No prosecution in Kingsmill palm print case

February 13, 2017

A man whose palm print was allegedly found on a getaway vehicle linked to the Kingsmill massacre will not be prosecuted, The Examiner has learned.

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) said there was “insufficient evidence” to offer a reasonable prospect of convicting the individual who was arrested in the Newry area in August last year and questioned about the 1976 atrocity.

The decision was announced on Thursday by Michael Agnew, the PPS’s Assistant Director of Central Casework, who said lawyers had given “careful consideration to all of the evidence” and had applied the test for prosecution.

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

It is understood a lack of Garda and Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) records in regard to how the van was forensically handled upon discovery was a key factor in the PPS’s decision.

Prosecutors were unable to locate documents indicating exactly when the vehicle was found, or where it was taken for examination, or even the precise location of the palm print position on the windscreen.  Therefore while matching the print to the individual was not an issue, the missing forensic records meant prosecuters were unable to rule out that the palm print might have been placed on the windscreen well after the shootings.

And although two witnesses identified the green Bedford van as being in the general vicinity both before and after the attack, the sightings were not close enough to the scene to provide strong circumstantial evidence.

Announcing the PPS’s decision, Mr Agnew said: “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.  We have informed the families this morning of our decision and the reasons for it, and have offered to meet with them to answer any further questions that they may have.

“We are also conscious that inquest proceedings are currently adjourned to allow for any criminal matters to be concluded and accordingly have advised the coroner of this decision.”

The Ulster Unionist Assembly candidate, Danny Kennedy says he is bitterly disappointed at the decision.

Mr Kennedy has worked closely with the Kingmill’s relatives in their quest for justice and said the PPS decision is “a setback”.

“I will be seeking clarification on whether or not all the available evidence has been completely and exhaustively explored in relation to the palm print,” he said.

“It is scarcely credible that this case has not been able to move forward as a result of this potential evidence.  It is now imperative that the coroner’s inquest should proceed with all haste in its work to uncover the truth of what happened at Kingsmill. It is my hope that it may yet uncover opportunities and truths to bring to justice those republicans responsible for one of the most barbaric crimes of the entire Troubles.

“I pay tribute to the sole survivor, Alan Black, and the Kingmill’s families, who after 41 long years, remain determined to establish the truth about Kingsmills. I fully support them and will continue to assist them in any way possible,” Mr Kennedy added.

Civil case

However, victims’ campaigner, Willie Frazer, has revealed some of the bereaved families intend to pursue a civil case.

Speaking on behalf of some of the families, he said they are not planning to appeal the PPS decision, and were keen to allow the second inquest to resume.

But after the inquest has concluded, he said the families plan a civil case, believing that while the evidence may not pass the “beyond reasonable doubt” test of a criminal trial, it may be enough for the level of evidence required in the civil courts.