Col Tim Collins’ claim that he found Bloody Sunday rifles in Sierra Leone, after the MOD had said they were destroyed, was picked up by the Belfast papers today.
The Belfast Telegraph has the reaction from John Kelly of the Bloody Sunday families:
"If this is one of the rifles used in Bloody Sunday then it is vital evidence. It could be one of the murder weapons," he said.
"Are the MoD lying? Somebody is lying.
"If Tim Collins has proof of this then he should make himself available to the inquiry," he said.
John Kelly’s brother Michael was one of those killed with the missing rifles.
The Guardian noted the significance of the guns in its report on their disappearance in March 2000.
Examination of the rifles now would have thrown light on the ramifications of Major-General Robert Ford’s controversial memo three weeks before Bloody Sunday. He was in day-to-day command of troops in Northern Ireland, and was in Londonderry on Bloody Sunday. Maj-Gen Ford recommended that rioters should be shot, and suggested modifying rifles to fire smaller bullets less likely to cause what he termed collateral damage. It is known he had 30 of the rifles sent to Londonderry for training purposes. It is unclear if any were used on Bloody Sunday.
The operation Col Collins describes would have happened towards the end of that year.