Belfast Telegraph

Ex-RUC officer recalls carnage after Kingsmill slaughter

By Allan Preston

A police officer who was called to the scene of the Kingsmill massacre more than 40 years ago has told an inquest of the horrifying aftermath he encountered.

The inquest into the killing of 10 Protestant workmen in south Armagh on January 5, 1976 resumed this week after pausing for almost a year.

After three days of testimony from a PSNI intelligence officer identified only as J2, the court heard yesterday from former RUC constable Derek Smith.

At around 7.15pm on the day of the murders he was sent from Newry police station in torrential rain to the crime scene.

Mr Smith first read his statement from the original Kingsmill inquest, dated May 20, 1977.

He recalled at first seeing eight dead bodies on the road beside the victims' red van, four at the front and the rear.

He said the vehicle was "riddled with bullet holes" and the tarmac "heavily saturated with blood", while a lunchbox and flask lay nearby.

On hearing the distressing details, some family members chose to leave the court.

On questioning, Mr Smith said he recalled a "horrendous" night of heavy rainfall, which was washing the blood off the road.

"The scene was sealed off but there were quite a number of people outside the cordon," said Mr Smith, adding that the heavy rain and pitch dark made examination of the area more difficult.

Counsel for the coroner Ronan Daly referred to the statement of a forensic officer, Gary Montgomery, who said "the scene was swarming with Army and Press", with forensic preservation of the scene "non-existent".

Mr Smith replied: "I don't remember Press being inside the cordon.

"There was some military but I wouldn't say it was swarming."

Mr Daly said Mr Montgomery had noted the bullet casings had also been cleared away by the time he arrived, allowing no chance to determine the firing positions.

Mr Smith said by the time of his arrival the bullet casings and fragments had all been gathered to be sent for examination.

He attended a post-mortem examination the next day where bullet fragments were recovered from the victims' bodies and heavily bloodstained clothes. A solicitor representing the families asked Mr Smith about the 11 weapons and hundreds of bullets fired in the atrocity.

Mr Smith agreed it was likely 11 men were involved in the shooting, and one gunman using a 9mm semi-automatic machine-gun had hit at least eight of the victims.

The solicitor asked: "Does this stand out on its own for its callousness and cold bloodedness?"

"Without a doubt," he replied.

Earlier this week the court heard intelligence documents that stated the IRA had used a cover name - the South Armagh Republican Action Force - for the massacre.

In total 13 suspects were referenced in the report, with one, known as S91, believed to have been responsible for up to 46 murders.

A further report described how the south Armagh brigade of the IRA had been given a "severe reprimand" by the terror group's leadership, the army council, prior to the slaughter at Kingsmill.

The 11 weapons used at Kingsmill were also linked to more than 40 serious terrorist incidents, including the killing of five people at Tullyvallen Orange hall in September 1975 and the 1989 murders of senior RUC officers Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan.

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