Kingsmill massacre: Man will not be prosecuted over palm print

Insufficient evidence to take a case against suspect arrested over murder of 10 Protestants

There is insufficient evidence to take a case against a man whose palm print was found on the suspected van IRA gunmen used to escape after the Kingsmill massacre.

The North's Public Prosecution Service (PPS) on Thursday said a suspect would not be prosecuted in connection with the murder of ten Protestant workmen in south Armagh 41-years ago.

The lone Protestant survivor of the sectarian attack, Alan Black who was shot 18 times, and relatives of the ten workmen gunned down by the IRA in January 1976, had hoped that the discovery of a palm print from the suspected getaway van might lead to at least one conviction.

The PSNI made a match of the palm print last May, and three months later a 59-year-old Co Armagh man with previous republican paramilitary convictions was arrested and questioned about what was one of the worst atrocities of the Troubles. A file also was sent by police to the North’s PPS.


"We have given careful consideration to all the evidence currently available and have applied the test for prosecution," said Michael Agnew, the PPS's assistant director of central casework.

“We have concluded that there is no reasonable prospect of a conviction based on the available evidence and that the test for prosecution is therefore not met,” he said.

The test that there be sufficient evidence to lead to a reasonable prospect of a conviction was not achieved, the PPS found.

“We are mindful of the disappointment that this decision will bring to the surviving victim and families of those who were killed. Although 41 years have passed since this atrocity we are conscious that their pain endures,” Mr Agnew said.

The PPS faced a number of difficulties in pressing ahead with a prosecution. There were questions over whether the suspected green Bedford getaway van that was discovered near Dundalk the day after the attack could be directly linked to the shooting.

It is understood that the PPS also faced a serious problem over lack of RUC and Garda records from the time relating to the discovery of the van, how it was stored and the forensic examination of the vehicle carried out by RUC forensic officers.

There are also questions over why it took until May to match the palm print to the suspect who was arrested in August. A further major evidential problem was that it could not be established whether the palm print was placed there before, during or after the attack.

The van of the textile workers was flagged down near Kingsmill as they made their way home from work. The men were asked their religion and the only Catholic among them was told to run away. The eleven were then gunned down by the gang with Mr Black surviving despite extensive injuries.

The killings were viewed as retaliation for loyalist sectarian killings of Catholics in the area days earlier. No one has been convicted for what became known as the Kingsmill massacre.

Mr Black said the PPS appeared to have been thorough about the case and he understood based on the lack of evidence why the case was not taken against the suspect.

“I am disappointed obviously that no one has been held to account,” Mr Black added.

The PPS move means a stalled inquest into the killings will now be able to resume.

In statement, Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said the Government had committed to full co-operation within the law with the inquest and this will continue.

“That there will not be a prosecution is a further disappointment to families that have waited so long for justice,” Mr Flanagan said.

Alan Black, the sole survivor of that terrible night has accepted the decision with his customary grace and humanity.”

He added: “Today’s decision is a further reminder that there are many thousands of families from across the community waiting for the legacy institutions, agreed at the Stormont House talks in 2014, which need to be established so that the need for truth and justice can addressed.

“Dealing with the past in a manner respectful of all will help Northern Ireland move forward. I will be discussing this matter again with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, James Brokenshire, at our next meeting.”

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty is the former Northern editor of The Irish Times