Belfast Telegraph

Kingsmills IRA massacre familes consider civil action against suspects

By Connla Young

Relatives of 10 Protestant workmen shot dead in the Kingsmills massacre may take a civil court action against the people they believe were responsible.

The victims’ relatives have called for a public inquiry and revealed they are set to ask the Police Ombudsman to investigate the RUC’s original probe into the atrocity.

The Historical Enquiries Team (HET) yesterday revealed a report into the incident in Bessbrook, Co Armagh.

The workmen were making their way home from a factory in Glenanne, south Armagh, when their minibus was stopped by an armed and masked IRA gang on a lonely country road outside Whitecross on January 5, 1976.

After ordering the only Catholic in the minibus to leave the area the gang opened fire killing the 10 men. Just one workman, Alan Black, survived the attack.

The HET's probe revealed a series of missed opportunities by investigators in 1976.

  • Exhibits taken from the workmen's minibus had been destroyed at the forensic analysis laboratory.
  • Another minibus was stopped at the ambush point shortly before the murders and allowed to continue unharmed.
  • Opportunities to question a man who may have normally travelled on the bus were also missed. Two other passengers on the bus who got off before the attack were also never recorded as interviewed.
  • The HET said there was insufficient evidence against someone known as ‘Suspect A’, who was in prison in the US, to seek his extradition. He continues to live in the Republic of Ireland and was found liable in a civil case for damages brought by families of the Real IRA 1998 Omagh bomb victims.
  • ‘Suspect B’ was believed to be in Bedfordshire, England, in 1983 but the HET could not verify whether action was taken by detectives afterwards.
  • ‘Suspect C’ was stopped at Heathrow Airport in 2002 while he was wanted for questioning. He was allowed to continue on his journey.
  • It has not been shown if there was any contact between Northern Ireland police and the airport authorities.
  • Alan Black is convinced the gunman in charge had an English accent. A potential suspect was in the Republic but never arrested.

Willie Frazer, from Families Acting for Innocent Relatives, said the families of those who died at Kingsmills are considering civil court proceedings.

He said: “It is possible this is an avenue we will take. There’s so much evidence that points the finger at those involved, not every one of them, but certainly four or five of them.”

Karen Armstrong’s brother John McConville was just 20 years old when he was shot dead at Kingsmills.

She said: “Going to the Police Ombudsman is something that has been talked about.”

HET director Dave Cox, who met all the families in Bessbrook yesterday, has promised to meet them again in the coming weeks.


Ten workmates were killed at Kingsmills. They were:

John Bryans, 50

Robert Chambers, 18

Reginald Chapman, 29

Walter Chapman, 35

Robert Freeburn, 56

Joseph Lemmon, 49

John McConville, 20

James McWhirter, 63

Kenneth Worton, 24

Robert Walker, 46

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