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Bloody Sunday families tell of relief as Soldier F case reaches court

Soldier F is to be charged with the murder of William McKinney and James Wray Credit: Pacemaker

The case of Soldier F, the former paratrooper facing a murder trial over Bloody Sunday, has been heard in a courtroom for the first time.

At the brief hearing at Londonderry Magistrates' Court, a lawyer representing the former paratrooper, confirmed he would be challenging the attempt to send him to Crown Court trial by calling witnesses at a mixed committal hearing.

The case was adjourned to December 4 to allow defence and prosecution to prepare for the committal proceedings.

District Judge Barney McElholm granted an interim anonymity order to continue the protection of the accused's identity.

He said he accepted it would "take some time" before the committal could proceed. District Judge McElholm said:

"It's important that this is all done with a degree of fairness to all concerned in these matters."

Soldier F was not required to attend court at this stage of the criminal proceedings and was represented on Wednesday by his legal team.

Soldier F also faces five attempted murder charges in relation to the shootings in Londonderry on January 20, 1972.

The decision to prosecute the ex-paratrooper was announced by the Northern Ireland Public Prosecution Service in March.

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

Relatives make their way towards the courthouse in Londonderry Credit: Pacemaker

Before the hearing relatives of Bloody Sunday victims gathered together in the Diamond area of the city before walking together towards the courthouse.

Outside court, Mr McKinney's brother Mickey said: "This is a very significant event for us on the journey towards achieving the third and final demand of the Bloody Sunday justice campaign - the prosecution of a soldier for murder and attempted murder on Bloody Sunday."

Liam Wray, the brother of James Wray, said it was a "historic day".< He added: "I am very nervous this morning.

"We are glad and relieved that his day has arrived, it's been 47-and-a-half years."