The HET report into the 1976 Kingsmills massacre yesterday named six individuals who had been convicted of various attacks linked to the 11 weapons used in the slaughter of the 10 Protestants.
HET was careful to say that it could not assume that the six named individuals were involved in Kingsmills, just that they had been convicted of other crimes in which the same weapons were used.
“Whilst linkage is extremely important information to investigators,” the HET report said, “it is limited in that although it links weapons to other crimes, it does not necessarily implicate individuals.
“This is because paramilitary groups held their illegal weapons in pools or armouries under the control of a self-styled ‘quartermaster’. Weapons were often issued for a specific purpose/offence and returned.
“Therefore the multiple use of a specific weapon by various individuals at different locations and different time periods frequently occurred. This is certainly the case with the weapons used in the Kingsmills murders,” HET said.
Weapon number one (a .223 calibre Colt AR-15 Armalite) was recovered during an attempted murder of security forces in Belleek, Newry in June 1976. HET linked it to five different attacks. Three people were convicted after the Belleek attack. All three were convicted of IRA membership:
- Patrick Joseph Quinn was convicted at Belfast City Commission on March 23, 1977 and jailed for attempted murder, conspiracy to murder, possession of firearms and ammunition.
- Daniel Oliver McGuinness was convicted in the same court on the same day for the same offences.
- Raymond Peter McCreesh was also convicted for the same offences in the same court on the same day. He later died in prison as a result of a hunger strike.
The three men were also linked to weapon number six, an M1 Garand and weapon number eight, a Sten.
Weapon number three (a .223 calibre HOWA AR180 Armalite) was connected to 18 known attacks. One related conviction was made in relation to the murder of Army Cadet Force major William McAlpine at Chapel Street, Newry, on January 10, 1980. This weapon was also used to murder a Protestant pensioner, Joseph Skelly, in Newry on September 29, 1978.
- Noel Charles Hillen was also convicted of murder at Belfast Crown Court in relation to both the above cases.
- Brian Tumilty was convicted on February 4, 1982 at the Special Criminal Court in Dublin for possession of the weapon and was sentenced to seven years. He was also jailed for possession of another weapon and producing a firearm to resist arrest.
Weapon number five (a .30 M1 Carbine) was linked to the sixth named man.
- John Anthony McCooey who was convicted on November 10, 1977 in Belfast in relation to the Tullyvallen Orange Hall murders. He was also jailed for the separate murders of UDR corporal Robert McConnell and UDR sergeant Joseph McCullough. He was also convicted of IRA membership.
Aside from being used individually in many attacks, various combinations of the 11 weapons were also used in eight other joint attacks in south Armagh and Newry.
Basic intelligence on nine of the 11 weapons involved suggested links to numerous other incidents attributed to republican terrorists in south Armagh and south Down, HET said. The vast majority of them remain unsolved.
The incidents include:
- 37 murders
- 22 attempted murders
- 19 non-fatal shootings
- 11 finds of spent cartridges between 1974 and 1989.