Supporters of the families whose loved ones were killed in the Kingsmills massacre are considering a civil action against up to four gunmen linked to that attack – and 26 others murders.
Ten Protestant workmen were shot dead by the IRA near Kingsmills in south Armagh in 1976 as they travelled home from work,
The already long-delayed inquest into the massacre was put on hold last year with the dramatic announcement that a forensic expert had matched a palm print from the suspected getaway van to an individual. Three months later a 59-year-old man was arrested.
But the PPS said this week that the evidence was not strong enough to make his conviction likely, despite the fact he had terrorist convictions and refused to answer any police questions. It was also “unlikely” that any contact between him and the suspected getaway van was “in innocent circumstances”, it said.
However the PPS said none of this could overcome the difficulty in placing the van at the murder scene.
Victims campaigner Willie Frazer says they are now giving serious consideration to a civil action against four suspects instead. While evidence must be strong enough to be “beyond reasonable doubt” for a criminal conviction, he noted, a successful civil action requires only that the suspects are found liable for damages “on the balance of probabilities”.
Mr Frazer said: “The ballistics investigations from the legacy inquest have found the weapons used at Kingsmills have been linked to 26 other murders.
“These include The Tullyvallen Massacre in 1975 in which five people were killed in an Orange Hall, and the murders of Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Raymond Buchannan in 1989. So we will first of all get through the inquest to see what that discloses and then we will consider a civil action. We feel we have a good chance of a successful civil action against three or four individuals.”
Newry and Armagh UUP candidate Danny Kennedy said he is in the process of seeking legal advice about a civil action. He added: “It would need a campaign to fund it and I think there would be enough public support.”
Michael Gallagher’s son was killed in the 1998 Omagh bombing and he helped spearhead the successful civil action which saw four men found liable for £1.5bn in damages as a result.
He led negotiations which saw the Omagh families win £700,000 in legal aid and said he would be “happy to share his experience with the Kingsmills families”.
The Daily Mail also helped them raise £1.2m, however those found liable have not repaid a single penny, he added.
A lack of Garda and RUC records for the suspected getaway van meant that prosecutors could not say when it was found, where it was taken for examination or where the palm print was found on the windscreen. As a result they were unable to rule out that the palm might have been placed on the van well after the shootings. There was also no evidence to place the vehicle right at the scene of the crime.