The PSNI says “apparent mistakes” were made with the Kingsmills massacre getaway van palm print – and that a match with a suspect in recent days “should have been” found up to six years ago.
Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton made the comments at Thursday’s Policing Board meeting in Belfast – the first time the PSNI or Justice Minister have taken any public questions about the matter since it made national headlines 10 days ago.
His comments are significant in that they suggest the suspect’s palm print has been on the police database for at least six years; some observers have been privately defending the PSNI by suggesting it may only recently have been added.
The IRA killed 10 Protestant civilians in the atrocity in 1976 in south Armagh.
Relatives of the those killed have expressed scepticism at the new lead and feared that it would derail the inquest; the hearings have now been adjourned for two weeks in light of the fresh probe.
DUP MLA Nelson McCausland asked senior officers if the senior investigating officer (SIO) in the palm print probe was only following up on the direction the print takes them – “or are they also looking at how it was that that has been overlooked over such a long period of years?”
ACC Hamilton replied that detectives are following up both lines of inquiry but emphasised it was not a “full” review of the Kingsmills evidence.
“It is not a full re-examination of every element of this murder – this massacre – but in terms of why the palm print wasn’t identified in either 2010 when it was comparisoned and in 2014 when it was checked by the HET ... we are now conducting some inquiries to establish the nature of why those apparent mistakes were made.”
He added: “We don’t know exactly why it wasn’t detected in 2010 or in 2014. We believe it should have been but we need to get exactly to the reasons why.”
Victims’ campaigner Willie Frazer asked why the SIO had told families he was unaware of previous reviews of the palm print in 2005/7/9.
“ACC Hamilton says this will not be a full review of the evidence, but that is exactly what the SIO told the families would be happening.
“Loughinisland was rightly discussed at the same Policing Board meeting. But I would like to have seen the PSNI tell Sinn Fein they were not carrying out a ‘full’ investigation into Loughinisland.”
ACC Hamilton told the News Letter the palm match is a new line of inquiry and is the priority. Detectives “will go where the evidence takes us” but are not reviewing all evidence.