A former British soldier charged with the attempted murder of a man shot dead in County Tyrone in 1974 attended a rally in London today in support of another former serviceman facing trial for killing civilians in Northern Ireland.
Dennis Hutchings, who earlier this week pleaded not guilty by video link to the attempted murder of John Patrick Cunningham in County Tyrone, was in London this afternoon to take part in the demonstration.
The 74-year-old former member of the Life Guards Regiment was excused this week by the court from travelling from his home in Cornwall to Belfast due to ill health.
Former British soldier Dennis Hutchings, pictured, stood on an armoured personnel carrier during a protest in support of Soldier F, who is charged with the murder of two civilians in the Bogside on Bloody Sunday in January 30, 1972
Hutchings, who is a former member of the Life Guard regiment, appeared by video link in court in Belfast earlier this week where he denied the attempted murder of John Pat Cunningham, 27, who was shot in the back in Benburb, Co Tyrone in 1974. The court allowed Hutchings to appear by video link as he was too unwell to attend in person
He denies the attempted murder of John Pat Cunningham, 27, who had learning difficulties, and was shot in the back as he ran away from an Army patrol near Benburb, County Tyrone.
Hutchins today waved at well wishers from the top of an armoured personnel carrier during the rally in support of Soldier F.
Soldier H is charged with murdering two unarmed civilians during the Bloody Sunday shootings in Derry’s Bogside on January 30, 1972.
Hundreds of protestors have taken to the streets of London to march against the prosecution of ‘Soldier F’, charged with murdering two people during Bloody Sunday in 1972.
John Pat Cunningham, 27, who had learning difficulties, was shot in the back by a British Army patrol in Benburb, Co Tyrone in 1974
The case has been described as ‘one of the crimes of the century’ by the organiser of a mass protest in London today.
500 people with flags and ‘support Soldier F’ t-shirts had gathered in Trafalgar Square by 11am, with the march due to set off for Westminster at 12pm.
Former servicemen and hundreds of supporters formed a human chain around Westminster for the Rolling Thunder demonstrations on Saturday.
Soldier F, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is the only person from the 1st Battalion Parachute Regiment ever to face trial for the deaths of 13 civil rights protesters and one passerby in Derry in January 1972.
He is charged with the murder of William McKinney, 27, and 22-year-old James Wray, and the attempted murder of four other men – Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe Mahon and Patrick O’Donnell.
He faces a final charge of ‘attempted murder of a person or persons unknown’.
Demonstrators gather in Trafalgar Square, London as part of a ‘Rolling Thunder’ protest for Soldier F. It has been described as ‘one of the crimes of the century’
Gavin Wragg spoke as former servicemen and hundreds of supporters formed a human chain around Westminster on Saturday Pictured: Demonstrators walk down Whitehall in London
A convoy of motorbikes drive along the M1 motorway towards central London on Saturday
Soldier F learned he was to be prosecuted in March of this year and the case is currently in its preliminary stages in Northern Ireland, and the decision by the Northern Irish authorities sparked outrage in Britain.
By 10.30am on Saturday morning around 500 people with flags and ‘support Soldier F’ t-shirts had gathered in Trafalgar Square, with the march due to set off for Westminster at 12pm.
Organiser Gavin Mr Wragg, 56, said: ‘I got more and more enraged by it and I made a Facebook video saying we need people to come together and show this is wrong because so many people don’t know.’
The inquiry found Mr Wray had been shot in the back while fleeing and that he was shot a second time as he lay dying, while Mr McKinney was also shot in the back
By 10.30am on Saturday morning around 500 people with flags and ‘support Soldier F’ t-shirts had gathered in Trafalgar Square
Hundreds gathered in Trafalgar Square as they marched down Whitehall and past Downing street
Mr Wragg said the protest was not targeted at the families of the victims but said the relatives of the British soldiers killed in Northern Ireland had also never received justice. Pictured: a convoy of motorbikes
Mr Wragg, who served with the Royal Transport Corp for 10 years, has dubbed the movement ‘Operation Rolling Thunder’ and a protest in April saw 11,000 people including several biker gangs take to the streets in London.
‘It’s appeasement by the British government, it’s just to appease the IRA – we’ve got a peace process with Northern Ireland and all the terrorists were pardoned, they were all set free for the horrific crimes they committed.
‘Now we are suddenly prosecuting only British soldiers.’
He added: ‘You either have a peace agreement for all or nobody.’
Mr Wragg said the protest was not targeted at the families of the victims but said the relatives of the British soldiers killed in Northern Ireland had also never received justice.
The Saville Report found that an ‘opportunistic’ sniper shot had been fired at British soldiers by an IRA member at around 4pm. Pictured: Protesters with tanks walk down Whitehall
Protesters wave flags as they march past Downing Street on Saturday during the demonstration
Soldier F, who is now in his 70s, is not present on the march and has chosen not to get involved in the movement
He said he believed in the right to peaceful protest but emphasised that shots had been fired at British troops during the build-up to the Bloody Sunday killings.
The Saville Report found that an ‘opportunistic’ sniper shot had been fired at British soldiers by an IRA member at around 4pm, but no-one was hit and the bullet lodged in a drain pipe.
Stones and other projectiles were also found to have been thrown by rioters.
‘We understand the feelings of the people of Northern Ireland – they were innocent people – but to say five soldiers are to blame for everything, that’s just scapegoating,’ Mr Wragg said.
Soldier F, who is now in his 70s, is not present on the march and has chosen not to get involved in the movement.
Motorbikes drive down Whitehall in London as part of a ‘Rolling Thunder’ protest for Soldier F