Former honorary commandant of Parachute Regiment ‘never saw anything illegal’

A former honorary commandant of the Parachute Regiment has said he never saw anything illegal during his years with them.

Sir Geoffrey Howlett, 89, did not accept that there were “thugs, bullies or psychopaths” within a battalion which he was in charge of in west Belfast in 1971.

He called the account of the Regiment’s culture “revoltingly untrue”.

On Monday he gave evidence to an inquest into the deaths of 10 men in Ballymurphy in August 1971.

The general said he had no knowledge of many allegations put to him by counsel for the families of the victims, Barry Macdonald QC.

He called some of the material “cloud cuckoo” territory.

Sir Geoffrey said: “I saw them being rough but I never saw them doing anything that I believed was disgraceful or illegal.

“I would have stopped it if I did.”

The families’ barrister quoted from memoirs by a former paratrooper, Nigel Mumford, recounting alleged mistreatment.

Mr Macdonald said: “It is suggested that you knew and encouraged brutal behaviour on the part of your soldiers.”

Sir Geoffrey responded: “Absolute rubbish and it is totally contrary to everything that I have done in my life.

“I don’t accept any of it.”

The book said some people were made to think they would be hung by the soldiers, the lawyer told the inquest in Belfast.

A wounded person on a stretcher was thrown up in the air several times, hitting the ceiling, according to the contested account.

Sir Geoffrey said: “I don’t have any knowledge of it and I don’t believe it. I was not there.”

He denied and said it was rubbish that he encouraged most of the treatment.

“It is highly if not totally exaggerated in order to sell his book.”

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