Regret over lack of justice for Kingsmill bereaved

September 10, 2018

The lead detective in the most recent investigation into the Kingsmill massacre has spoken of his remorse that he failed in his bid to get justice for the families of those murdered.

Detective Chief Inspector Ian Harrison made the comments on Wednesday at the resumption of the inquest into the January 1976 attack when ten workmen were ordered from their minibus and shot dead at Kingsmill, near Whitecross.  Alan Black was the sole survivor, despite being shot 18 times. 

No one has ever been convicted of the atrocity and DCI Harrison said it was a “horrendous situation” for the bereaved families.  Referring to a palm print found on a van police believe may have been used by the gunmen, which came to light two years ago, he blamed “system and human error” for the 40-year delay in identifying its owner.  

Harrison led a fresh investigation into the atrocity in 2016 after the palm print was successfully matched. It had been taken from the vehicle by police forensic officers during the initial investigation, and unsuccessful attempts were made to match it in 2010 and 2014 using police database systems.  Following the positive identification of the owner, in August 2016 a 59-year-old man was arrested by police in Newry and questioned in connection with the crime.  In February last year, the Public Prosecution Service announced it would not be pursuing a case against the man due to insufficient evidence.

Giving evidence at last week’s resumption of the inquest, DCI Harrison told the court: “I sit here with remorse today that my investigation has not given the families the justice they deserve.  If I could change the situation I would.”

Reading a section of the report he submitted to the PPS, he revealed some difficulties in 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. 

The court heard that the man arrested in 2016, referred to as ‘S54’, made no comment during police interviews when asked to account for how his palm print was found in the van. The inquest also heard the suspect was described in a police intelligence report as “a very dangerous terrorist who would be familiar with police procedures” and who “should be treated with caution.” 

The detective told the inquest it is his belief that the van “more likely than not” was used by the gunmen but with no witness accounts to place the vehicle at the scene, couple with a number of informational and evidential gaps linking S54 to the murder, he said there was a lack of certainty over how the palm print came to be in the van, with police unable to “discount that the palm print had been placed there innocently.”

DCI Harrison added that there is no active police investigation into the Kingsmills murders at present.  The hearing continues.