Panorama documentary claims agent who leaked secrets to British army is
linked to 18 murders in 1980s and 90s
One of Britain’s most important agents inside the IRA has been linked to
18 murders and was provided with an alibi by a senior police officer to
avoid getting him arrested during the Troubles, it has emerged.
Army whistleblower to testify on IRA double agent Stakeknife
The Guardian can also reveal that the informer codenamed “Stakeknife”
reported directly to the late Martin McGuinness in the 1980s and 90s
when the man who would become Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister
was the IRA’s northern commander and army council member.
Stakeknife, whose real name is believed to be Freddie Scappaticci, was
the IRA’s chief spycatcher, briefing McGuinness, all the while betraying
some of the most important secrets to the British army.
Further light is shone on the career of Stakeknife in the BBC Panorama
documentary titled The Spy in the IRA to be broadcast on Tuesday night.
The programme focuses on Scappaticci’s role as head of the IRA’s
so-called “nutting squad”, whose task was to smoke out, interrogate and
in most cases kill members suspected of being informers.
Panorama claims to have linked Stakeknife directly to 18 murders of IRA
members accused of being agents, with Scappaticci’s unit responsible for
30 deaths overall.
In the film, a retired Royal Ulster Constabulary DI, Tim McGregor,
claims that a superior officer in the force thwarted his and his
colleagues’ efforts to arrest Scappaticci. McGregor and fellow RUC
officers wanted to question Scappaticci after a forensic investigation
found his thumbprint in a Belfast house where the police believed one of
their agents was about to be shot by the IRA.
The programme alleges that an army report stated a senior police officer
told Scappaticci’s handlers about the pending arrest and an alibi was
concocted by them to prevent Stakeknife being taken into custody.
McGregor tells Panorama that without that alibi Scappaticci would have
been arrested and charged in connection with the other informer’s
IRA informer accuses police of abandoning him to die
Northern Ireland’s director of public prosecutions, Barra McGrory, who
was once a solicitor for the president of Sinn Féin, Gerry Adams,
described any move to “allow” certain informers to die in order to
promote and protect Stakeknife within IRA’s ranks as having “driven a
coach and horses” through the criminal justice system.
McGrory refused to comment on allegations aired in the programme over
the retirement of the deputy director of public prosecutions after
reviewing her decision in 2007 not to prosecute Scappaticci over claims
he committed perjury in court. The Belfast-born son of Italian
immigrants denied in court he was Stakeknife.
The then senior DPP lawyer, now deputy DPP, who made that decision was
Pamela Aitchison but her former boss McGrory tells the programme he
could not discuss “personnel issues”.
A former RUC assistant chief constable, Raymond White, also declines to
state how many of his agents or informers he lost while Scappaticci led
the IRA’s internal security unit.
Meanwhile, the whistleblower who first exposed the existence of
Stakeknife back in 2003 accused the agent’s associates of “turning a
blind eye” to the corruption of the criminal justice system.
Ian Hurst, a former military intelligence operative for the army’s Force
Research Unit, told the Guardian: “The political class created this and
other similar intelligence problems. That said, they needed and relied
upon weak-minded or selfish people in sensitive positions to facilitate
“The aim of the state cover-up was to degrade the available evidence and
make it almost impossible to portion blame upon culpable individuals.
The state succeeded on both points,” he said.
‘Stakeknife’: police spy in IRA to be investigated over murders
The “Stakeknife” scandal is being investigated by an independent police
team led by former counter-terrorism detective John Boutcher, now chief
constable of Bedfordshire. Boutcher’s Operation Kenova has a budget of
£30m but has so far been unable to interview Ian Hurst, the man who
first made public the existence of Stakeknife.
A Ministry of Defence court injunction still bars Hurst from talking to
police officers about his knowledge of Stakeknife from his time as a FRU
Another military intelligence officer who operated in the region when
Stakeknife was being managed as a high-grade agent, compared the IRA
relationship between Scappaticci and McGuinness respectively to that of
the “operation manager” and the “managing director” in terms of deciding
on the approach to suspected spies and their fate once unmasked.
Henry McDonald Ireland correspondent
Tuesday 11 April 2017 06.02 BST
Find this story at 11 April 2017
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