A first and only paratrooper faces prosecution over Northern Ireland’s 1972 Bloody Sunday shootings.

Soldier F - whose identity has been concealed amid fears of reprisals - will be charged with two murders and four attempted murders, it has been announced.

His case brings comes nearly half a century after a first investigation in to 13 deaths at the hands of the British Army that has now been widely dismissed as a whitewash.

And it follows the independent Saville Report which a decade ago found that paratroopers had shot 28 innocent people, killing 13 immediately, and then lying about their actions.

Soldier F, will face charges for the murders of James Wray and William McKinney and the attempted murders of Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe Mahon and Patrick O’Donnell in Londonderry in 1972.

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However, 16 other former soldiers and two suspected ex-members of the Official IRA, all of whom were also investigated as part of a major police murder probe, will not face prosecution, the Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service said.

The prosecutors’ decision provoked a bittersweet response from the families of victims, who gathered to give their reaction in Derry’s Guildhall.

John Kelly, whose 17-year-old brother Michael was among those killed, said many had received a “terrible disappointment”.

But he welcomed the positive news for the six families impacted by the decision to prosecute soldier F.

“Their victory is our victory,” he said.

“We have walked a long journey since our fathers and brothers were brutally slaughtered on the streets of Derry on Bloody Sunday, over that passage of time all the parents of the deceased have died - we are here to take their place.”

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Mr Kelly highlighted there were legal means of challenging the decisions not to prosecute. “The Bloody Sunday families are not finished yet,” he said.

Thirteen civil rights demonstrators were shot dead on January 30 1972, on one of the most notorious days of the Northern Ireland Troubles.

Historians believe the event - in the early years of the three-decade-long conflict - contributed hugely to later bloodshed.

An image of a Catholic priest waving a bloodstained handkerchief as he tried to help a victim to safety went around the world.

Commentators have long expressed concern that it would be difficult for some of those suspected, all of whom are elderly, to get a fair trail such a long time after events.


READ MORE: Timeline from Bloody Sunday tragedy to ‘justice'

Northern Ireland’s director of public prosecutions, Stephen Herron said: “It has been concluded that there is sufficient available evidence to prosecute one former soldier, Soldier F, for the murder of James Wray and William McKinney, and for the attempted murders of Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe Mahon and Patrick O’Donnell.

“In respect of the other 18 suspects, including 16 former soldiers and two alleged Official IRA members, it has been concluded that the available evidence is insufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction. In these circumstances the evidence Test for Prosecution is not met.”

As well as the 13 who died on the day, 15 others were shot and injured. One of the injured died months later from an inoperable tumour and some consider him the 14th fatality.

The soldiers were members of a support company of the 1st Battalion Parachute Regiment.

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Prosecutors had been considering evidence in relation to counts of murder, attempted murder and causing grievous injury with intent.

A public inquiry conducted by a senior judge shortly after the deaths was branded a whitewash by victims’ families and a campaign was launched for a new public inquiry.

Relatives sought to right the wrongs of false claims that their loved ones had been armed.

A fresh probe was eventually ordered by then prime minister Tony Blair in 1998.

A decade-long investigation by Lord Saville of Newdigate concluded that the troops killed protesters who posed no threat, and seriously criticised the decision to send them into the Bogside estate in vehicles.

Following the inquiry’s conclusion in 2010, then prime minister David Cameron said the killings were “unjustified and unjustifiable”.

READ MORE: Few British Troubles veterans face prospect of Northern Ireland justice

A murder investigation by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) followed the £195 million inquiry and files on 18 soldiers were submitted to prosecutors in 2016 and 2017 for consideration. One has since died.

Four other soldiers included in the Saville Report died before police had completed their investigation.

Papers before prosecutors included 668 witness statements and numerous photos, video and audio evidence.

Prosecutors were not allowed to use evidence given by soldiers to the Saville inquiry.

It was not bound by strict rules of admissibility of evidence that criminal proceedings are governed by. The PPS could not rely on the same evidence for criminal proceedings - and effectively had to prove the cases afresh.

Lord Saville on Thursday said his inquiry was only designed to “find out what happened”.

Questions are now being raised about where Soldier F could be tried - and by whom.

Most pundits predict he would be in the dock at Belfast Crown Court, rather than Derry’s, because it has higher security and has handled other legacy trials.

There is also doubt about whether a Northern Irish jury would decide the fate of Soldier F, or a judge sitting alone, as was the case for most Troubles-era cases.