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Kingsmills inquest: Survivor heard young victim cry for his mother before being shot

Follow day three of hearing into killing of Protestant workmen

By Rebecca Black

Published 25/05/2016

Survivor Alan Black with family and friends attending the Kingsmills inquest.
Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Survivor Alan Black with family and friends attending the Kingsmills inquest. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Kingsmills victims' families attend the inquest in Belfast.

The sole survivor of the 1976 Kingsmills massacre heard his young apprentice crying for his mother before he was shot in the head.

Alan Black was speaking outside Laganside court this morning as he prepared to relive the painful memories of the evening he was shot 18 times by IRA gunmen and left for dead. Full live updates here:

He has been giving eye witness evidence to an inquest into the atrocity which is taking place at Laganside courts in Belfast.

Mr Black had been a fitter at Glenanne Mill where all the men had worked together. Mr Chambers was his apprentice. Just days before the shooting, Mr Black described how his young apprentice had been so excited that he had finally agreed to teach him how to drive that he had been dancing around in delight.

"Robert was a lovely lad, he had fallen in love with this girl Wendy, he asked me to teach him to drive," he told the inquest.

"I finally agreed, but said only at the weekends. He gave me a big hug and ran around the place.

"That's my memory of him. Then he was lying calling for his mother and a gunman came over and shot him."

On January 5, 1976 the workers had been taking their usual mini bus drive home when they were suddenly pulled over by what they assumed was a route army checkpoint.

More: Kingsmills massacre victims had considered route change

They were ordered to line up alongside their minibus and out their hands on the bus when gunmen opened fire first at their waist level which caused them to fall over.

The bullet-riddled minibus where 10 Protestant workmen were shot dead by IRA terrorists
The bullet-riddled minibus where 10 Protestant workmen were shot dead by IRA terrorists

Then the gunmen were ordered "finish them off" and the gun fire became more specific, methodically killing each of the men.

Mr Black fell into a ditch and Mr Chambers fell over his legs.

Mr Black recalled hearing his young apprentice cry for his mother before a gun moved toward them and shot him in the head.

"From where I was lying on the road, I could see boots and rifle tips moving around and shooting men in the head," he told the inquest.

"I was shot in the head too but the bullet didn't go through my skull.

"The pain was unimaginable, I tried to plug the wounds, and I dipped my head into a nearby stream because my body felt so hot."

More: Kingsmills inquest: It took me 40 years to weep for my son, reveals elderly mother of slain workman

Mr Black said he could see the gun men walk away, and was struck how they did not appear to be in any hurry.

"They walked away, it made it all the more sinister," he said.

A lorry and then a car stopped at the scene a short time later, Mr Black recalled hearing a young man say the rosary before a nurse joined them.

"He was in a terrible state, his voice was shaking and he was crying, I moaned so he would come out to me and he did," Mr Black said.

"Nurse Kennedy then arrived, they put me in the recovery position which was awful painful when they tried to turn me."

Mr Black said he was convinced he was going to die, recalling how a nurse in Daisy Hill Hospital cried "oh no" when she saw his wounds as they cut his clothes off.

Despite his condition he was determined to give a statement to police so that the world would know what had happened at Kingsmills,

Earlier before proceedings got underway Mr Black spoke outside court and said he was giving evidence in memory of his ten colleagues.

A second inquest into the atrocity which took place on January 5, 1976 opened on Monday.

The hearing on Wednesday will see Mr Black give evidence.

Speaking outside court before proceedings start he admitted he was nervous about giving evidence, saying he finds it hard to talk about the events of that evening with the families of the men who were killed.

"I'm doing this for the boys that died 40 years ago," he said.

"And I am doing this for their families.

"I find it difficult to talk to the families about what happened. I still see the boys faces every day.

"But when I look at Bea Worton and what she has been through, I want to do this."

Mr Black said he and the families had been waiting for a long time for this inquest.

"This is a day we have been waiting a long long time for, for 40 years," he said.

"I am apprehensive, nervous but I am also very very hopeful.

"We have fought for years, we have come a long way. Before that we kept knocking our heads against a wall, the Department of Justice didn't want to know, the PSNI didn't want to know. It has been so frustrating. But thanks to these families we are finally here."

Some of the other evidence that will be heard on Wednesday includes a statement given by Richard Hughes. He was the sole Catholic in the group of workmen whose bus was pulled over by the terrorists as it approached the Kingsmills cross roads. Mr Hughes was ordered out of the line up of men and forced to run up the road before the shooting started. He died in 2006.

On Tuesday the inquest heard evidence from Bea Worton, whose son Kenneth was killed in the massacre.

A barrister for the families on Monday told the inquest the continued denial of responsibility by the IRA deepens the families hurt. The atrocity was claimed by the South Armagh Action Force in 1976. However an HET report found it had been carried out by the IRA.

The inquest is scheduled to last for six weeks.

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