The sole survivor of the Kingsmills Massacre has given evidence on the first day of an inquest into the deaths of his 10 murdered workmates.
Alan Black’s testimony was read out at a courtroom in Belfast, while more than two dozen supporters and relatives of the victims listened from the public gallery.
He told how he lay under the bodies of his colleagues, after their minibus was stopped by the side of a road in south Armagh on January 5, 1976.
Coroners’ Office counsel Sean Doran QC opened the inquests by expressing sympathies to the families, who were represented at the hearing by barrister Neill Rafferty.
Mr Doran read the names of the victims to the inquest, which is being heard by Senior Coroner Brian Sherrard.
Testimony from Alan Black and Richard Hughes – who was singled out as the only Roman Catholic travelling on the bus and ordered to run – relayed how the minibus, travelling from a textiles factory in Glenanne, was waved down by a man with a red light a short distance before the Kingsmills Crossroadds.
The man, who spoke with an English accent and wore military style attire, ordered all off the bus and told them to line up and place their hands on the vehicle.
The same man asked who the Roman Catholic was travelling on the bus. Mr Hughes felt his colleagues on either side squeeze his hands. He was ordered to run down the road before being pushed over a fence and ordered to lie face down. It was then that he heard the gunfire.
The statement of Mr Hughes – who died in 2006 – was taken in 1976 and relayed to the inquests.
Details were also read to the court from Alan Black’s statement after the atrocity.
He had been the last off the minibus and saw three men, dressed in military attire, come out of a nearby field. He also saw up to eight more coming from another direction and carrying rifles.
Mr Black said that he heard the man who had stopped the minibus say ‘right’ after Mr Hughes had been told to leave the scene.
Mr Black was shot during the burst of gunfire and fell into a ditch. He heard the same man with the English accent give the order to “finish them off” as he lay under the bodies of his workmates.
Ulster Unionist MLA Danny Kennedy has welcomed the opening of the inquest and was there for the opening day.
He said: “Over 40 years ago 10 Protestant workmen were murdered by the IRA at the side of a road in south Armagh, in one of the most shocking and brutal sectarian attacks of the entire Troubles.
“I welcome the fact that today at Laganside Courts, a Coroner’s Inquest has now finally begun, although it was very difficult to listen to the early presentation of evidence.
“Even after 40 years, I found it a deeply emotional and harrowing experience and it was even more difficult for the families.
“I fervently hope that the inquest will lead to the maximum amount of truth and justice for the families involved.
“I also pay tribute to the families, the sole survivor and the campaigners and legal teams who have brought us to this day.”
The inquest is expected to last for six weeks.
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