Family appeal directly to Kingsmill killers

Karen Armstrong and Alan Black, who was shot 18 times during an IRA ambush at Kingsmills, Co Armagh, in January 1976
Staff Reporter

The sister of a man killed when ten Protestant men were shot dead by a gang linked to the Provisional IRA more than 41-years ago has appealed for those responsible to make direct contact with her family.

Karen Armstrong makes the appeal in the Irish News today on behalf of her family and the only survivor of the ambush, Alan Black, days after an inquest into the killings resumed.

Her brother John McConville (20) was one of ten workmen shot dead near Kingsmills in south Armagh as they made their way home from work in a minibus in January 1976.

The others killed included John Bryans (46), Robert Chambers (19), Reginald Chapman (25), Walter Chapman (23), Robert Freeburn (50), Joseph Lemon (46), James McWhirter (58), Robert Walker (46) and Kenneth Worton (24).

The only Catholic travelling on the bus was told to leave the area while Mr Black survived despite being shot 18 times.

Ms Armstrong said she and her sisters Mandy and Tania, along with Mr Black, have set up a confidential contact address for anyone who wants to get in touch directly.

“Maybe when people get older, as we all do, and we only have a certain amount of years, this changes attitudes, there are maybe regrets,” she said.

“Since the inquest started last week it's amazing how many witnesses have spoken that have never been interviewed.

“With the passing of time maybe someone will come forward with information.

“No matter how small the pieces, there are people who can come forward and it's anonymous as well.”

The grieving sister said she is not concerned about pursuing prosecutions.

“We are more interested in getting to the truth,” she said.

“As far as prosecutions are concerned we think that basically too much time has gone by at this stage, so it's mostly the truth we are hoping for.”

The attack was later claimed by the South Armagh Republican Action Force and was carried out a day after three brothers John (24), Brian (22) and Anthony Reavey were shot by the UVF in their Whitecross home, which was nearby.

The youngest of the three, 17-year-old Anthony died several weeks after the attack.

On the same night the UVF also shot dead three members of the O'Dowd family near Gilford in Co Down.

Earlier this week an inquest heard that some of the weapons used at Kingsmills have been linked to the Provisional IRA along with some of the suspects.

An Historical Enquiries Team report has also said the attack was carried out by members of the Provisional IRA.

The inquest was adjourned almost a year ago after the PSNI arrested a man in connection with the attack.

However, the Public Prosecution Service later decided not to prosecute him.

Ms Armstong said the families felt they had to make a direct appeal through the Irish News to those who may have been involved.

“I have always lived with faith and have put what happened into God's hands,” she said.

“We have not gone through life feeling hatred for anybody.

“We thought it was an opportunity to try and if you don't try you don't know who will be stirred.”

She said she understood how difficult it may be for some people to approach the families.

“It is hard for people to come forward, we have had to have the courage.

“He was our only brother and was a good lad and had friends on both sides of the community.”

She said the death of her brother had an impact on the lives of everyone in the family, including her parents before they passed away.

“When you lose someone on the way we lost John things have never been the same for us,” she said.

“It did have a tremendous impact on them physically, it did take its toll on them.”

The family's legal representative Barry O'Donnell, of KRW Law, said “we are deeply moved by their dignity and quiet resolve to find the truth into the murder of their brother and the attempted murder of Mr Black”

Mr O'Donnell said that he was disappointed with the level of Garda disclosure and said he “will be advocating on this matter to ensure that the Garda Siochana deliver all they have in their repositories to the Coroner's Service.”

To contact the families in confidence all correspondence should be sent to Suite 216, 21 Botanic Avenue, Belfast, BT71JJ.

Alternatively, the Coroners Service can be contacted by emailing


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