The British Army and the RUC used waterboarding as a torture method in Northern Ireland over 40 years ago.

Sensational new claims about the method are made in a new BBC documentary.

The programme features claims that waterboarding was used during the Troubles.

Water boarding has become a central and highly controversial part of the West’s war against al-Qaeda sincethe Twin Towers attack.

Now the BBC radio programme ‘Inside the Torture Chamber’ reveals that the technique was used 40 years ago by the British Army in Ulster.

Allegations are also made that it was used by RUC detectives in Castlereagh police station in Belfast.

The programme features a major contribution from Liam Holden who was 19 years old in 1972 when members of the British Army’s Parachute Regiment took him to their base on the Black Mountain in Belfast.

Holden was accused of killing a soldier. The British Army threatened to shoot him and then used water boarding as part of their interrogation.

Holden reveals: “They got the bucket of water and they just slowly but surely poured the bucket of water right round the facial area, over my nose and mouth.

“It was like pouring a kettle of water, like pouring your tea into a cup out of the kettle, that sort of speed, basically until I passed out or close to passed out.”

Holden confessed to the murder after several hours of interrogation.

The BBC website reports that he gave his trial in Belfast Crown Court a detailed account of his interrogation. Neither the judge nor jury believed him and he became the last person in the United Kingdom to be sentenced to death.

Holden spent four weeks in the condemned man’s cell at Crumlin Road jail in Belfast before his sentence was commuted to life in prison.

He was imprisoned for 17 years for a murder he did not commit before his conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal earlier this year.

For the BBC programme, Holden agreed to go back to Crumlin Road jail to visit the condemned man’s cell.

He adds: “You were walking out that door and you saw where people had been buried who had been hung in Crumlin Road jail and you were sort of next in line.”

The documentary also features evidence from Felim O Hamill who says he was subjected to a similar interrogation technique in an attempt to force him to confess to a murder.

TheCork University lecturer was sentenced to 25 years in prison after being caught in England in 1994 in a car containing explosives and a gun. O Hamill was released early under the Good Friday Agreement.

During his interrogation in 1978 at Castlereagh police station in Belfast, he was subjected to a form of water torture.

O Hamill reveals: “Somebody produced a towel, or what looked like a towel, and put this towel over my head and over my nose and mouth region and twisted it at the back and pulled my head down while they were holding my limbs.

“Somebody poured water over my nose and mouth region and they were shouting ‘breathe it in’. It was terrifying if I am that time I thought they were actually going to kill me.”

The BBC programme says his is the only known allegation that members of the RUC used water boarding as an interrogation technique.

Former RUC man Roger McCallum says the allegations have unfairly damaged the reputation of the RUC.

McCallum said; “For many years many brave men and women served the community, all the community in Northern Ireland and in the vast majority of cases, 98, 99 per cent of cases, without any problems whatsoever.

“These allegations unfortunately will tarnish any organisation and it’s unfortunate that they are made and unfortunate that one or two folk in the past have been guilty of something, but certainly the vast majority of people who have served with pride in theRUC were guilty of nothing along those lines whatsoever.”

Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland director Patrick Corrigan believes there are sufficient grounds for an inquiry into allegations of the use of torture by the army and police, as well as republican and loyalist paramilitaries.

Corrigan said: “We believe that if you carry out a crime, a crime under national or international law, you should be held accountable for that.”