A British former soldier will face murder charges in connection with the deaths of two civil rights protesters on Bloody Sunday in Northern Ireland more than 40 years ago -- but there is insufficient evidence to prosecute 16 others.
The Public Prosecution Service announced Thursday that there was enough evidence to prosecute the former paratrooper – only identified as “Soldier F” – for the deaths of James Wray and William McKinney.
He will also face attempted murder charges for Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe Mahon and Patrick O’Donnell.
Prosecutors, who also considered files on two former members of the old “Official IRA,” said there was insufficient evidence to prosecute the other 16 former soldiers. One of the soliders has since died.
"I wish to clearly state that where a decision has been reached not to prosecute, that this in no way diminishes any finding by the Bloody Sunday Inquiry that those killed or injured were not posing a threat to any of the soldiers," Stephen Herron, the director of public prosecutions for Northern Ireland, said as he announced the charges. "We recognize the deep disappointment felt by many of those we met with today."
Bloody Sunday was one of the darkest episodes during the unrest in North Ireland known as the Troubles. On Jan. 30, 1972, troopers of the 1st Battalion of the Parachute Regiment fired on unarmed protesters in a civil rights march in Derry, also known as Londonderry. Thirteen people were killed and 15 were wounded.
The charges follow a decade-long investigation that concluded soldiers killed 13 unarmed demonstrators protesting Britain's detention of suspected Irish nationalists.
But the results of the inquiry that concluded in 2010 could not be used in any prosecution, and Thursday's charges resulted from a separate police investigation into the incident.
The investigation into the killings included 668 witness statements, numerous physical exhibits such as photographs, video and audio recordings, and a total of 125,000 pages of material, according to Sky News.
The families of the victims have campaigned for decades for the former soldiers to face justice. They told Sky News on Thursday that they were “disappointed” by the result.
Kate Nash, whose brother William was shot dead and father wounded on Bloody Sunday, said she thinks about her brother – who was 19 at the time – every single day.
"Justice matters to anybody. If you have a family member and something like that happens to them... your brother, your poor dead brother is treated like he never existed, that he wasn't worth justice, what every one of us are entitled to,” she said.
British Defense Minister Gavin Williamson said the government will offer full legal support to “Soldier F” – including paying legal costs and providing welfare support.
"We are indebted to those soldiers who served with courage and distinction to bring peace to Northern Ireland," he said in a statement. "The welfare of our former service personnel is of the utmost importance."
The news of the charges comes amid a police investigation between Metropolitan Police and Police Scotland after letter bombs were sent to three London transportation hubs and a Scottish university last week.
On Monday, authorities said that a media outlet in Northern Ireland received a claim of responsibility from a group calling themselves members of the IRA, referring to the Irish Republican Army, which has been in a cease-fire for years.
All homemade devices – sent to the Waterloo rail station in central London, offices at Heathrow and London City Airports, and the University of Glasgow – had stamps from the Irish Republic and had Dublin as the return address. They also bore stamps issued by Ireland’s post office to mark Valentine’s Day.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.