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Kingsmill attack leads not pursued, inquest told

By Linda Stewart

A former senior police officer has been asked why a number of leads in the investigation of the Kingsmill massacre did not appear to have been followed up.

The question was put to Detective Chief Inspector James T Mitchell, who led the police investigation into the atrocity, during an inquest yesterday.

No one has been convicted of the mass shooting on January 5, 1976, during which 10 Protestant workmen were murdered. An eleventh survived despite being shot 18 times.

A Catholic man, Richard Hughes, was separated from his colleagues and ordered to "run up the road" before the shooting started.

Fiona Doherty QC asked Mr Mitchell why a number of action sheets listed in serious incident logs in the wake of the massacre did not appear to have been followed up.

These included a phone call from a young woman who claimed to have seen a large number of men - whom she later came to believe were preparing for the massacre - gathering in the yard of a shop in Silverbridge earlier in the day.

There was also a list of names, provided by a self-confessed IRA member, of people allegedly involved in the killings, and a report that the Bedford van thought to have been used in the attack had been seen parked at the home of an IRA man.

A caller to a confidential telephone line also reported seeing two men getting out of a Bedford van and making across fields at Carrickananny in the hours after the killing.

It also appeared that police had not traced a woman in a Mini who had given Richard Hughes a lift home immediately after the murders.

A Norman Copeland also reported being stopped by the IRA using a red signal and being told to divert because there was an incident up the road.

Another man, Patsy Finnegan, who was driving a red minibus similar to the Kingsmills one, was stopped and told to go on.

Mr Mitchell told the inquest that manpower had been a huge problem for the investigation, revealing that he had been operating with at most 12 detectives while dealing with 29 murders in a short space of time.

He added that with the main suspects outside the jurisdiction, it would have been very difficult to prosecute anyone over the notorious atrocity.

"In the circumstances and with the manpower available, we did the best we could possibly do," he insisted.

"I would like to have done it better if it was to be done again."

In his reports at the time, Mr Mitchell described the scene at Kingsmill as "perhaps one of the most gruesome sights ever reported in the current campaign".The retired officer estimated that around 150 rounds had been fired, which "clearly demonstrated the ferocity with which the attack was carried out.

"Doubtless this outrage is the most callous in the campaign so far," he wrote. "It was perhaps one of the most gruesome sights that had yet been witnessed in the current terror campaign. It was a shocking scene. It was the futility and the defenceless nature of the people who were attacked that was the hardest thing to accept. They had no opportunity to defend themselves."

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