The Police Ombudsman is to launch a full investigation into why a string of suspects in the Kingsmills massacre have never been arrested.
Ten Protestant workmen were gunned down by the IRA in 1976 as they drove home from work near Kingsmills in south Armagh.
Colin Worton, whose brother Kenneth was one of those murdered, was elated by the news.
“This is brilliant,” he told the News Letter. “I will be very impressed if they do this and carry this out to the best of their ability.
“However, we must never forget it was the IRA that carried out this atrocity.”
From over a dozen suspects, some were arrested in the seventies, but none charged.
“They did not put any pressure on any of the suspects to confess,” he said.
“Raymond McCreesh was arrested about three months later with one of the weapons while on active IRA service. It should have been put to him that he was at Kingsmills, he should have been pressed for an alibi.”
Newry and Mourne District Council has named a council playground after McCreesh, sparking national headlines.
“HET confirmed that he was arrested with one of the weapons but said this did not prove that he was involved, because weapons could have been taken out of a pool.
“However having been in the UDR, in my experience when someone uses a weapon they become one.
“You make fine adjustments to the sights - you don’t want to do that every time you pick up a weapon.”
He noted that the HET report in 2011 said that after the murders Special Branch had said of two particular suspects, “not to arrest them just yet”.
He added: “In fact they were never arrested. I would not be surprised if they were the same two suspects who it is now confirmed have on the run letters.”
A spokesman for the Police Ombudsman said it has received a number of complaints from representatives of the bereaved Kingsmills families, including FAIR (Families Acting for Innocent Relatives). As a result, it reviewed the murder file from the 1970s and the related HET report.
He added: “We have now satisfied ourselves that the outstanding issues are matters which the Police Ombudsman can and should investigate. That investigation will focus on an allegation that the police investigation of the Kingsmills attack was poor, that from an early stage police did not secure the murder scene and that they later failed to arrest named suspects.”
A senior officer will start the case this Autumn.
UUP MLA Danny Kennedy broadly welcomed the news, but added that “honest mistakes at a time of great pressure should not be allowed to lessen the responsibility of those who carried out this brutal sectarian atrocity”.
Newry and Armagh DUP MLA William Irwin also welcomed the news, adding that “many sectarian atrocities such as Kingsmills have been virtually ignored”.
The PSNI said it is not be appropriate to comment due to the ombudsman probe.