other witnesses denied, or was in a position to deny, that Sergeant Carson went to the car, looked at the body and saw a nail bomb. It seems to us that the most likely explanation of what happened is that Woman Constable Hamilton went to the car, found the nail bomb and went to report her discovery, without Sergeant Carson being aware of what she had done and found. On this basis there is nothing sinister in Sergeant Carson’s accounts of discovering the nail bomb.

145.18 We have already pointed out the possibility that Sergeant Carson had mistakenly assumed that Lance Corporal 104 (who drove Joe Friel to the Bridge Camp) was the driver of the car containing Gerald Donaghey. In any event, it is difficult to see what purpose would have been served by Sergeant Carson dishonestly, as opposed to mistakenly, identifying the soldier as the one who had driven Gerald Donaghey. To tell such a lie would tend to attract suspicion rather than help to cover up what he had done.

145.19 As we have also pointed out, it is possible that Captain 127 did hand the remains of the nail bombs to Sergeant Carson in the car park for delivery to Detective Sergeant Eugene McTeggart at the Bridge Camp, with each treating Sergeant Carson as the agent of the other. As to Sergeant Carson’s original statement that he wrapped the remains of the nail bombs, this was something he corrected in his evidence to the Widgery Inquiry.

145.20 Sergeant Carson did indeed tell that Inquiry that he had access to explosives, though he said that he was not an explosives expert and, to us, that he would not have been allowed to take explosives away from the quarries where he was carrying out what he described as his administrative duties.

145.21 In these circumstances we are not persuaded that there is anything in the accounts of Sergeant Carson, or indeed of the others at the Bridge Camp, that indicates that he was responsible for planting the nail bombs. Owing to his death, it was not possible to question Sergeant Carson about these matters. He therefore had no opportunity to deal with them in detail by giving oral evidence; and we had no opportunity to see him and assess his credibility.

145.22 As to the other police officers, we have found nothing that to our minds indicates that any of them might have been responsible for planting the bombs.

145.23 On the available evidence as a whole, we have concluded that the following is the sequence of events most likely to have occurred after Corporal 150 arrived at the Bridge Camp with the body of Gerald Donaghey in the back of the car. Shortly after the car arrived, the Medical Officer (Captain 138) examined Gerald Donaghey and concluded that he was dead. Captain 138 covered the body with the blanket and then went to examine the other casualties, while Corporal 150 moved the car. At this stage Woman Constable Hamilton went to the car, discovered what she thought was a nail bomb in Gerald Donaghey’s pocket and went to report to Detective Sergeant McTeggart what she had found. Not knowing of this discovery Sergeant Carson then went to the car and himself discovered the nail bomb, with Lance Corporal 104 nearby. Shortly afterwards the discovery of the nail bomb was reported and the ATO called.

145.24 Despite the foregoing, we cannot wholly eliminate the possibility that the nail bombs were planted at the Bridge Camp. Thus this possibility falls to be weighed against what we regard as the only other possibility, namely that despite the accounts of those who tended to Gerald Donaghey after he had been shot and of the others who were there and who accompanied him in the car, the nail bombs were in Gerald Donaghey’s pockets when he was shot, but were out of view; and that no-one noticed then or thereafter that there were heavy and bulky objects in his pockets, being concerned instead with the grave injury that Gerald Donaghey had sustained and the need to get him to hospital without delay.

145.25 In the end, we have concluded that the difficulties with the possibility that the nail bombs were planted at the Bridge Camp outweigh the difficulties with the possibility that they were in Gerald Donaghey’s pockets when he was shot. Since to our minds these are on the evidence the only two viable possibilities, it follows on this basis that in our view Gerald Donaghey was probably in possession of the nail bombs when he was shot.

145.26 It remains to say, for reasons given elsewhere in this report,1that Gerald Donaghey was not shot because of his possession of nail bombs; nor did anyone at any stage suggest otherwise. He was, in our view and again for the reasons that we have given, shot by Private G who neither had, nor believed that he had, any justification for firing the shot that mortally wounded Gerald Donaghey. It is likely that Gerald Donaghey was trying to escape from the soldiers when he was shot.

1 Paragraph 112.61