Kingsmills inquest ‘on hold’ while palm print probe goes on

The bullet-riddled minibus in which the murdered men were travelling stands at the side of the lonely country road where the massacre occurred in 1976

The bullet-riddled minibus in which the murdered men were travelling stands at the side of the lonely country road where the massacre occurred in 1976

The inquest into the Kingsmills massacre remains adjourned after six months with no indication of when hearings will reconvene, due to ongoing investigations into a palm print found by chance on the getaway vehicle.

Ten civilian Protestant workmen were gunned down by the IRA in south Armagh in 1976 during spiralling violence.

The legacy inquiry into the atrocity began in May but prompted a junior forensic officer to review a palm print – and made national headlines by finding a match after 40 years. The inquest was then adjourned in early June.

Sean Doran QC for the coroner revealed yesterday that representations by some families had provided fresh leads in the palm print investigation.

He said: “The indication in that correspondence was that representations had been made to the police and the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) on behalf of the families of the victims in the case and that police now have a number of further investigative inquiries to progress.

“The correspondence goes on to confirm that a prosecution decision will be advanced as soon as possible after completion of the outstanding police inquiries.”

Much of the discussions at yesterday’s hearing focused on Public Interest Immunity (PII) reviews of the volumes of security files being released to the inquest by the secretary of state and/or the secretary of state for defence.

Coroner Brian Sherrard said the volume of material was “more akin to an inquiry” and that “most” of the documents concerned were marked “secret or confidential”.

Mr Doran said that several new witnesses had also given statements; a member of the Royal Scots regiment based in Newtownhamilton in 1976, the operations officer of 1st Batt Royal Scots based at Bessbrook Mill, and a former RUC liaison officer based at Bessbrook.

Mr Doran assured the families: “Despite the fact that the inquest stands adjourned at the moment, work is ongoing.”

Counsel for some of the families, Richard Smyth, asked if any Garda witnesses had been confirmed to give evidence, as the attack was launched from Co Louth.

Mr Doran replied that Garda had not yet identified “a witness suitable to attend”.

Mr Sherrard added that this was not a problem unique to the Kingsmills inquest.

“That is a matter close to my heart in various different matters I am dealing with at the moment,” he said.

A further hearing will take place on January 30.