Bloody Sunday victim’s brother won’t attend Solider F trial if venue is moved

The brother of a man killed on Bloody Sunday has vowed to stay away from the trial of the veteran charged with his murder if the case is moved to Belfast.

Liam Wray, whose brother was shot dead, has written to a district judge urging him to hold the case involving “Soldier F” in Londonderry – the city where the shootings happened.

The ex-paratrooper is accused of murdering Liam Wray and William McKinney on January 30, 1972 when troops opened fire on civil rights demonstrators.

He also stands accused of the attempted murders of Patrick O’Donnell, Joseph Friel, Joe Mahon and Michael Quinn. He faces a seventh supporting charge of the attempted murder of a person or persons unknown on the day.

Ahead of the latest review hearing on Friday, Mr Wray wrote to judge Barnie McElholm, with the support of Mr McKinney’s family and other relatives, asking him to hold the case in the city where the shootings happened.

Liam Wray (left) and Mickey McKinney outside Bishop Street courthouse in Derry
Liam Wray (left) and Mickey McKinney outside Bishop Street courthouse in Derry

He said if the case was moved the families would make their own decisions on whether they would attend. But he insisted he would not be there.

“If it takes part in Belfast Liam Wray will not be attending, that’s how serious we are about it,” he said.

The initial hearings in the case have taken place in Bishop Street courthouse in Derry, a short distance from the Bogside, where the Bloody Sunday killings happened.

The court authorities have yet to decide where to hold the substantive proceedings, with the option of having the committal hearing and any potential future trial in Belfast.

At a previous review hearing last month, judge McElholm indicated that the case could be moved to Belfast due to security concerns over holding it in Derry.

On Friday, the judge noted that he had received the letter from Mr Wray stating the families’ case.

“We have taken clear note of what’s said in this letter,” he said.

The judge said the rights of everyone involved in the case – defendant and the families – had to be balanced when deciding on the venue and the timings of future hearings.

He noted none of them were “getting any younger”.

Bloody Sunday prosecutions
Bloody Sunday prosecutions

Mr McElholm added: “As Mr Wray rightly points out in his letter, justice must not only be done but be seen to be done.”

A decision on the venue and timing of future hearings had been due on Friday but it was adjourned for two further weeks due to the unavailability of a barrister.

After the hearing, Mr Wray, flanked by Mr McKinney’s brother Mickey, stated why they felt it was so important to keep the case in Derry.

“The families and the vast majority of witnesses, as we understand, are from Derry and it would be an awful toll for them to have to come up and down from Belfast – possibly a round trip of four-and-a-half to five hours every day – with all the stresses involved, the age of the people involved,” he said.

“Derry is the venue, it should be the venue, that’s where this awful, awful event happened, this is where the people who witnessed it – tens of thousands of people – are from. It should be here.”