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Video: HET admits evidence mix-up on Kingsmills Massacre

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“Serious” concerns have been raised after the PSNI revealed a mix-up in ballistics evidence in the Kingsmills massacre probe.

The PSNI’s Historical Enquiries Team (HET) has written to the relatives of the deceased to apologise for wrongly linking the massacre to another south Armagh murder which took place a year later.

But the revelation has undermined confidence among campaigners about the credibility of the forensic evidence and raised questions about what other surprises could be revealed.

Ten Protestant men were travelling home from work in 1976 when they were stopped and gunned down on the Kingsmills Road in south Armagh. HET attributed the murders to the IRA but nobody has ever been charged.

HET has now written to relatives of the deceased to apologise for a mix-up which has just been discovered – almost 40 years later – in the ballistics evidence from the atrocity.

In the letter HET said that it has re-examined all evidence as part of the ongoing inquest proceedings into the murder, which only recently got under way.

The review identified “an error” regarding a .30 M1 Carbine used at Kingsmills.

HET told the families it has now found that the 2011 report it gave relatives about the atrocity had wrongly linked it to another south Armagh murder in 1977, through a spent bullet casing.

“I sincerely apologise for this error and any distress this may have caused,” a HET manager told the families in the letter.

UUP MEP Jim Nicholson, who has been supporting the FAIR campaign for justice for the victims, said the finding was “extremely serious”.

Questions have now got to be asked as to how the weapon was wrongly linked to another murder, he said.

“The other question I would bring into the frame is how often has this happened on other occasions?” he said.

FAIR spokesman Willie Frazer described the mix-up as “a serious mistake that is being made”.

He added: “I can’t understand how they link a spent cartridge to a weapon. I take it as an attempt to discredit some other ballistics evidence which is coming down the line.”

HET’s letter also said that palm prints found on the IRA’s van did not match any records. But Mr Frazer responded by appealing for a palm print to be taken from the chief suspect identified in HET’s 2011 report.

He believes that six suspects in the HET report have On-The-Run letters but says the Government has declined to clarify this.

A PSNI spokesman responded that HET has written to a number of families in Co Armagh “to explain and apologise for an incorrect weapon attribution in the reports they have received”.

He added: “This was discovered while conducting inquiries for the Coroners’ Office, leading to further forensic examinations being commissioned by the HET.

“Regrettably, the reports to the Kingsmills families incorrectly linked the weapon to one other murder and the finding of ammunition.

“In the case of the Kingsmills murders, this does not affect the outcome of the HET review in any way.”

He sincerely apologised for any distress or upset caused.

FAIR spokesman Willie Frazer described the mix-up as “a serious mistake that is being made”.

He added: “I can’t understand how they link a spent cartridge to a weapon. I take it as an attempt to discredit some other ballistics evidence which is coming down the line.”

HET’s letter also said that palm prints found on the IRA’s van did not match any records. But Mr Frazer responded by appealing for a palm print to be taken from the chief suspect identified in HET’s 2011 report.

He believes that six suspects in the HET report have On-The-Run letters but says the Government has declined to clarify this.

 

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