Anger has been voiced over the sheer amount of time it has taken for a potentially critical breakthrough to emerge in one of the most notorious cases of the Troubles.
A range of emotions were expressed by family members of those killed in the 1976 Kingsmills atrocity after a PSNI barrister told an inquest that police are now reopening a criminal investigation into the bloodbath.
At Belfast Laganside Court yesterday, one lawyer told the courtroom that the families had been “stunned to silence” to discover that a match has been found for a palm print recovered from a getaway vehicle – a print which was known to be in existence for some time.
There were no details revealed in court of who it may belong to, or precisely how the identification came to be made.
The court heard it had been examined as recently as 2014.
As of last night, there had been no known arrests in the case.
Colin Worton, whose brother Kenneth was among those killed, joined others in welcoming the news that police are now pursuing the case.
However, he said his first reaction was one of “anger”, given the length of time which has passed since the crime.
May Quinn, 81-year-old sister of victim Bobby Walker, said that families were “owed an explanation” following the development.
The coroner, Brian Sherrard, invited those present to view the development as “a positive” which had likely emerged as a result of the fact the inquest has thrown fresh focus upon the case.
Neil Rafferty, a barrister representing many of the victims’ relatives, told coroner Brian Sherrard that “at the opening, I told this court that they came here with absolutely no expectation of justice in this case, and that they came here with the single hope that the truth might come out”.
He added that when they heard about the fresh investigation “they were quite simply stunned to silence”.
He said that they were “delighted and view this as nothing but good news”.
However, this is “counter-balanced” by the pain they have already suffered, and by the fact that the palm print which has sparked the new probe has been known about for decades.
He said it had been looked at as recently as 2014, when the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) had conducted an investigation.
“In the search for truth they have embarked upon,” he said. “They’re now left with as many questions about this as answers.”
Outside court, Colin Worton, brother of victim Kenneth, said: “It has to be welcomed. It’s never too late.
“But me at the minute, I’m running through a mixture of emotions. And I have to be honest, the first one is anger.
“After 40 years we’ve been told now that there’s a development. It’s hard to take in...
“We’re shocked. But if this had’ve been coming out even 10 years ago, even 20 years ago, the people that have carried out this atrocity, they would’ve been in jail, they’d have done their time.
“They might’ve been ending up sitting in Stormont now. It would’ve been over.”
May Quinn, 81-year-old sister of victim Bobby Walker, said: “Whilst I welcome the development, I am at a loss to understand why the identification was not previously made by the police over the last 40 years.
“I feel that the police owe all the families an explanation as to the way this has been handled.”
She added: “I hope we’d get some kind of justice out of this at long last...
“It’s my wish that those that did it come forward and say they did it. All I want is them named and shamed, for it was an awful crime they committed.”
It is expected that the renewed criminal investigation will disrupt the inquest proceedings, but full details of this are not known yet.