LONDONDERRY, Northern Ireland - Relatives of 13 Catholic demonstrators shot to death by British troops on Northern Ireland's Bloody Sunday cried tears of joy yesterday as an epic fact-finding inquiry ruled that their loved ones were innocent and the soldiers entirely to blame for the 1972 slaughter.

The investigation took 12 years and nearly $290 million, but the victims' families and the British, Irish and U.S. governments welcomed the findings as priceless to heal one of the gaping wounds left from Northern Ireland's four-decade conflict that left 3,700 dead.

Thousands of residents of Londonderry, a predominantly Catholic city long synonymous with Britain's major mass killing from the Northern Ireland conflict, gathered outside the city hall to watch the verdict come in, followed by a lengthy apology from Prime Minister David Cameron in London that moved many locals long distrustful of British leaders.

The probe found that soldiers opened fire without justification at unarmed, fleeing civilians and lied about it for decades, refuting an initial British investigation that branded the demonstrators Irish Republican Army bombers and gunmen.

Cameron called the attack "both unjustified and unjustifiable."

The inquiry gave the ex-paratroopers, now in their 60s and 70s, broad protections from criminal charges as well as anonymity in the witness box. - AP

Latest videos

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months
ACT NOWSALE ENDS SOON | CANCEL ANYTIME