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'Bitter disappointment' over decision not to prosecute IRA Kingsmill massacre suspect

'Insufficient evidence' to link palm print discovery to killing of 10 Protestant workmen, PPS announces

By Rebecca Black

A man whose palm print was discovered on the suspected getaway van used in the Kingsmill massacre will not be prosecuted, it has been announced.

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) announced on Thursday it will not be pursuing a case against the man due to “insufficient evidence”.

The UUP's Danny Kennedy, who has campaigned for justice for the families, described the decision as "bitterly disappointing".

A palm print was found on an inside window of the van three days after the 1976 massacre. Last May following the opening of a new inquest into the atrocity a match was found after remaining unidentified for more than 40 years.

The new inquest was suspended while the PSNI pursued the major breakthrough in the investigation into the historic killings.

A 59-year-old man was arrested in Newry last August following the discovery.

He was released pending a report to the PPS.

It is understood that while the print was matched successfully, a lack of records have made it difficult to link the van with the murders and also to prove exactly when the palm print was discovered in the van.

On Thursday the PPS announced that “following careful consideration of all of the available evidence, a decision has been taken not to prosecute an individual reported by the PSNI in relation to the murder of 10 people, and attempted murder of an eleventh person, at Kingsmill on January 5, 1976”.

Assistant director of central casework for the PPS Michael Agnew said it was concluded that there would be no reasonable prospect of conviction.

“We have given careful consideration to all of the evidence currently available and have applied the Test for Prosecution,” he said.

“We have concluded that there is no reasonable prospect of a conviction based on the available evidence and that the Test for Prosecution is therefore not met.

“We are mindful of the disappointment that this decision will bring to the surviving victim and families of those who were killed.

“Although 41 years have passed since this atrocity, we are conscious that their pain endures.”

The PPS has informed the families of the decision.

Police said they acknowledged the decision by the PPS and were committed to supporting the inquests and bringing the offenders to justice and protecting the public.

Ten Protestant workmen were killed in the attack close to the Co Armagh village of Kingsmill on the evening of January 5, 1976.

They had been travelling with colleagues from work in a textile factory in Glenanne toward Bessbrook when their minibus was pulled over.

An eleventh man, Alan Black, survived despite having been shot 18 times.

A Catholic man was separated from his workmates and ordered to “run up the road” just before the shootings started.

The attack was claimed at the time by the “South Armagh Republican Action Force”.

However, in 2011 the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) said the atrocity had been the work of the Provisonal IRA.

No one has ever been prosecuted for the shootings.

REACTION

The UUP's Danny Kennedy said he was bitterly disappointed. He has campaigned for justice for the murdered men and worked closely with their families.

He said: "The families and the sole survivor have waited over 40 years in their pursuit of maximum truth and justice for this brutal and barbaric sectarian crime, so the news that the PPS has decided not to prosecute the suspect whose palm print was found on a vehicle believed to be used by the IRA gunmen responsible for the Kingsmills massacre, is indeed a setback.

“I will be seeking clarification on whether or not all the available evidence has been completely and exhaustively explored in relation to the palm print. It is scarcely credible that this case has not been able to move forward as a result of this potential evidence."

He added: "It is now imperative that the coroner’s inquest should proceed with all haste in its work to uncover the truth of what happened at Kingsmills.

"It is my hope that it may yet uncover opportunities and truths to bring to justice those Republicans responsible for one of the most barbaric crimes of the entire Troubles.

"I pay tribute to the sole survivor, Alan Black and the Kingmills families, who after 41 long years, remain determined to establish the truth about Kingsmills. I fully support them and will continue to assist them in any way possible."

The DUP's William Irwin added: "As we stand today there still appears to be no prospect of anyone being brought to justice in relation to one of the most brutal sectarian episodes of the Troubles.

"There still will remain questions for many people about the time that passed before a major piece of evidence was properly investigated. The investigation process had raised hopes amongst many people, and particularly for the families, today’s news will be a bitter blow.

"It is vital that those who brought terror and violence to the streets of Northern Ireland know they can and will be pursued for their crimes.

"It is vital that we have the structures in place which can pursue those investigations and if there is sufficient evidence, to ensure they are finally brought to justice for their crimes regardless of when they occurred.”

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