A cold case investigation into one of the worst atrocities of the Troubles, the Kingsmills massacre, has highlighted key failings in the police investigation and claims that a number of the suspects were later involved in the Omagh bombing.
Ten Protestant workmen were gunned down near Bessbrook as they drove home from work in south Armagh in 1976.
A report by the Historical Enquiries Team, handed over yesterday to the relatives of those killed, revealed a catalogue of police failures during the investigation into the killings.
While the 108-page report has not yet been made public, a number of its findings have been revealed. They include:
- At least four key witnesses to the attack were never interviewed by police;
- A key suspect was allowed to pass through Heathrow Airport in 2002 despite being on a wanted list;
- The IRA carried out the attack despite supposedly being on ceasefire at the time;
- Weapons used in the attack have been linked to 110 other Troubles-related incidents including 37 killings, 22 attempted murders and 19 other shootings;
- It identifies several people suspected of involvement, including a number of people linked to the Omagh bombing;
- Up to a dozen gunmen were involved in the Kingsmills shootings, and by December 1976 all were living in the Republic.
The families said the report confirms much of what they already believed, including the fact that their relatives were targeted because of their religion.
A survivor of the attack over 35 years ago says the memory of the night will never leave him.
Alan Black was shot 18 times when the minibus he was travelling in with his fellow workers was stopped on the south Armagh road by an armed gang.
The men, who thought they had driven into an Army checkpoint, were ordered from the minibus seconds before the gang opened fire.
The attack was later claimed by the South Armagh Republican Action Force, but was widely believed to have been carried out by members of the IRA, which was on ceasefire at the time.
It has always been believed the attack was in revenge for the killing of six Catholic men the previous day by the UVF.
Mr Black was the only man to survive the shooting.
He hopes the HET’s report will help bring closure to the families of those killed.
He said: “It is a relief that the HET investigation is now complete and reports have been given to the families who lost loved ones.
“There is a memorial to the men in the village of Bessbrook, close to where I live, and I think often of my workmates who lost their lives on that terrible evening. The memory will never leave me.
“I have suffered physical and mental scars but the families of the men who died have suffered much more.
“The grief continues every day and I hope they will find some comfort in the HET report.
“I want to place on record my thanks to the staff of the HET for the professional and courteous way they have dealt with the investigation.”
Victims’ campaigner Willie Frazer said the families of those killed at Kingsmills will take time to consider the report.
He said: “If there was ever justification for an inquiry it’s sitting in this report.
“Legal representatives will be looking at that over the weekend. It will be a hard report to read for the families.
“A lot of the stuff that’s in it we have been saying for years, but now at long last we have got it down in print.”