Kingsmills 40 years on: Murders ‘appalling savagery on gross scale’

The 2011 HET report said the victims were 'harmless and utterly defenceless'

The 2011 HET report said the victims were 'harmless and utterly defenceless'

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The murder of 10 Protestant men on January 5 1976 at Kingsmills was a “purely sectarian” premeditated attack carried out by the Provisional IRA, the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) found.

Its 2011 report said the victims, aged 18 to 63, were travelling home from work when they were stopped by a dozen armed men with blackened faces and combat jackets.

One gunman made the Catholic passenger, Richard Hughes, run down the road. The Protestant men tried to shield his identity, fearing he was to be the victim.

The gunman got all the men out of the bus and lined them up, facing the vehicle. They then “mercilessly” shot the group using 11 firearms.

An order was given to finish them off which was followed by a second burst of gunfire into the helpless victims on the ground. One, Alan Black, survived despite being hit with 18 bullets.

HET said they were “honest, ordinary working men, they were harmless and utterly defenceless”.

The murders were carried out “by the Provisional IRA and none other” and were “appalling savagery on a gross scale”.

HET said the murders occurred during a period of spiralling sectarian violence in south Armagh. Two of the same weapons were used to murder five men at Tullyvallen Orange Hall five months earlier.

The day before the Kingsmills attack the UVF murdered the three Reavey brothers in Whitecross and three members of the O’Dowd family in Lurgan.

HET concluded that the ambush of the minibus at Kingsmills required “the organisation of considerable resources”, adding that it was “clearly a pre-planned attack on a target that had been pre-selected and researched some time before”.

The UVF murders the day before “were simply the catalyst for the premeditated and calculated slaughter of these innocent and defenceless men”.

The report named six men convicted of other offences with the same weapons used at Kingsmills but never charged with those murders; Patrick Joseph Quinn, Daniel Oliver McGuinness, Raymond Peter McCreesh, Noel Charles Hillen, Brian Tumilty and John Anthony McCooey.

A seventh man, Seamus Harvey, was shot by the Army after an attempted PIRA ambush in Crossmaglen in 1977. Spent cartridges from one of the Kingsmills weapons were found at the scene.

A more recent HET synopsis said the IRA team included close neighbours; “members of the Newry ASU (active service unit), Whitecross ASU and a number of on the runs based in the Republic of Ireland”.