ONLY one British soldier will face prosecution for the killing of demon-strators on the day that will forever be known as Bloody Sunday.

A total of 13 people were killed and 15 others injured on January 30, 1972 when soldiers of the 1st Battalion of the Parachute Regiment fired on demonstrators during a civil rights march in Derry.

The Bloody Sunday killings became a watershed in the Troubles in Northern Ireland, with many observers saying it acted as a recruitment drive for the IRA.

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) of Northern Ireland said yesterday there was enough evidence to prosecute one soldier, but also stated that there was insufficient evidence to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction for the other 16 former soldiers and two Official IRA members.

The veteran former member of the Parachute Regiment, who will soon be in the courts, can only be identified as soldier F for legal reasons. He will face prosecution for the alleged murders of William McKinney and James Wray and the alleged attempted murders of Joseph Friel, Joe Mahon, Patrick O’Donnel and Michael Quinn.

The Savill Inquiry into Bloody Sunday had previously said that McKinney and Wray had been shot by Soldier F or others. The inquiry concluded that soldiers had lost control in Derry that afternoon. Those who died were “posing a threat of causing death or serious injury”.

After briefing the families about his decision, director of the PPS Stephen Herron said yesterday: “It has been a long road for the families ... and today will be another extremely difficult day for many of them.

“We wanted to meet them personally to explain the decisions taken and to help them understand the reasons.”

UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has already said the Westminster government would offer full legal support to Soldier F, including paying his legal costs.

Williamson said: “We are indebted to those soldiers who served with courage and distinction to bring peace to Northern Ireland. The welfare of our former service personnel is of the utmost importance.”

He added that “the Government will urgently reform the system for dealing with legacy issues, our serving and former personnel cannot live in constant fear of prosecution”.

James Wray’s brother Liam said he was “very saddened for the other families”. He added: “Their hearts must be broken. It has been a sad day but the Wray family are relieved.”

The families had campaigned for decades for prosecutions and Ciaran Shiels, a solicitor for some of them, said it was “a remarkable achievement by the families and victims of Bloody Sunday”. He added: “We are disappointed that not all of those responsible are to face trial.”

That was the general reaction of the families. Linda Nash, sister of victim William Nash, said: “I’m feeling devastated. I just feel let down by a law and a justice system that’s supposed to protect people and bring anybody to book for crimes they’ve committed in the past – and it’s just not happened.

“The most difficult thing I had to do today was to call my children and tell them that there are no prosecutions for their granda and uncle.”