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LORD Widgery was suffering from the early stages of senile dementia when he chaired the now discredited 1972 Bloody Sunday inquiry, it has been claimed.

Medical experts believe the former Lord Chief Justice had been in ill-health for over a decade before he died in July 1981.

They say that because of his condition he found it hard to cope with his heavy workload as the country's top judge and also head of the one most controversial inquiries in Northern Ireland's history.

Senior legal sources close to the inquiry also said it was privately known at the time that Lord Widgery was suffering from the onset of Alzheimer's Disease.

Said a senior legal source: "In the last 18 months of office as Lord Chief Justice, he was not in full control of either his legal pronouncements or his administrative duties.''

Lord Widgery also presided over some controversial and major court cases in which his behaviour was questioned.

The new probe opens tomorrow in Derry's Guildhall under the chairmanship of the highly respected Lord Saville, a judge in good health with no Army service record.

It was revealed yesterday that more of the rifles used in Bloody Sunday may still exist. The MoD admitted that 14 of the weapons had been destroyed. But in a reply to Labour MP Kevin McNamara, Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon has now said the information supplied to him by the MoD was wrong.
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Author:Hunter, John
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 26, 2000
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