Kingsmills arrest: HET suspects reviewed

Front page of The News Letter Tuesday 6th January 1976.
Front page of The News Letter Tuesday 6th January 1976.

A man has been arrested by detectives investigating the murder of ten Protestant workmen by the IRA 40 years ago at Kingsmills.

The 59-year-old suspect was detained in the Newry area two months after police revealed a match had been made to a palm print on a getaway vehicle used by the killers.

There had been widespread media speculation that the print belonged to veteran republican Colm Murphy, who was convicted in relation to the 1998 Omagh bomb, but later overturned the finding on appeal.

However the suspect arrested yesterday was 59 - four years younger than Murphy. The man in custody would therefore have been around 19 at the time of the atrocity, which could match a number of figures from the 2011 HET report on the killings;-

* Suspect I. A 19-year-old man from Glennane, Co Armagh, who was arrested at his home by RUC Special Branch on Saturday February 7, 1976. He was reportedly “acting suspiciously” at the time of the shootings.

* A 19-year-old man from Mullaghbawn, Co Armagh who was arrested with three other men by Garda in January 1976 in Dundalk. All four were questioned about terrorist offences but released without charge.

* A further possibility is suspect B, the only 1976 suspect still officially wanted for questioning. He was given eight years in the south in 1972 for munitions offences but escaped prison in 1974. Living on both sides of the border until Garda arrested him again in October 1976, he was returned to prison until 1980.

Six people convicted of using Kingsmills weapons on other occasions, but never charged with that atrocity, were; Patrick Joseph Quinn, Daniel Oliver McGuinness, Raymond Peter McCreesh, Noel Charles Hillen, Brian Tumilty and John Anthony McCooey.

The investigation centres on 10 factory workers ambushed as they travelled home near Kingsmills in south Armagh on January 5 1976, during spiralling tit-for-tat murders. They were taken out and gunned down by the roadside by the IRA gang.

Alan Black, the sole survivor of the attack, said news of the arrest had come like a “bolt from the blue”.

He said: “I don’t really know what to think to be honest. I am still trying to take it in. For 40 years the police were not interested in Kingsmills but this, I suppose, is a development at least.”

UUP MLA Danny Kennedy, a strong supporter of the Kingsmills families, described the arrest as a “potentially positive development”.

He added: “We must now wait and allow the police investigation to take its course.”