The High Court heard that a man from West Belfast, who was allegedly tortured by paratroopers, was haunted by more horrifying nightmares than any real-life experience.
Aim Holden tells a psychiatrist that dreams about waterboarding techniques were no respite from having received a false confession for the murder of a British soldier 50 years earlier.
During his sessions he said: “When nightmares happen, it’s not until I wake up. Even in my dreams I’m fighting them but I can’t win.
“They always take me, the water goes in. I still feel the water going up my nose.”
Mr Holden, 68, was the last person to be hanged after being convicted of the murder of privateer Frank Bell in Northern Ireland
The death sentence was commuted to prison before a 40-year battle to clear his name resulted in the cancellation of the murder sentence in 2012.
He has already been awarded £1m for damages caused by a miscarriage of justice.
Mr Holden is now seeking damages from the Defense Ministry for alleged misconduct in public office, assault and battery.
He was arrested in 1972 after shooting Private Bell in the Springfield Avenue area of West Belfast.
A teenage cook at the time, she was brought up at a military outpost at Blackmountain School where members of the Parachute Regiment allegedly deployed restricted interrogation techniques.
He claims that soldiers pinned him to the floor and poured cold water through a towel place over his face.
According to his account the repeated methods of torture left him in fear that he was drowning.
He was then allegedly betrayed and taken to the Glencairn estate, infamous at the time, where Catholics were murdered by loyalist paramilitaries.
A gun was held to his head as soldiers warned that he would be shot if he did not confess to killing Private Bell, argues Mr. Holden.
Then he agreed to a “cock and bull tale” about carrying out the shooting.
MoD is defending the action by denying liability.
One of the key witnesses is forensic psychiatrist Dr Adrian Grounds, who questioned the plaintiffs in 2016.
The medical expert spoke of Mr. Holden’s recurrent tormented, unwanted thoughts.
During his sessions, he said: “There’s no comfort in this, I know I’ll have a nightmare or an overwhelmingly bad idea before Saturday comes, but I won’t tell anyone about them, I’ll be my kids.” I will not tell
“The face of the soldier who did this comes before me. I remember his features.
“Sometimes, at times, I have nightmares pulling their trigger and I wake up. Then I have a day or two later.”
Mr. Holden also said: “Everything that happened to me in life was not as scary as dreams, nightmares.”
The court heard he reminded soldiers of allegedly patting a gun on the side of his forehead: “I can still feel it.”
Referring to his fake confession, he continued: “It was as if I was watching me. I know I haven’t killed anyone, and yet they were so adamant.”
According to Dr Grounds this recollection was a clear and striking statement of dissociation, where in a state of extreme anxiety and panic one feels that they are witnessing events that do not seem real.
At one point in their meetings Mr Holden became distressed and tearful, saying: “It strikes me to think that I can let him do this without a struggle.”
Despite limited clinical experience interviewing alleged torture victims, this statement from the psychiatrist resonated with research literature regarding the “capitulation” of people subjected to waterboarding.
“The aim is to break the will, and such techniques can create a state of helplessness,” he told the court.
“He reprimanded himself, how could I have let him do it without conflict, and that fits with what I’ve read about experiences like this in other cases.”
The matter continues.