'Sensationalist fantasy' to link Sunderland soldier to notorious IRA massacre
Ten Protestant workmen were driving home from work in their minibus on January 5, 1976, when they were gunned down near Kingsmills, in South Armagh, Northern Ireland, during the province's deadly Troubles.
While police hold the IRA responsible for the deaths, Republican sympathisers have tried to link undercover Army officer Captain Robert Nairac to the killings.
Captain Nairac, who was raised in Thornhill Gardens, Sunderland, was himself murdered by the IRA less than 18 months later with his body still to be recovered amid disputed rumours that it was fed to an industrial meat mincer.
The 40th anniversary of his death was marked by new pleas for information to discover his remains so that his surviving relatives can hold a proper funeral.
At an ongoing Belfast inquest into the Kingsmill Masscare, a captain from the Special Military Intelligence Unit gave evidence from behind a screen and used the cipher MOD3 in order to protect his identity.
Based at Newry police station in 1976, he developed a “warm friendship” with Grenadier Guard Captain Nairac.
Nairac had been working for a covert surveillance unit, MOD3 said, and had liaised between the Army and Royal Ulster Constabulary.
He has been linked to Kingsmills because witnesses to the atrocity said the gunman who led the attack spoke with an English accent.
MOD3, who rushed to the location of the attack, said: “The scene was the worst I had seen in the Troubles. The sight and smell was the worst I had seen in Northern Ireland and remains with me to this day.”
He had always dismissed claims that Nairac was involved as “sensationalist fantasy” as his “integrity and moral compass” would not have allowed him to take part in such an attack.
Captain Nairac was not in Northern Ireland at the time, MOD3 said, and if he had been he would have been told about it.
If he had been "freelancing” outside the Army in south Armagh at that time then he would simply have ended up being killed, he added.
Colonel Marcus Simpson, a senior army personnel officer, also testified that records for the weeks leading up to the massacre showed that Captain Nairac was helping his regiment move from London to a new base in Surrey while also preparing for a major training exercise in Kenya.
The inquest continues.
Six men have been convicted of offences ranging upwards from withholding information to murder in connection with Captain Nairac's disappearance on May 14, 1977.
He had visited the staunchly Catholic Three Steps pub, in Dromintee, South Armagh, where he reputedly sang Republican songs before he was abducted by IRA members, taken across the border and eventually shot dead the following day.