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Kingsmills inquest: Robert was terrified and calling for his mum, then they shot him in the face

Kingsmills inquest day 3: Only survivor tells how killers gunned down teen

By Rebecca Black

Published 26/05/2016

Alan Black in hospital after the IRA shot him and killed 10 of his colleagues at Kingsmills
Alan Black in hospital after the IRA shot him and killed 10 of his colleagues at Kingsmills
Alan Black at the inquest into the massacre
The bullet riddled minibus where ten Protestant textile workers were shot shot dead in a sectarian IRA attack near the Co Armagh village of Kingsmill in 1976

The sole survivor of the Kingsmills massacre has recalled how he saw a young apprentice crying for his mother moments before he was shot dead.

Robert Chambers was just 18 when he was murdered on a roadside in south Armagh along with nine of his colleagues in January 1976.

Alan Black, who survived despite being shot 18 times, gave an eyewitness account of the atrocity to a Belfast inquest.

Mr Black was a fitter at Glenanne Mill at the time and Mr Chambers was his apprentice. He described how just hours before the shooting, he agreed to teach Mr Chambers how to drive.

"Robert was a lovely lad - he had fallen in love with this girl Wendy," Mr Black said.

"He asked me to teach him to drive. I eventually agreed, but said, 'Only at the weekends'. He gave me a big hug and danced around the field, and that's my last (good) memory of him.

"Just a few hours later, he was lying across my legs and crying out for his mother. A gunman then walked over and shot him in the face."

The workers were around halfway to Bessbrook in Co Armagh when they were pulled over by what they assumed was a routine Army checkpoint.

More: Reliving that dreadful day to help families find truth

Mr Black said that just before they were stopped, they noticed how slow the car in front of them was moving.

"I think it was (deliberate) - there was absolutely no reason for it to go at that speed," Mr Black told the inquest.

"I think that car was put on the road to slow the minibus up so it could stop for the gunmen."

Driver Robert Walker pulled in after seeing a red torch ahead and instinctively started searching for his driving licence.

Mr Black said the man who stopped the vehicle had an upper-class English accent, was around 5ft 8ins, squat, well-built and with a "cocky attitude".

"This guy didn't want to see a licence," he added. "He just said 'lights out, everybody out'. He seemed angry and kept repeating 'out, out, out'".

Alan saw three men approach the minibus from one side of the road, and up to nine men emerge from the other side. All of them had their faces blackened, were wearing combat gear and carrying rifles.

The workmen were ordered to line up alongside the bus, then ordered to "tighten up". Afterwards, the only Catholic in the group, Richard Hughes, was ordered to move away from the line and run off.

The gunfire, which Mr Black described as an "unbelievable noise", then started.

"They shot everyone waist-height so no one could run," he told the inquest.

"I fell between the bus and a ditch. The gunmen knew no one was dead, so to finish them the shooting became measured. The noise was completely different - single shots, rather than a volley.

"A bullet (grazed) my head but missed my skull. The pain was unimaginable. I dipped my head in a stream because I felt so hot."

When they were finished murdering the workmen, the killers simply walked away.

"That made it all the more sinister after what they had just done," Mr Black said.

The sole survivor of the atrocity also disclosed how he was convinced he was going to die.

He recalled a nurse in Daisy Hill Hospital saying, "Oh no," when they cut his clothes off and saw his gunshot wounds.

Despite suffering serious injuries, Mr Black gave a statement to police a short time after the shooting because he was determined to let people know what had happened.

Speaking outside court, Mr Black said he was nervous but determined to give evidence.

"I'm doing this for the boys that died 40 years ago and their families," he added.

"I find it difficult to talk about what happened. I still see the boys' faces every day, but I want to do this."

The inquest, which is scheduled to last for six weeks, was adjourned until Tuesday.

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