A top secret British Army document shows an IRA killer who slaughtered 10 Protestants at Kingsmill could have been arrested months later when he was injured in a gun battle.
The report given to the Sunday World reveals how the RUC and British Army knew the IRA murderer was being treated in Louth county hospital in Dundalk but made no attempt to have him arrested and extradited.
The failure to bring the Provo to justice has led to suspicions that the man – who has never been prosecuted despite extensive paramilitary involvement – was a British agent.
The killer can't be named for legal reasons. 'P' is from the south Armagh village of Belleek but now lives in the Republic.
The Kingsmill families want the Irish government to allow the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) to question him. The HET currently have no authority to arrest or interview suspects living across the border.
The south Armagh man escaped after a gun battle with British paratroopers in which three other IRA members, including legendary republican Raymond McCreesh who would later die on hunger-strike, were captured.
'P' was shot and wounded when the paras opened fire on an IRA unit near the Mountain House inn on the Newry-Newtownhamilton Road on June 25 1976. He was struck by three bullets in the leg, arm and chest but managed to crawl away.
He was then ferried across the border and treated at Louth hospital hours later.
A Royal Military Police document dated August 19 1976 reveals that both the RUC and British Army knew he was there but failed to contact gardai to have him arrested.
Four guns were recaptured by the security forces after the gun battle with the IRA, including two which had been used in the infamous Kingsmill massacre five months earlier.
Ten Protestant workers were taken from their minibus in January 1976 and brutally slain by the side of the road.
They were lined up beside their van and shot from two feet. Some fell on top of each other. Then 'P', one of the 12 gunmen, walked round the dying men and shot each of them again in the head as they lay on the ground.
Willie Frazer, director of IRA victims group FAIR – who is organising a controversial march through south Armagh to commemorate Kingsmill next weekend, said the security forces were guilty of grave negligence.
"This man did one of the coldest, cruellest things imaginable. He walked over and coolly finished off dying men who were lying in pools of their own blood." Frazer said.
"Five months later, there was the perfect opportunity to have him arrested when he lay in a hospital bed a few miles across the Border. But neither the police nor the army bothered.
"It must be asked why this IRA man is a protected species. He carried out one of the most heinous acts during the conflict but has never even been interviewed about it.
"Today he walks the streets a free man while the families of the dead are still grieving and are tortured with horrible thoughts of the last moments of their loved ones lives."
Colin Worton, whose 24-year-old brother Kenneth was killed in the atrocity, said he was appalled by the failure to pursue his brother's murderer.
"The RUC should have asked gardai to arrest and extradite him to Northern Ireland. At the very least, he should have been questioned about Kingsmill. It makes no sense.
"It's only now we're realising it was a very dirty war. But the Irish government still has the power to rectify the situation. They must let the HET interview 'P' immediately."
The four IRA men fled after the gun battle with the paras near the Mountain House inn but three were captured hours later. Daniel McGuinness (18) from the south Armagh village of Camlough was found sleeping in a quarry.
Paddy Quinn (24) from Belleek and Raymond McCreesh (19) from Camlough were discovered in a nearby house. According to the secret army document both Quinn and McCreesh allegedly broke the IRA code of secrecy and named 'P' to soldiers as the fourth gunman.
All three captured men were later sentenced to 14 years in jail for attempted murder of the paras. McCreesh became the third hunger-striker to die in the 1981 H-Block death fast.
Paddy Quinn also went on hunger-strike but his mother took him off the protest after 47 days when he was close to death.