Insufficient evidence to link palm print to Kingsmill massacre

‘System and human error’ blamed for inability to convict over 1976 murder of 10 workmen

A bullet riddled van at Kingsmill in Co Armagh after 10 protestant workmen were shot dead in January 1976 in an attack attributed to the IRA. Photograph: PA Wire.

A bullet riddled van at Kingsmill in Co Armagh after 10 protestant workmen were shot dead in January 1976 in an attack attributed to the IRA. Photograph: PA Wire.

 

“System and human error” have been blamed for the failure to identify a palm print recovered from a van linked to the massacre at Kingsmill in Co Armagh more than 40 years ago, an inquest has heard.

Ten workmen were murdered in the mass shooting on January 5th, 1976, with the atrocity attributed to the Provisional IRA.

A palm print was recovered from a van which police believe was used by the gunmen but it was not successfully matched until two years ago.

The palm print had been taken from the van by police forensic officers, and attempts were made to match it using database systems in 2010 and 2014.

Giving evidence to an inquest into the killings, Det Chief Insp Ian Harrison put this down to “system and human error”.

“This was subsequently checked and confirmed as a positive match by three officers,” Mr Harrison told the inquest of the palm print.

This resulted in a fresh police investigation and a man (59) was arrested in Newry, Co Down for questioning.

Insufficient evidence

A file was sent to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS), which later announced it would not be pursuing a case against the man due to insufficient evidence.

Mr Harrison, who led the most recent police investigation, read a section of the report he submitted to the PPS to the inquest.

It revealed some difficulty proving whether the van had been used by the gunmen, due to a lack of witnesses and a lack of firearms residue inside the van, which was likely to have transported 11 heavily armed men thought to have fired more than 100 rounds at the scene.

Mr Harrison said he believes it is “more likely than not” that the van was the one used by the gunmen, but no witness could place it at the scene. He said there was also a lack of certainty over how the palm print came to be in the van.

“We were not able to discount that the palm print had been placed there innocently.”

Alan Black, the sole survivor of the shooting, was in the public gallery with a number of the families of the 10 men who were killed on Wednesday.

The hearing continues. - PA