A 500lb land mine which killed eight Protestant work men on their way home from a military base was intended for workers of a Magherafelt company, it has been revealed.
A report carried out by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) into the atrocity states that the Tyrone Brigade of the Provisional IRA, who claimed responsibility for the attack, intended the bomb for workers of Magherafelt based Henry Brothers, also working at Lisanelly Barracks at the time of the attack.
In the hours following the bomb, a call made to the newsroom at Ulster Television from a man using a recognised code word, admitted responsibility for the attack on behalf of the Tyrone Brigade of the Provisional IRA but wrongly stated that the van was carrying ‘Henry’s workers’
In response to a question posed by the victim’s families, HET investigators said the bombers had thought the van, which contained 14 Karl Construction workers, belonged to that of the Magherafelt company.
“From the admission of responsibility made to Ulster Television by the Provisional IRA, it is clear they wrongly believed the targeted van belonged to Henry Brothers.
“There is no evidence or intelligence recorded in the investigation files to indicate how this came about but an assumption may be made that terrorists had previously watched the van leaving or entering the barracks and wrongly concluded that it belonged to Henry Brothers,” said the report.
During the Troubles, the IRA targeted workers engaged on contracts at security force establishments. In July 1987, in an effort to protect workers travelling between their employers’ yards and security force vases, the RUC launched Operation Hemel, which was replaced in June 1991 by Operation Ironside, which prevailed at the time of the murders at Teebane Crossroads.
Under Operation Ironside, police provided security measures for the vehicles travelling between designated contractors’ yards and security force bases along approved routes. Henry Brothers workers had been covered by Operation Ironside in the time leading up to the atrocity.
Coincidentally on the day of the bomb, police told the Magherafelt company to not use the A505 route.
It transpired during the RUC’s investigation into the Teebane massacre that the murdered workers’ van had not been covered by the security arrangements provided under Operation Ironside.
A statement from Ian Henry, a director of Henry Brothers is summarised in the section Witness Accounts - Vehicle Security section of the HET report and outlines the firm’s adherence to Operation Ironside.
“....Henrys’ vehicles travelled daily to Lisanelly Barracks using the approved routes provided by the RUC,” added the report.
“Some days the A505 was the approved route but not on the day of the murders. On that basis, Henry Brothers would have known not to travel along it that day.”