RELATIVES of those murdered in Kingsmills have called for the killers to be named and backed calls for a full public inquiry.
Last week the PSNI’s Historical Enquiries Team (HET) released its report into the investigation into the slaughter of 10 Protestant workmen on the Kingsmills Road, near Bessbrook, in 1976.
The HET report brushed aside all excuses that the IRA had not been responsible and said the murders had been “pure sectarianism” and “appalling savagery” which had been planned for some considerable time before being carried out.
The 10 Protestants had been travelling home from work when they were stopped by what they thought was an army patrol. They were lined up outside the minibus by the gunmen and shot in the back with 11 weapons. The men were then hit by bursts of gunfire as they lay dying on the ground, the HET report said.
Yesterday, relatives of the victims met the HET to question them about the report. The meeting in Bessbrook town hall was closed to the press at the HET’s request.
Speaking afterwards, Karen Armstrong, a sister of one of the workmen, read a prepared statement on behalf of the relatives thanking the HET for their work in compiling the report.
“However, the report leaves us with further questions about whether those responsible for the original inquiry; whether they were guilty of incompetency or whether there was a deliberate attempt to suppress evidence or whether there was gross negligence of duty.”
She said that in 1976 the RUC had a responsibility to thoroughly investigate the massacre.
“We have had inquiries into Bloody Sunday, Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson,” she said. “We expect nothing less than a full inquiry to alleviate fears that these men were not merely sacrificial lambs in a dirty war.”
She was rewarded with unanimous applause by the relatives.
Any family members spoken to by the News Letter yesterday said they wanted much more to come out of the investigation.
Barbara Worton, whose brother-in-law Ken was killed, said: “These men are not here to speak for themselves. They are innocent so why should those who did it get away with it?”
She was certain in her own mind that HET is not exerting itself to further investigations.
Her husband Colin, Ken’s brother, was not satisfied either.
“I would have assumed that anyone who was caught with these weapons used at Kingsmills would be charged and asked where they were when these murders took place,” he said.
“HET says the six men convicted of using these same weapons in other circumstances were not directly connected to the Kingsmills shootings. But in my view it is not up to HET to give these men an alibi.”
He noted that a palm print had been found on the minibus used by the attackers but that a connection with the main suspects had never been ruled out.
“The report says that RUC Special Branch intervened to stop two suspects being arrested,” he said. “I think we will have to go to the Police Ombudsman to find out what happened.”
Jacqueline Semple, sister of Ken Worton, said that what she wanted was “to find those responsible and hunt them down”.
“Some of them are still walking about,” she said. “We have the time and we will still go on. Anyone with any conscience should come forward. The memories haven’t left us – it is still like yesterday that this all happened.”
Helen Chambers was a cousin to Reggie and Walter Chapman who were killed in the shootings, and a cousin to Alan Black who survived.
“I can still remember all the coffins in Bessbrook Presbyterian Church,” she said.
“I would like to see those responsible named and prosecuted. The men they killed really were innocent workmen.”
Ethel Grant was also a cousin of Walter and Reggie Chapman.
“I was very disappointed that nobody responsible for these killings was named in the report,” she said. “I lived in the same house as Walter and Reggie as they grew up. They were like the wee brothers I never had.”
The HET report named six individuals who had been convicted of various terror attacks linked to the 11 weapons used in the slaughter at Kingsmills.
However, the HET was careful to say that it could not assume that the six named individuals were personally involved in Kingsmills, just that they had been convicted of other crimes in which the same weapons were used.
The men named by HET were all convicted of terror-related crimes in the 1970s and early 1980s in the Newry and south Armagh areas. They are Patrick Joseph Quinn, Daniel Oliver McGuinness, Raymond Peter McCreesh, Noel Charles Hillen, Brian Tumilty and John Anthony McCooey. The chief unnamed suspect in the HET report had been sued in a civil case by the Omagh bomb families, HET said.
- Read more in Wednesday’s News Letter