Northern Ireland

Kingsmills massacre survivor Alan Black describes lying under workmates' bodies

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Media captionAlan Black, the only survivor of the 1976 Kingsmills massacre, says the inquest's start was a 'red-letter day'

The sole survivor of the Kingsmills massacre lay under the dead bodies of his workmates after the shootings, a court in Belfast has heard.

Alan Black's testimony was read out on the first day of the long-awaited inquest into the 1976 killings.

Ten men were shot dead when their minibus was ambushed by the IRA near the County Armagh village.

As the victims lay on the ground, the commander of the republican unit said: "Finish them off," the court heard.

Mr Black's statement was read out by a barrister. He said the noise of the shooting was "deafening" as he fell on his face and another man collapsed across his legs. He could hear the groans of his workmates.

A police report at the time read to the coroner said: "What happened then is perhaps the most savage and senseless single outrage in the present campaign."

About 30 relatives and supporters watched from the public gallery at the coroner's court on Monday.

Image caption Ten men died after gunmen ambushed their minibus in 1976

Mr Black listened, pain etched across his face, as the details of that night's events were listed.

The men who died were John Bryans, Robert Chambers, Reginald Chapman, Walter Chapman, Robert Freeburn, Joseph Lemmon, John McConville, James McWhirter, Robert Samuel Walker and Kenneth Worton.

The gunmen had asked the workers about their religion, before telling the one Catholic man on the bus to leave.

The inquest is expected to last at least a month.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The Protestant workers were travelling home from work when their minibus was ambushed

Speaking before it began, Mr Black said that he and the victims' families were "relieved and apprehensive" that it was actually happening.

"We have fought long and hard for this review. Obstacles were put in our way. Thanks to these people we have gotten over each one.

"This is a red-letter day to finally get our day in court," he said.

The inquest is expected to call former officers of the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) who looked at the killings in 2011.

The HET concluded that the Provisional IRA was responsible for the deaths despite being on ceasefire at the time.

Image caption Families of the Kingsmills victims face the media ahead of the inquest

A memorial service was held in January to mark the 40th anniversary of their deaths.

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