‘Butcher of the Bogside’ dies
‘Butcher of the Bogside’ dies


News of the death this week of British Army Colonel Derek Wilford prompted reflections on his role in directing the Bloody Sunday massacre, in which 14 nationalist civilians were gunned down in January 1972, as well as calls for his military and political bosses to be exposed.

The Commander of the Parachute Regiment on Bloody Sunday died this week at the age of 90, carrying key details about the truth of the massacre to his grave.

Families of those killed on Bloody Sunday have said the death of Wilford “will not be mourned” by those who lost loved ones.

The Bloody Sunday Trust has said Wilford, who was decorated by the Queen of England not long after the massacre, “lived in a constant state of denial”.

The head of the ‘1 Para’ battalion always maintained his original claim that his soldiers were fired upon on Bloody Sunday, despite the lie being exposed at the Saville Inquiry.

Tony Doherty, Chair of the Bloody Sunday Trust whose father was murdered on Bloody Sunday, said that Wilford “never once accepting any measure of responsibility for his actions on that fateful day.

“History, though, will ensure that his actions that led directly to the deaths of many innocent people which, in turn, led to years of conflict and hardship for our communities, will be properly recognised.

“He left a terrible legacy and will rightly be remembered for that.”

Liam Wray, who lost his brother James, 22, on Bloody Sunday, added: “For his family, I understand there’ll be sorrow.

“I take no delight in his death, but I’ll not be shedding any tears either.”

John Kelly, whose brother Michael was among those shot dead, described him as the “butcher of the Bogside” and “a liar till the end”.

Former BBC journalist Peter Taylor was in Derry on Bloody Sunday and interviewed Wilford a number of times, including as recently as 2019.

He said out of duty, Wilford “had to believe” the claim they were fired upon, even after details emerged about how he coolly gave the order to open fire on the unarmed civilians he described as “targets”.

Following the killings, Wilford was awarded an OBE as a reward for his murderous actions.

It was reported his role in the massacre took a heavy toll on his personal life, his marriage breaking down when his first wife suggested the Bloody Sunday victims may have been shot deliberately.

In 2010, the Saville report found that he ‘ignored orders’ not to send his soldiers into the Bogside on Bloody Sunday. Wilford claimed he had been “betrayed” by his superiors.

Only one soldier, ‘Soldier F’, is now facing prosecution for his role in the killings.

In a statement, the Bloody Sunday March Committee said Wilford was ‘rightly blamed’ for the key role he played in the Bloody Sunday murders.

“Nobody who cares about justice will feel even a twinge of regret at his passing. He had more than half a century after the bloodletting to enjoy life. But the agony of the families of his victims endures to this day.

“It is relevant to point out that Wilford didn’t act on his own. He and the rest of the murder gang had been sent into the Bogside by very senior British Army officers who will have understood exactly what the paras were about to do.

“The guilty men included, among others, General Frank Kitson, General Michael Jackson, Major Ted Loden, etc. It was Kitson who organised the deployment of the paras - who had been based in Belfast – to Derry to ‘police’ the march organised by the NI Civil Rights Association.

“Jackson was the most senior officer present in the Bogside during the shooting. Loden was in command of Support Company, the unit which fired all of the shots which killed or wounded.

“It was Jackson who, just hours after the murders, wrote out in his own hand-writing the British Army’s cover-story about Bogsiders opening fire on the soldiers. Jackson was the top perjurer at the Saville Inquiry. He then ascended the ranks all the way to the very top - Chief of the General Staff.

“It was Ford who has been shown on television at a barricade on William Street shouting “Go on the Paras!” as the killers poured through, running towards Rossville Street to launch the murder spree. We could go listing senior British Army officers directly involved in the killings. Wilford wasn’t a rogue officer acting on his own. A great deal of the truth emerged at the Saville Inquiry. But not all of it.

“What’s left out are the roles of the high-ranking military and political figures who organised the killing and then produced the stream of lies intended to cover it up.

“Half the truth isn’t enough. We are entitled to the whole truth and nothing but the truth. There’s still some way to go before we have the full truth of how Bloody Sunday came about and who made it happen.”

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