The British Army's most senior officer told the Bloody Sunday Inquiry today that he was not involved in a cover-up of the massacre of 13 Irish civil rights demonstrators by British forces in Derry on January 30, 1972. A fourteenth died later from his injuries.
General Mike Jackson was recalled to the Saville Inquiry to face questions on the contents of the hand-written statements he produced in the hours after the killings.
The statements, which only came to light this year, suggest that he played a more significant role on the day than he had previously admitted to.
Jackson, the most senior British Army officer present, has described his role on Bloody Sunday as that of a `gofer' for the Parachute Regiment commander on the ground, Lt Col Derek Wilford.
Within hours of Bloody Sunday, the British Army put out a statement claiming that a number of the victims were on the wanted list, others had been carrying weapons while yet others had nail bombs. No evidence has been found to back any of the claims, all of which have now been traced back to Jackson.
Apparently in anticipation of the overwhelming evidence that there was then a cover-up, Jackson has stated that, ``there is absolutely no question of briefing soldiers as to what they should say. Such a suggestion is absolutely outrageous.''
In his statement to the inquiry, he said: ``If it is to be suggested that there was an attempt by anyone to `sanitise' or otherwise alter a true version of events for any reason, I would emphatically reject such a suggestion.
``I can say with complete certainty that I was not involved in any attempt to distort or cover up what had happened that day and to the best of my knowledge, information and firm belief, nor was anyone else.''
But barrister Mike Mansfield QC said there was a serious question mark over the hand-written list of engagements compiled by Gen Jackson in the hours after Bloody Sunday.
The lawyer said: ``The big question mark, General, in everybody's mind, and it may not have occurred to you, is that this list does not begin to explain any of the 13 civilian dead. Did you know that?''
Gen Jackson replied: ``I am sorry, I simply do not understand the statement you are making. This list refers to people being `hit' and people being `killed'. It makes no attempt here to say civilian or whatever.''
In his statement the general accepted that the names of the soldiers involved and the number of rounds fired by each soldier were not included in the list.
``It must be remembered that this was a reporting process, a totally different process to the investigatory process that would in any event be carried out.''
But Mr Mansfield put to him that the purpose of the list was to justify the actions of Bloody Sunday by claiming the dead were gunmen and bombers.
``General, you only have to glance down the list. The whole point of the list, I suggest originally was in order to justify publicly why people had been shot so they were described as `nail bombers', `pistol firers', `carrying rifles' and so on.
``None of the 13 were carrying nail bombs, none of the 13 were carrying pistols, none of the 13 were carrying rifles, do you follow that?''
Gen Jackson said this was a matter for the tribunal to decide.
NO NAIL-BOMBS - DOCTOR
In other testimony earlier this week, a British Army doctor who twice examined a Bloody Sunday victim allegedly found with nail bombs in his clothing told the Saville Inquiry he did not see any devices on the body.
Captain 138, a former medical officer in the Royal Anglian Regiment, who pronounced 17-year-old Gerald Donaghy dead, said it would have been extraordinary if he had not seen the nail bombs during his examination.
After his body was taken away by the British Army, Mr Donaghy was photographed with four nail bombs poking out of his jacket and trouser pockets.
The medical officer said he has been shown photographs of Mr Donaghy's body, which appear to show a device sticking out of his trousers.
He said: ``I think it highly unlikely that the object shown in the photographs was on the body I examined, as if it was there, I would have probably noticed it.''