THE Prosecution Service in Northern Ireland has said it will not prosecute an individual suspected of being involved in the murder of 10 people in an ambush in 1976 in Armagh.
Known as the Kingsmill Massacre, 10 men were shot and another injured by men disguised as British soldiers as they travelled home from work at a textiles factory on a minibus.
The men, who were all factory workers, were asked their religion and the sole Catholic man on the bus, Richard Hughes, was ordered to leave, the sole survivor Alan Black told an inquest last year.
Mr Black was shot 16 times in the attack.
The inquest into the massacre was paused last year when an investigation file reporting one suspect was submitted to the Public Prosecuting Service (PPS) on August 31, 2016 by the PSNI.
Outlining the decision not to prosecute, Assistant Director of Central Casework at the PPS, Michael Agnew, said: “We have given careful consideration to all of the evidence currently available and have 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 Prosecution is therefore not met.”
Mr Agnew also acknowledged the “disappointment” of surviving family members of the victims with this decision.
“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.”
Speaking on behalf of the families, victims’ campaigner William Frazer said: “This is just the beginning rather than the end. We would like just to reassure the families that we promise not to leave any stone unturned.
“Today’s decision by the PPS has come as no surprise to the families because the evidential threshold for a criminal prosecution is set very high, which is to be expected.
“The families understand that and are happy now the inquest is going to move forward, because we are finding out more and more information through the coroner and other new witnesses who have come forward after 40 years.
“But we do intend to return to the palm print and the vehicle used in the Kingsmill massacre, because in a civil action the need of proof is lower and in the letter from the PPS it is clearly stated that in all probability that this was the vehicle that was used and given the history of this individual and that it was an unlikelihood that any contact between the suspect and the van was innocent.”
Unionist candidate for Newry and Armagh Danny Kennedy said the decision by the PPS is a “setback” for the families, but urged the coroner’s inquest to move forward.
“The families and the sole survivor have waited over 40 years in their pursuit of maximum truth and justice for this brutal and barbaric sectarian crime, so the news that the PPS has decided not to prosecute the suspect whose palm print was found on a vehicle believed to be used by the IRA gunmen responsible for the Kingsmill Massacre, is indeed 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.
“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.”
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan, also said “the need for truth and justice” must be addressed.
“That there will not be a prosecution is a further disappointment to families that have waited so long for justice. Alan Black, the sole survivor of that terrible night has accepted the decision with his customary grace and humanity,” said Mr Flanagan.
“The inquest into the deaths should now be re-opened and concluded. The Irish Government has committed to full co-operation within the law with the inquest and this will continue.
“Today’s decision is a further reminder that there are many thousands of families from across the community waiting for the legacy institutions, agreed at the Stormont House talks in 2014, which need to be established so that the need for truth and justice can addressed.
“Dealing with the past in a manner respectful of all will help Northern Ireland move forward.”