Northern Ireland

Soldier F Bloody Sunday case adjourned

William McKinney and James Wray Image copyright Handout/Wray family
Image caption Soldier F is to be charged with the murder of William McKinney and James Wray

The case of the Army veteran facing a murder trial over Bloody Sunday has been adjourned until later this year.

Soldier F was not in Londonderry Magistrates' Court, but 28 members of the Bloody Sunday families watched proceedings from the public gallery.

The Army veteran, now aged in his 60s, faces two counts of murder and five of attempted murder.

The case against the former soldier has been adjourned until 4 December.

Soldier F's legal team told the court it needed time to consider evidence served on him.

His anonymity remains in place by court order.

Image caption Some of the Bloody Sunday families have walked together to Londonderry's courthouse

A prosecution lawyer told the court that committal papers had been served in mid-August and that this was a complex matter involving a significant number of papers.

A lawyer for Soldier F told the court they wanted an adjournment so that the papers containing the evidence could be fully considered.

He said the defence wanted to consider what witnesses would need to appear at a later stage.

He added the defence wanted an anonymity order on Soldier F's identity maintained.

The Solider F cipher had been used since 1972 and was not objected to by the prosecution, he said.

Granting the adjournment, Judge Barney McElholm said it would allow time for the defence to fully consider the voluminous papers in the case and prepare a witness list.

Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption Speaking outside court, William McKinney's brother Mickey said the start of a case was a 'significant event'

It would also allow prosecutors to ascertain their availability, he told the court.

Judge McElholm said it is important there is fairness to all concerned.

'Significant event'

Earlier relatives of those killed and injured on Bloody Sunday walked to Londonderry's court house before the court hearing.

The families marched from the city's Diamond to the Bishop Street court prior to the start of proceedings.

Analysis:

By Julian O'Neill, BBC News NI Home Affairs Correspondent

Courtroom four was crowded for the hearing. Twenty-eight relatives of the Bloody Sunday families occupied every available seat in the public gallery.

In front of them, the glass-sided dock was empty.

As expected, proceedings were opened and quickly adjourned.

Almost 50 years separated this hearing from the events of Bloody Sunday.

The families came to court knowing this would be the start of lengthy process - and this could be the first delay of many.

Soldier F is to be charged with murdering James Wray, 22, and William McKinney, 27.

Speaking outside the court, William McKinney's brother Mickey described the legal proceedings as a " very significant event" in the Bloody Sunday justice campaign.

The attempted murder charges relate to Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe Mahon and Patrick O'Donnell.

A fifth attempted murder charge - not revealed earlier this year - relates to persons unknown.

Image copyright PA/Paul Faith
Image caption Thousands of people took part in the civil rights march in Derry

Thirteen people were killed and 15 wounded when members of the Army's Parachute Regiment opened fire on civil rights demonstrators in Derry on Sunday, 30 January 1972.

The day became known as Bloody Sunday.

The Northern Ireland Public Prosecution Service decided in March that Soldier F, as he was known at the Bloody Sunday public inquiry, would be the only ex-paratrooper to be charged.

The former soldier was served with a court summons in recent weeks.