Kingsmills: QC cites IRA evidence on Nairac

Grenadier Guards Captain Robert Nairac who served in south Armagh
Grenadier Guards Captain Robert Nairac who served in south Armagh

Testimony from a self confessed IRA man given in 1976/7 has been cited in court to exonerate Capt Robert Nairac from any involvement in the Kingsmills Massacre.

A new inquest is being held into the republican killing of 10 Protestant textile workers as they returned from work 40 years ago.

The textile factory workers were ambushed as they travelled along the Whitecross to Bessbrook road in rural south Armagh on January 5 1976.

It was claimed as a revenge attack for UVF shootings the night before, but the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) said it must have been pre-planned much earlier in advance.

The men’s minibus was stopped by a man waving a red light and those on board were asked their religion by a camouflaged gunman with an English accent whom the victims thought was a soldier. The only Catholic was told to run away.

The killers ordered the rest to line up outside the van and then opened fire.

Father-of-three Mr Black was shot 18 times and pretended to be dead.

He has consistently said the gunman who led the attack barked orders in an English accent, leading to speculation that it could have been Captain Robert Nairac - an English army officer who served in south Armagh, was abducted by the IRA and is now one of ‘The Disappeared’.

Neil Rafferty QC, acting for many of the Kingsmills families, explained yesterday that both the 2011 HET report and the testimony of a self-confessed IRA man in 1976/7 both exonerated Nairac by identifying the gunman with the English accent as an IRA man who lived in Dundalk.

The QC cited the HET report where it said: “Within the intelligence records there is reference to Suspect J, a 43 year old man living in Dundalk at the time of the murders. He became of interest to the investigation in 1977, when intelligence named him as one of 11 men involved in the murders. This man who is now dead, is well documented as speaking with an apparent English accent.”

Mr Black said he did raise Nairac with HET investigators, as the name had been so often “bandied about”.

The officers immediately replied to him, he said: “Paddy used to be in the Paras, but he died from cancer”.

However Mr Black repeatedly emphasised that HET seemed to have their statement on the matter “prepared” for him.

He said he did “never got hung up” on rumours about Nairac and that discussion about it never arose from him. He did not speak about the officer out of the respect to him and his family, he added.

Mr Rafferty went on to read from an intelligence report compiled in 1976/7 - shortly after the Kingsmills massacre - based on the testimony of “a self-confessed IRA man”.

The document said it was based on interrogation of “a terrorist” from south Armagh who named 11 fellow IRA men involved in Kingsmills. Although the names were not read out in court the self-confessed IRA man named his colleague who led the Kingsmills attack, adding that he “speaks with a funny accent” and “almost appears to have an English accent”.

Mr Rafferty said that because the suspect with the unusual accent lived in Dundalk, he was never questioned for the massacre, and is now dead.

Mr Black described the gunman with the English accent as being about 5’8” and “squat and very well built”.

The gunman had been “cocky” and “very aggressive” on the night of the shootings, he said, but his face was blackened out and it was not possible to recall what he looked like.

The other survivor of the attack, Richard Hughes, now deceased, never mentioned the lead gunman having an English accent in his statement.

Mr Rafferty asked Coroner Brian Sherrard for guidance on naming dead suspects in court, as the families wished for this to be done. Mr Sherrard said he had an open mind on the question and asked for a written application.

Fiona Doherty QC, acting for Mr Black and the McConville family, also highlighted Mr Black’s “concerns” about “a local man” who had come into his home with HET Chief Dave cox and his officers as part of the investigation into the atrocity.

“At one point when HET visited you in your home, HET were accompanied by a local man,” Ms Doherty said.

At one stage, she added, the Chief Constable had publicly denied that this “local man” had been involved in the Kingsmills massacre.

In response to her questions about the unnamed figure in his home, Mr Black replied: “He did make me very uneasy”.

Ms Doherty emphasised to Mr Black that he should not name the “local man” in open court, which he was careful not to do.

In harrowing testimony Mr Black also told how the IRA gang execuited his teenage apprentice fitter in the attack.

The killer stood over Robert Chambers, 18, after he collapsed in a gutter at a Co Armagh roadside from an earlier burst of bullets, and blew his head off, Alan Black said.

Mr Black said that Mr Chambers was his apprentice fitter and they had been out all day in the middle of a field fixing a leak.

He had just fallen in love with a girl he called “his Wendy” and his mentor, Mr Black, had agreed to teach him to drive.

Mr Black said: “He gave me a big hug and he danced around the field.”

He added: “My last memory was him lying on the ground a few hours later calling for his mother. He was only wounded at that time.

“I remember the Doc Marten boots, then a gunman came over and shot him in the face. He got his head blown away.

“That’s my last memory of him. Just thinking what that wee lad was thinking, lying in a gutter calling for his mother.”

He gave a statement to the Justice for Innocent Victims of Terrorism group which was read to the coroner.

“I felt the most unbelievable level of pain, as if someone was sticking hot needles into my whole body.

“There was first shooting and then a lull. The only noise to be heard was my colleagues screaming in pain.”

Then the second round of shooting began.

“This time this shooting was targeted and measured, in response to the order to finish them off.

“I watched the gunmen shooting everyone. I was bleeding very badly. I watched them as they shot each one.

“They shot John McConville through the head. I knew my mates were dead because there was no more moaning.

“I felt my body and tried to plug the holes where the blood was coming from.

“There was light rain and I put my head into a small stream of water on the road because my body was so hot.”

The 10 who died were John Bryans, Robert Chambers, Reginald Chapman, Walter Chapman, Robert Freeburn, Joseph Lemmon, John McConville, James McWhirter, Robert Samuel Walker and Kenneth Worton.

The British Army was told to stay away from the Kingsmill area on the night 10 Protestant workmen were shot dead, the only survivor has claimed.

Alan Black said the rural part of South Armagh should have been swamped with police and soldiers after loyalists murdered members of the Catholic Reavey family the day before in the nearby village of Whitecross.

But he told the inquest someone in the Army had told another Kingsmill victim’s mother the military had been told to stay away.

“These gunmen walked away, they did not seem to be in any rush whatsoever, considering the crime they had just committed.

“They must have known that there was no police or army in the area.

“Considering what had happened the night before, my opinion is that the area would have been swamped with police and Army.”

The driver bringing the doomed workmen to Bessbrook had stopped in response to a red light and a command from a man with an English accent, assuming it was an angry soldier, Mr Black told the inquest.

“But there were no police or Army in the immediate area.”

Mr Black said he believed he was dying after the shooting and was determined to tell the truth of what happened to a priest he met at Daisy Hill Hospital on the outskirts of Newry.

“I had a decision to make - do I tell a lie and leave this world or tell the truth.

“I told the priest I was a Protestant but don’t leave me.”

With the passing of years he had thought the trauma would become easier.

“However it has some way closed in on me. I want the truth into these shootings, there can never be allowed any airbrushing by society of these terrible murders.”

He told the coroner he was giving evidence for the families of those who died but said the experience had been like riding a rollercoaster and he had been apprehensive and nervous.

“But then I console myself with the fact that I am doing something for the boys that died and for their families - it is something that had to be done.”