Kingsmills: the report

Published Friday, 17 June 2011
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The horror of that day 35 years ago still resonates... An IRA team were out for revenge after the murder of six Catholics just hours earlier, so they picked an easy target and lay in wait on the Kingsmill Road.

A minibus approached - on board innocent men who had been working hard all day and were looking forward to their dinner.

But others had murder on their mind... Up to a dozen gunmen surrounded the van, ordered the men out, forcing them at gunpoint to reveal their religion.

A Catholic man was allowed to run for it. The rest were lined up and shot.

Then, the last command was shouted: "Finish them off"...

Ten men lay dead on this quiet country road. Remarkably, one man who was hit 18 times survived.

Earlier this week, we revealed details of a leaked report, investigating exactly what happened that day.

Some of it confirmed what we already knew - the IRA did it and the weapons which killed had been used before...

But exactly how many has just been revealed: 37 murders, 22 attempted murders and 19 non-fatal shootings.

One of the weapons was used to murder RUC Constable David McNeice and Rifleman Michael Gibson in Meigh, Co Armagh in 1974 and the attempted murder of a farmer in Armagh.

After Kingsmills it was used in the attempted murder of security force personnel and an attack on a military helicopter.

Another gun was used in the double murder of Lance Corporal Philip James and Private Roy Bedford in 1974 and those of RUC Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Raymond Buchanan.

Even one of the weapons used to kill was STOLEN from the army and it goes on, as the history of all 11 guns are listed in this report... so much devastation left behind.

Then comes another startling revelation: one of the gunmen is suspected of being involved in the Omagh bombing.

Like many historic cases, there were failures and missed opportunities by the police.

The investigation got off to a bad start. The team had just 12 staff. Nowadays there would be many more.

For example 100 detectives were brought in to investigate the recent murder of Ronan Kerr. Back then it was different.

The HET has described the failures they've uncovered as "disturbing".

"Failure to trace and interview a number of potential witnesses was a very significant missed opportunity at a crucial point in the investigation," the report says.

But it's not just the RUC facing criticism. It seems police in Britain have some serious questions to answer.

Here's why... In 2002 a key suspect was stopped by the authorities at Heathrow.

That man was on a wanted list over the murders of ten innocent men.

Yet, he was allowed to continue on his journey.

How could this be? Was a check not carried out? Were police here informed? Or, was this man travelling on a false passport?

So many questions...

There were arrests over Kingsmills, but no-one was ever convicted of murder. All those involved had fled to the south, so news that one of them was in this jurisdiction, yet no action was taken, has caused deep concern.

On Tuesday the Kingsmills families will gather in Bessbrook to give their reaction to this report.

By then they will have had time to pour over its contents.

A few days ago Alan Black, the man who survived Kingsmills, said : "It is a relief that the HET investigation is now complete."

He added: "There is a memorial to the men in the village of Bessbrook, close to where I live, and I think often of my workmates who lost their lives on that terrible evening. The memory will never leave me.

"I have suffered physical and mental scars but the families of the men who died, have suffered much more. Their grief continues every day and I hope they will find some comfort in the HET report."

Thousands of people here are still seeking comfort from the past. But all attempts to find one way to deal with all the hurt have so far failed.

With Kingsmills now back in the headlines, many believe it's now time this issue is tackled once and for all.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
3 Comments
CJ in co.down wrote (593 days ago):
Sharon, first let me congratulate you on your journalistic skills, excellent ! Anyway, I agree wholeheartedly with JAE, having been an ex RUC member, back in those days it was very hard to investigate with so many incidents happening , but investigations were done , and thoroughly I might add ! The media give the RUC a terrible time now and it is pathetic, given what we went through to keep Northern Ireland safe, and it seems every slight opportunity is taken to blacken our name ! No offence to you ! This is of course being driven by certain politicians and getting back to this article, we need to see real justice being done for the families of these atrocities, not just Kingsmill, but Narrowater, the 2 RUC Officers murdered in South Armagh ETC, It's time the security forces of N.Ireland got a little justice for the sacrifices made over the years, and convictions brought as evidence is there, instead of slandering us time and time again, don't forget it's RUC GC ! That isn't handed out lightly ! Keep up your excellent journalism.
Paul in Belfast wrote (1,129 days ago):
Will these "brave men" ever be convicted of "war crimes" and sentenced.. like the Serbs are in the Hague? Because there is no difference in the horrible cowardly murders they committed. Ps. I don't expect this to be posted, because any other anti terrorist comments I tried to post never find their way onto the postings :-(
JAE in Fermanagh wrote (1,130 days ago):
Sharon; what HET don't really appreciate the mamoth task RUC had in the mid 70s dealing with the colossal amount of murders and bombings committed by Orange and Green everyday. With limited resources the team of 12 in Bessbrook would have also had to investigate God knows how many other murders committed before and after the massacre. Having joined RUC in the same year as the Kingsmill Massacre, I know what occurred in other parts of the province where the security forces were under daily attack form murderers. As for a way forward; justice for victims will never come. A truth commission wil end up being faceless mureders permitted to give evidence from behind a screen or making a declaration to some Judge in charge of the investigation. It will end up being a mish-mash of lies, more lies and dammmed lies. Murderers wouldn't know the truth if they were sitting on a stack of Bibles. Hind-sight is an amazing talent mostly possessed by those who have time on their hands to scritinise the actions of others. Unfortunately we in RUC didn't have time to look back for too long until we were at the next terrorist incident.
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Sharon O'Neill
Sharon O'Neill

Sharon is a graduate of the University of central Lancashire in Preston. She graduated with a 2:1 degree in journalism. She was a mature student - (though she didn't act it at times!)

After studying she freelanced for both the Irish News and Belfast Telegraph, then she was a sub-editor at the Daily Mirror despite some terrible spelling. Then she got a job as a reporter with the Irish News and two years later became their chief reporter.

She then moved to UTV and went in front of the camera, though she insists she's not a natural. She finds every day can be memorable in its own little way.

In her spare time she loves keeping fit, feeding her coffee addiction and the occasional dance.

Her phrase of choice is 'Let's check out of this cheap hotel'.

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