Northern Ireland

Kingsmills witness accused of making up Captain Robert Nairac story

The 10 victims of the Kingsmills massacre
Image caption Ten workmen, aged from 19 to 58, were murdered by the IRA at Kingsmills in 1976

The first man at the scene of the Kingsmills massacre has been accused of making up suggestions that Army Captain Robert Nairac stopped the minibus on the night of the IRA attack.

Gerald Byrne also recounted the horrific scene he came across.

Ten Protestant workmen were shot dead by the IRA in County Armagh in January 1976.

Mr Byrne, a 26-year-old student at the time, said when he arrived at the scene he thought there had been an accident.

He saw what he thought was an animal lying on the road, but when he approached he saw the full horror, with bodies beside the bus.

The inquest heard previous written statements by Mr Byrne in which he said the smell was indescribable - the smell of death and sight of blood running down the road. He said the events of that night have haunted him his whole life.

Later, Mr Byrne was asked by lawyers representing the families and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) about statements he made in more recent years claiming he had been told that Cpt Nairac - a British army officer - had stopped the minibus on the night of Kingsmills.

Mr Byrne said he got the information from his partner, who was previously married to a member of the Army.

He said he must have written his account down incorrectly, but he said he was sure he was told Cpt Nairac was at Kingsmills.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The minibus in which the victims had been travelling was riddled with bullet holes

One barrister said he had "cynically and cruelly" decided to bring Cpt Nairac's name into it to serve someone else's purposes.

Another put it to the witness that he could be accused of "sexing up" his evidence. The witness denied those suggestions.

A barrister acting for the MoD said Mr Byrne was for some reason creating a "seam of disinformation" which pushes the focus away from IRA involvement towards British military involvement.

It said it would show that Robert Nairac was not in Northern Ireland when Kingsmills took place. The coroner said clarification from the MoD on that issue would help.

Asked about his attitude to the police and Army he said he had suffered physical and sectarian abuse at their hands over the years for no reason - something that made him sceptical about providing information.

Mr Byrne also said he had little confidence in the inquest.

He said he had lived his whole life in Northern Ireland and believed the proceedings would not be allowed to get to the truth about Kingsmills.

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