A court has granted the family of a prominent loyalist who was murdered by the IRA permission to sue the Libyan government over the gun used in his killing, UTV can reveal.
Observers say that the development could open the floodgates for hundreds of other victims’ families who have fought unsuccessfully for years for compensation.
UDA man William Kingsberry was shot dead by the IRA in his Belfast home, alongside his stepson Samuel Mehaffey, in November 1991.
His son Mike was aged just eight at the time, a witness to the chaos and confusion that surrounded his father’s killing – to the gunmen fleeing the scene, the screaming and shouting, and ambulances and police arriving - but too young to fully understand what had happened.
“Let’s be brutally honest, he paid the price for whatever anyone thinks he did or didn’t do,” he said of his father’s death.
“The bottom line is we wouldn’t be stood here today if the Libyans hadn’t supplied the weapons that killed him, and Sammy, and shot a five-week-old baby.”
Two weapons have been linked to the murders, including an AKM assault rifle – a detail widely known, but not made official until now.
Permission to sue Libya, the source of much of the IRA’s weaponry at that time, was granted just days ago, with a letter from police confirming an AKM rifle was used key to that decision.
Lawyer Gary Duffy explained: “It was the basis of the court decision – without it, we wouldn’t have been able to get permission from the court to sue Libya. It links the death to the Libyan state.”
Former dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s regime provided not only guns, but also Semtex explosive to the IRA during the Troubles.
The development in the Kingsberry case could be crucial to the families of those who lost their lives in IRA bomb attacks like those on the Shankill in Belfast and in Enniskillen in Co Fermanagh.
In April of this year, some of those injured or bereaved by Libyan-sponsored IRA attacks compiled a dossier on the case for compensation after the Government refused to publish its own report.
The author of the confidential Foreign Office report, William Shawcross, also expressed surprise and disappointment at the Government’s response to his work.
Troubles victims' bid for compensation from Libya
The Foreign Office has insisted the responsibility for paying victims rests with the Libyan state and has ruled out using £12bn of frozen Libyan assets held in the UK, specifically the tax take generated by them, for compensation.
It has also refused to fund a scheme using other public finances while it continues to press authorities in the north African country to pay out.
However, all eyes will now be on Libya to see how authorities there respond to this latest development.