HET 'will question 'Kingsmills suspects

THE PSNI's Historical Enquiries Team will question suspects about the Kingsmills massacre in which 10 Protestant workmen were slain by the IRA, it was reported last night.

On January 5, 1976 the IRA killed the textile workers as they returned home in a minibus from work at Kingsmills in south Armagh.

The IRA gang stopped the minibus and lined the men up before firing over 100 bullets. An eleventh man survived.

Yesterday, victims campaigner Willie Frazer said he was pleased with progress in the HET investigation into the atrocity.

He met HET representatives earlier this week in what he described as "a hot and heavy" meeting with relatives of the dead.

"I felt very happy after the meeting and it is not often I do," he said last night.

"They did say they would be questioning suspects."

During the meeting he said HET told relatives that:

The IRA gang responsible has been ballistically linked to at least 35 other murders, possibly many more, and over 100 other terror incidents.

The massacre had to be planned so far in advance that it could not be considered a retaliatory action for loyalist murders of Catholics in the vicinity only days before.

The gunmen lined their victims up facing the minibus and shot them in the back.

136 rounds were fired into the victims from two feet away by 11 armed men.

The gunmen's leader ordered them to finish off their victims on the ground with shots to the back of the head.

The leader of IRA unit spoke with a clear English accent.

A workmate of the victims set them up for the bloodbath.

Two republicans captured using some of the same weapons some years later were never questioned about Kingsmills.

Suspects for the 10 murders will be questioned.

Mr Frazer said. "They said someone very close to the workmates had to have been involved in setting them up.

"We suggested that the man with the English accent could have been (English soldier] Robert Nairac and they said they would take it on board. They did not rule it out.

"They said they had suspicions about another individual, but we have never heard of an IRA man in this area who spoke with such an accent."

A UVF gang which slaughtered the Miami Showband in July 1975 near Banbridge was also led by an English soldier, a survivor has told the News Letter, but no clear connections have ever been made.

Mr Frazer said they did not wish to find Capt Nairac implicated in Kingsmills but that there were also many questions as to why the security forces took so long to arrive.

"The HET investigators were quite open that there were many unanswered questions," he said.

Police took 25 minutes to arrive and Bessbrook army base was very close by, with a quick reaction unit.

In other murders in the same area only days before soldiers flooded the area very quickly in comparison, with helicopter support, he said.

"Where was the security in that area at that time – it can't be explained?" he asked.

A spokesman for HET said: "We are currently investigating the Kingsmills murders and had a meeting with some of the families on Wednesday, August 18. Inquiries are continuing.”