Veteran republican linked to new Kingsmill evidence

June 6, 2016

As police re-opened their inquiry into the Kingsmills massacre following the discovery of new forensic evidence last week, the Irish News has reported that the evidence – a palm print found on a getaway van linked to the atrocity – belongs to veteran County Louth republican Colm Murphy.

The forensic development in the investigation comes only a week after a new inquest into the atrocity began at Belfast Coroner’s Court.  The families of those who died at Kingsmill were informed of the new evidence just moments before Coroner Brian Sherrard opened the court proceedings last Tuesday (May 31st).

The IRA was widely blamed for the massacre of the Protestant textile workers outside the Co Armagh village of Kingmill in January 1976 but no-one has ever been convicted of the attack.

Murphy, who was found liable for the Omagh bombing, has questioned the timing of the announcement of new evidence and says he believes it is intended to sabotage the inquest because it could potentially threaten the peace process if it goes ahead.

The veteran republican highlighted that he has been arrested dozens of times since the attack but has never been charged with any offence connected to it.

“The HET (Historical Enquiries Team) never even approached me when they were investigating Kingsmill and yet this is meant to have been known all these years,” he told the Irish News.

“I’ve been arrested about 30-plus times since 1976, I’ve been in jail a few times as well. My fingerprints must have been taken upwards of 40 times, but we’re meant to believe this only flagged up now?

“You have to ask yourself why now and why my name?

“If they had my print or even a hint that I was involved why didn’t they use that against me during the other trial,” he said, referring to a civil case taken against him by relatives of the victims of the Omagh bombing in 1998.

The 63 year old was the only person ever to be convicted of the Omagh attack but this was later overturned on appeal, before he, along with other men, was found liable in the civil case.

Murphy’s name does not appear on a security briefing paper which names up to 11 people the RUC at the time believed may have been involved in the Kingsmill attack.

The republican admits he was arrested and questioned at the time of the Kingsmill atrocity before being released without charge.  He claimed his arrest was part of a round-up of republicans in the area.

“What I will say is that a few years back when the IRA first admitted they’d been involved was when my name started getting mentioned,” he added before claiming that “uncomfortable truths” could emerge from the inquest “that would be very embarrassing for people who would now be considered close to Sinn Féin.”

“I don’t believe any solid evidence exists to link me to that attack – if there was it would have come out long before now.”

The families of the 10 protestant workmen shot and killed at Kingsmill over 40 years ago have also questioned the length of time it has taken for police to reveal such a vital piece of evidence.

Ulster Unionist MLA Danny Kennedy  welcomed the reopening of the investigation but warned that the fresh investigation “must not be used in any way as a further delaying tactic to hamper their pursuit for maximum truth and justice.”

The inquest was provided with a cypher cloak of 11 suspects for the killings last week with written submissions expected to be entered  to the court for a grid reference to identify the suspects.  The inquest also heard from sole survivor Alan Black, who took to the witness stand to share his “vivid memories” of the fateful evening on January 5th 1976 which saw 10 of his co-workers shot dead beside him as he lay at the roadside, riddled with 18 bullets, attempting to play dead to avoid the same horrific fate.

Retired teacher Gerry Mckeown also gave his emotional testimony last week, describing how he and his wife Anne, who were travelling with their two young children, came upon the scene. Mr McKeown, who was the first person to stop at the scene after the massacre,  told the court that he saw a farmer collect empty bullet casings from the road.

Neither Mr McKeown nor his wife Anne were asked to give statements to the RUC at the time and he only relayed his story to the PSNI’s Historical Enquiries Team in 2010. Recalling how he prayed for the victims, including Alan Black, the Catholic schoolteacher said he and Mr Black prayed “to the one God” in the hope that Mr Black would survive. He added that he would never forget the horror of what he witnessed that night.

Police have said they are liaising with the coroner in light of the fresh new evidence in the case but it is unclear if the inquest will go ahead as planned while a new criminal investigation takes place.