Murphy appeared to be chief Kingsmills suspect in 1976

Colm Murphy
Colm Murphy

Police compiled a profile of the Kingsmills massacre chief suspect in 1976 which appears to match veteran republican Colm Murphy – and linked the same man to the getaway minibus on which a palm print was found.

On Saturday the Irish News alleged that the palm print belongs to veteran republican Murphy, who in turn claimed his name was only linked to the atrocity in recent years in order to divert attention from Sinn Fein figures.

The Chief Constable took legal action to stop the Irish News making the allegation, but later admitted the bid was “pointless” as the paper had already published its claims online. The PSNI stressed it would not confirm nor deny the accuracy of the claims.

The News Letter can now reveal that the PSNI’s own Historical Investigation Team’s (HET) report in 2011 all but named Murphy as the original chief suspect – and linked him to the getaway minibus.

The HET report said that the RUC circulated details of seven men they wished to question about Kingsmills soon after the murders.

It said Suspect A had been sentenced to:

l Two years in the Republic of Ireland in 1972 for possession of a gun and ammunition;

l Three years in the Republic of Ireland in 1976 for firearms offences;

l Five years in the USA in the 1980s for buying automatic weapons for the PIRA;

l Was one of those found liable in civil proceedings by relatives of the 29 people killed in the 1998 Omagh bomb.

The details match court findings against Murphy.

HET also gave other details in their profile of Suspect A, alleging he had been one of the Kingsmills gunmen.

The team gave “close attention to the intelligence surrounding the hijacking of the [getaway] vehicle in the Republic, linking to a person named in intelligence as one of the gunmen. This was Suspect A.”

An RUC detective inspector in his report of December 31, 1976 also stated: “One of the men involved in its hijacking was named as Suspect A.”

Suspect A was arrested by the Garda on January 8, 1976 in connection with the minibus theft. Garda records note that he denied any involvement in the hijacking of the minibus or the shootings.

One of the hijackers was described as 30-40 years old and 5’6” - 5’8” with a Northern Irish accent. Another witness said the driver was “lightly built with long dark straight hair” and the passenger was “of stocky build with medium long hair”.

HET found that “a left palm print was recovered from the inside passenger window of the stolen minibus during the forensic examination”.

HET also said the RUC had wanted to question Suspect A in relation to the IRA attack at Tullyvallen Orange Hall in 1975, which claimed five lives.

PSNI ACC Mark Hamilton said: “Given that the investigation and the Coroner’s Court proceedings are ongoing, it is incumbent upon all to ensure that nothing more is done or said that may be to the detriment of the prospects of the families of those killed, of the sole survivor, and of the wider community, in achieving truth and justice.”

Colin Worton, whose brother Kenneth was killed at Kingsmills, said: “Police should have been coming out with strong statements like this 30 or 40 years ago. All this information in the HET report and it does not take a great IQ to work out who Suspect A is. Even my own mother is now full of scepticism about the police investigation.

The News Letter has not been able to contact Colm Murphy for comment.