Northern Ireland

Kingsmills inquest: Hearing adjourned after new evidence found

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

An inquest into the 1976 Kingsmills massacre has been adjourned until later this month.

The inquest is looking into the murders of ten Protestant workmen in the County Armagh village.

Earlier, coroner Brian Sherrard said police should be given time to pursue a new lead that emerged last week.

A partial palm print, found on a getaway van, was re-examined and, for the first time, linked to a suspect.

Mr Sherrard said that, given the significance of the evidence, the PSNI should be allowed the opportunity to investigate it.

"My obligation to the deceased, to the families of the deceased and to the community as a whole, and in the interests of justice, demand that the police be allowed the opportunity to investigate this new lead.

"That, however, cannot be an open-ended opportunity," the coroner said.

"I am acutely aware that more than 40 years have passed since the attack and that those closest to the deceased require answers while they are fit enough to participate."

Judge Sherrard said the discovery of the print had "shaken the confidence of a number of families who now wonder who to believe and what they can believe."

He said this was "quite understandable given the timing".

"These families wish the inquest to push on despite this development as they see it as the best way for them to gain an insight into the deaths all those years ago," he said.

But he argued that the discovery of the palm print was likely to prove "invaluable" in allowing the inquest to answer key questions.

"This is the first and best opportunity since 1976 to establish a verifiable link between the person who has been identified and the attack. That link may produce many more leads," he said.

The coroner said a timetable would be put in place and that families will be advised as to the progress of the investigation.

The ten men were taken from their minibus as they made their way home from work at mill in Glenanne and shot dead by IRA gunmen in January 1976.

One Catholic man was allowed to escape.

No one has ever been convicted over the atrocity.

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

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Sinn Féin, said it was absolutely incredible that it took somebody 40 years to come up with the palm print finding.

He was asked about the situation at a meeting of the Assembly's Executive committee on Wednesday.

However, after he said he was surprised about the palm print, the committee chairman, Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt, asked him not to say anything else in case it was sub judice.

The inquest is expected to resume on 21 June.

More on this story