James Wray and William McKinney who died on Bloody Sunday (Picture: PA).
Northern Ireland

Bloody Sunday: Soldier F Hearing To Be Moved To Belfast Over Security Fears

Soldier F is accused of murdering James Wray and William McKinney.

James Wray and William McKinney who died on Bloody Sunday (Picture: PA).

Cover image: Soldier F is accused of murdering James Wray (left) and William McKinney (right) (Picture: PA).

The first major hearing in the case against a British Army veteran facing murder charges over Bloody Sunday is set to take place in Belfast over security fears.

The judge's decision has angered the families of the victims who believe the former soldier should appear in court in Londonderry.

The accused, known as 'Soldier F', has been granted anonymity and has not entered the dock so far to face charges that he murdered two people during a civil rights demonstration in the city in January 1972. 

Mickey McKinney, whose brother William was shot dead on Bloody Sunday, said: "What happened on Bloody Sunday happened here 200 yards from where we now stand, and Soldier F should be appearing at this courthouse."

A month-long hearing to decide whether to send Soldier F to trial and to assess the evidence against him is due to be held.

District judge Barney McElholm said: "We cannot convene this in just some hall or public space.

"There are considerations of security. We are willing to listen to any reasonable opposition put to us.

"At the moment, despite trying to get somewhere closer to the city, I am afraid Belfast looks like the venue."

Bloody Sunday mural on house in Londonderry
A Bloody Sunday mural in Londonderry.

Bloody Sunday became one of the most notorious incidents of the Northern Ireland Troubles when members of the Parachute Regiment opened fire on a crowd of civil rights demonstrators, killing 13.

Soldier F is accused of murdering James Wray and Mr McKinney.

The former paratrooper 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.

After Friday's hearing, a solicitor for the McKinney family and four wounded victims, Ciaran Shiels, said security concerns could be addressed in the city.

"This is where the killings occurred - a stone's throw from these buildings," he said.

"We have always been of the view that F should be attending here in person at his committal and that remains the position."

Lawyers for the families have two weeks to make submissions to the court challenging the decision to take the hearing to Belfast.

The families of those killed also oppose granting anonymity to Soldier F.

According to Mr Shiels, prosecutors have written to Soldier F's representatives, urging them to set out in detail the law they rely on to justify his continued anonymity.

The case was adjourned until 7 February.