The death of a former soldier facing potential prosecution over the Bloody Sunday shootings highlights the need to achieve closure swiftly, a sister of one of the victims has said.
Families of those bereaved when British Paratroopers opened fire on civil rights protestors on the streets of Londonderry in January 1972 have been told one of 18 soldiers under investigation has died.
An evidence file on soldier N, a lieutenant in the Parachute Regiment at the time of the shootings, had been under consideration by prosecutors in Northern Ireland, with a decision on whether to pursue a criminal case due next month.
Decisions on the other 17 soldiers – and two former members of the Official IRA who were also involved in Bloody Sunday – are still expected in late February.
It is understood Lieutenant N was not under investigation in relation to any of the fatalities. The landmark Saville public inquiry found he was responsible for shooting and wounding 25-year-old Mickey Bridge – a claim the ex-Paratrooper had denied.
“Obviously we are very disappointed because we want to see these soldiers in court,” she said.
“What can you expect after all these years? We are all getting old. I am almost 70 myself.
“It’s what we have come to expect, that this could happen.”
Ms Nash warned against any unnecessary delays in pursuing the rest of the cases.
“If they decided they are going to prosecute then that’s going to take a couple of years more to get them to trial,” she said.
“There are concerns that I might not be here to see it and it would be very important to me. Probably a lot of the families have those same concerns.
“Let’s get things started and get things going, we have waited 47 years so it would be good to finally put this to rest.”
A number of other soldiers who were on the ground in Derry on Bloody Sunday have also since died.
Mickey McKinney, whose brother – also called William – was killed, said he hoped the soldier’s death would not hold up progress with the other cases.
“To those who are directly involved with soldier N’s actions on the day, I am sure they would have liked to have seen this guy in court – I would have liked to see them all in court,” he said.
Mr McKinney said important witnesses had also died since the murder investigation was launched.
He added: “This soldier who was involved on the day is not there anymore. I believe the PPS (Public Prosecution Service) still has to come up with their findings, leaving him out of the equation now.”
Thirteen people were shot dead by soldiers on Bloody Sunday. A 14th died four months later in hospital.
The murder investigation was launched in 2012.
It was initiated after the Government-commissioned inquiry, undertaken by Lord Saville, found none of the victims was posing a threat to soldiers when they were shot.
Following the publication of the Saville report in 2010, then prime minister David Cameron apologised for the Army’s actions, branding them “unjustified and unjustifiable”.