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Workmate 'set up slaughter at Kingsmill'

 

By Victoria Leonard

Someone working in the same factory as the Kingsmill massacre victims was involved in "setting up his workmates to be killed" in the atrocity, evidence to the inquest has suggested.

The brutal attack in January 1976 saw 10 Protestant men shot dead by the Provisional IRA (PIRA) on their way home from work, after gunmen stopped their bus in Co Armagh.

Yesterday it was revealed during the inquest that the status of information supplied by a self-confessed PIRA member in December 1976 had been upgraded to "reliable".

This information included several individuals confirmed by DCI James Mitchell, who was the Senior Investigating Officer at the time of the atrocity, to have been active or leading members of the PIRA.

The evidence consisted of a list of names which were read to the court in the form of ciphers. Not all of the those on the list were suspects in the Kingsmill case.

QC Alan Kane, acting for some of the Kingsmill families, put it to Mr Mitchell that an individual identified as S104 "usually travelled" on the Kingsmill workers' bus, that this information had been available in 1976, and that it suggested that "someone working in the factory was involved in setting up his workmates to be killed in Kingsmill".

Mr Kane suggested that this information should have "renewed interest" in the Kingsmill investigation, and launched a "fresh investigation into S104's activities".

Mr Mitchell replied: "If a connection was made, yes. I had left the inquiry at that stage."

Mr Kane then told Mr Mitchell that there was "nothing to suggest" he had flagged up this information as important when he was preparing a report, and that it "looks as if it wasn't done".

Another individual, S54, was mentioned as having had his palm prints found on a vehicle recovered in the Irish Republic in connection with Kingsmill.

It emerged yesterday that although the Garda had taken finger and palm prints from S54 in October 1975, no request had been made by the RUC to view these.

Mr Mitchell said that he "didn't think that palm prints were taken routinely" by the RUC at this time, and that any request to the Garda to view records of palm prints which they recovered from the Kingsmill minibus would have been made by a fingerprints division.

"If they had asked and if the Garda had co-operated, then a match of S54 would have been made in 1976 or 1977 rather than 34 years later," Mr Kane suggested.

"If that match had been confirmed, it would have been a vital piece of evidence."

Mr Kane said that such evidence could have been used to "build a case for extradition" of the suspect from the Republic of Ireland.

He described S54 as a "mass murderer" who was suspected of killing 23 people in total throughout the Troubles.

Mr Mitchell commented that the "safe haven in the Irish Republic" for the PIRA members listed had been "a major obstacle" to following up the information supplied by the self-confessed PIRA member, and that there was a lack of co-operation on the part of An Garda Síochána at the time.

Mr Kane then revealed that two individuals - S97 and S77 - had been given 'on the run' letters. He said S77 was suspected of involvement in murders including Kingsmill, the Pit Bar and Flurry Bridge. Mr Mitchell said he was "surprised" to hear they had received 'on the run' letters, which would have informed them they were not wanted by police.

Mr Mitchell also pointed to a lack of resources to deal with the Kingsmill massacre, as his "reinforcements" consisted of nine additional detectives and two sergeants to assist over a 15-20 day period.

Mr Kane responded that he had heard that the Head of Northwest counter-terrorism unit in Manchester had "over 1,000 officers" working on the current Manchester bombing investigation.

He suggested that there was a "ridiculous, abnormal situation in South Armagh" with "totally inadequate" manpower. Mr Mitchell said that there was "always inadequate manpower in the CID".

The list provided by the self-confessed PIRA member also contained the names of individuals who were allegedly responsible for the murder of Joseph McCullough.

This included brothers, S32 and S33, who it was claimed were responsible for 14 murders each and who, the IRA member claimed, "laughed and joked" about Mr McCullough's killing "for a long time afterwards".

The pair were also allegedly implicated in the Cullyhanna bombing attempt.

Also on the list were individuals with links to the Tullyvallen massacre and to the murder of three members of the Royal Scots.

Reacting to the day's evidence, Colin Worton, whose brother Kenneth was killed at Kingsmill, branded the original investigation as "something that would make the Keystone Cops look good".

He said: "It was a total farce.

"All of this is coming out now and yet they had all that material in the same year as Kingsmill occurred.

"It creates more questions than answers. We feel let down."

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