Saturday, 19 July 2008
'We are Special Branch'
A republican ex-prisoner is in fear of his life after four men dressed in civilian clothing, claiming to be RUC officers, tried to abduct him.
The incident happened on Monday evening at about 5.15pm as the man, a first year student at Queen's Univerity, was leaving an exam centre in the univerity's leisure complex. He told An Phoblacht that he noticed two men acting suspiciously, and apparently watching him, at the front of the building.
``One was talking on a mobile phone, the other was standing near the door. I went back and made a phone call then left by a side door, but I had to go past the front entrance and the pair spotted me and came after me. At the end of the street, at the Stranmillis Road junction, another two were standing about. I went to a bus stop but they came toward me and I moved away. Further up the street I made my way to a public phone box and two of the men approached me, one got in front of me and the other grabbed me''.
It was then that one of the men addressed the man by name and said, `come with us, we are Special Branch, and we want to talk to you for ten minutes'.
The man broke away and ran into a nearby bakery.
``At this point I was really freaking out, I didn't know who these guys were and thought I was going to be abducted and shot. I kept telling a bakery assistant that I thought I was going to be shot but she didn't take me seriously. Eventually I got her to ask the men for ID, which they produced''.
The ex-POW then left the shop and pushed his way through the second pair of men who were at the door and went to the phone box and called his family to arrange a lift home.
``As I was making the call the four tried to pull me out of the box and when I asked them if they were going to arrest me they threatened to `kick the fuck out of me'. They warned me that they would `be on my back any time I was out of West Belfast'''.
The man said that because of the row he had in the shop, which made their approach so public, the men left him alone to wait for his family to pick him up.
``I am fearful of my life,'' said the man, ``this incident was very frightening and then to be threatened in the way I was makes me believe these men were up to something sinister''.
Phoblacht phoned the bakery into which the man fled and a manager confirmed that the incidnet had occurred. He also confirmed that he phoned the RUC about a second incident which occurred later that night and they admitted that it was RUC members who followed the West Belfastman.
Families seek truth after 25 years
RUC implicated in double killing
by Laura Friel
WHY DID RUC officers who recognised the UDR checkpoint as a ``fake'' when they were illegally stopped by loyalists 45 minutes before a double sectarian murder do nothing to challenge the masquerading gang?
That's the question which Sean McCartney, the brother of one of two GAA fans who were killed at a bogus UDR roadblock almost 25 years ago, wants answering now.
Colm McCartney and Sean Farmer were travelling from Dublin back to Derry after attending a GAA football semi final in August 1975. Their bodies were found, riddled with bullets, just before midnight, a few hundred yards north of the border in Tullyvallen, near Newtownhamilton.
``We always suspected collusion by the RUC or UDR,'' says Sean. The family's suspicions were raised after the bodies of the two men were found outside their car. They were later told by the RUC that there had been a ``fake'' UDR patrol in the vicinity just prior to the killings.
``Over the years, a number of people who also drove through that bogus checkpoint have spoken to us,'' says Sean. Why Sean and Colm were specifically selected for murder might never be known. ``Obviously they were easily identified as Catholics,'' says Sean. ``Perhaps they also drove into the checkpoint alone.''
Confirmation of an RUC patrol also being stopped at the bogus checkpoint recently came to light via a copy of inquest affadavits in which three RUC officers - Sergeant F. Bartholomew and Constables Robert Harvey Gibson and Mervyn Coleman - described the incident.
According to the documents, an armed RUC patrol ``in uniform, with a civilian jacket over tunics'' and travelling in a ``hired'' car, was heading towards the border on the main Newtownhamilton to Castleblayney Road when they were stopped by a man dressed in ``full military combat uniform'' and waving a red torch. The RUC patrol also saw a second man, dressed in a similar uniform and carrying an SLR rifle, lying in a ditch.
The RUC officers describe how one of the uniformed men approached their vehicle and asked for the driver's licence before realising that the three men in the car were members of the RUC. ``Realising something was wrong,'' says RUC Sergeant Bartholomew, ``I told Constable Gibson to drive on.''
After the incident, the RUC patrol drove back to their barracks. On the way, they radioed ahead to check that there were no authorised UDR patrols in the area. It was confirmed. The RUC patrol was stopped at 10.45pm. The inquest puts the time of the two deaths at 11.30pm. ``The RUC had 45 minutes to do something and they did nothing,'' says Sean.
But the questions don't stop there.
Presumably, after the killings, the RUC patrol would have been able to provide vital identification evidence for the ongoing murder investigation. Yet, to date, no one has been questioned about the killings by the RUC.
In a recent affidavit by former RUC Sergeant John Weir, Weir names those involved in the Farmer/McCartney murders. He names UDR Sergeant Robert McConnell, Portadown UVF killer Robin Jackson, and an RUC Reservist. ``The RUC Reservist named by Weir is still alive,'' says Sean, ``but as far as we know, he has never been questioned about the killings. For all we know he may still be a serving member of the RUC.''
RUC handlers face prosecution
by Laura Friel
Two RUC Special Branch officers may face prosecution for their role in the killing of Belfast defence lawyer Pat Finucane. Papers have been sent by the Stevens team to the Director of Public Prosecutions, who will decide whether the RUC handlers of William Stobie will be prosecuted.
As an agent working for the RUC, William Stobie is currently awaiting trial for his role in the Finucane killing. As a UDA quartermaster, Stobie has already admitted supplying and disposing of the weapons used in the shooting. Crucially, Stobie has said that he warned his handlers on at least two occasions ``that a murder was about to be committed''.
At first, the RUC claimed that they could not act on the information they received because they did not know who was the intended target. Stobie has claimed that he too was unaware of the intended target but according to another witness, the former journalist Neil Mulholland, Stobie did know the target was Finucane and may have told his handlers.
other British agent, Brian Nelson, in his role within the UDA, supplied a photograph of Pat Finucane and his personal details to the loyalist gang that carried out the killing. Nelson says he alerted his British Army handlers that Finucane was being targeted.
Now, according to a senior source within the Stevens team, the two RUC handlers are claiming that no such conversation with Stobie took place. The handlers, known only as `Ian' and `Raymond', have been questioned by detectives working within the Stevens investigation.
News that the two RUC handlers may face prosecution came as legal insiders are predicting that the case against their agent is about to collapse. Judge Liam McCollum is expected to rule within days on whether Stobie's defence team is entitled to medical reports on the chief prosecution witness.
Last year, former journalist and present NIO press officer Neil Mulholland, at the centre of the case against Stobie, dramatically signed himself into a psychiatric unit. At the time, An Phoblacht warned that the case might collapse.
RUC to face charges over Finucane killing
BY LAURA FRIEL
Two RUC officers who knew a loyalist gang was about to kill but did nothing to thwart the death squad who shot dead Belfast defence lawyer Pat Finucane in 1989 are to be charged with withholding information. The two facing charges are believed to be the Special Branch handlers of William Stobie, the UDA quartermaster who supplied and disposed of the weapons used in the assassination.
The RUC were alerted to a pending loyalist attack by Stobie 1 hour and 40 minutes before the killing, but failed to intervene to prevent the fatal attack. It is understood that the Stevens team will recommend charges be brought against the RUC officers in a report prepared for RUC Chief Ronnie Flanagan.
News of the pending charges were leaked to the press as the case against the only other person charged in connection with the Finucane killing appeared about to collapse. William Stobie, a UDA quartermaster attached to a notorious loyalist gang based in North Belfast, was an agent working for RUC Special Branch at the time of the killing.
Stobie alerted his handlers when he was asked to supply weapons for a pending loyalist plot to target ``a top Provo''. A few days later, on Sunday 9 February, the day of the killing, Stobie made two calls to the RUC. The second call was made at 5.30pm. Stobie told his handler ``the team is out''.
The RUC knew the loyalist gang involved, they knew the area in which they operated and in the words of one commentator, ``as little as four vehicle check points could have thwarted this attack''. The RUC did nothing.
After the killing, Stobie alerted his RUC handlers when the principle weapon used in the shooting, a Browning automatic, was being moved. The RUC were given an opportunity to arrest the leading UDA gunman involved in the killing in possession of the murder weapon. The RUC did nothing.
Stobie claims that after the killing he was targeted for harassment by RUC Special Branch who planted weapons in his home. Stobie was arrested and charged with possession but the case against him was dropped after he threatened to reveal all he knew about the RUC Special Branch's culpability in the Finucane killing.
Stobie has also claimed that the RUC Special Branch were behind a plot to kill him in 1994 because they feared he would reveal their role. He claims that the UDA took him to a house and shot him six times. ``I was set up by RUC Special Branch because I was the only person who knew that they had done nothing to stop the murder,'' said Stobie.
The case against Stobie is on the verge of collapse after the chief prosecution witness withdrew his evidence. Former journalist Neil Mulholland, who is now employed as a NIO press officer, contacted the Director of Public Prosecutions last week to formally withdraw three statements implicating Stobie. Earlier in the year Mulholland had signed himself into a psychiatric hospital, effectively undermining his credibility as a witness.
During a court hearing last week, an attempt by Stobie's legal team to force disclosure of Mulholland's medical records was stalled when the proceedings were adjourned for another month at the request of the prosecution.
The news that two RUC officers are now facing charges does nothing to undermine the Finucane family's demand for an international independent public inquiry. As predicted, the Stevens inquiry has collapsed into what republicans and nationalists always suspected it was, a mechanism of damage limitation.
A campaign of vilification against Pat Finucane prior to his death began with RUC Special Branch. During an interrogation of a loyalist, RUC Special Branch officers suggested Finucane should be targeted. It was they who issued death threats against the solicitor through his clients. It was they who compiled a dossier and briefed British Minister Douglas Hogg, which promoted his House of Commons outburst about certain lawyers being too sympathetic to the IRA.
One of their agents, William Stobie, played a key role in the actual plot, a plot which the RUC Special Branch refused to thwart. In the aftermath, the RUC Special Branch ignored information which could have resulted in the arrest and prosecution of the gunmen.
They intervened to suppress evidence when a loyalist confessed his role in the killing to an RUC detective. And if Stobie can be believed, they tried to stitch up a loyalist who knew too much. Withholding information? Conspiracy to murder would be nearer the mark.
RUC questioned over Rosemary Nelson killing
Two former RUC police members have been questioned over allegations that they threatened the life of the Lurgan defence lawyer Rosemary Nelson and may have colluded in her death.
Nelson died in a loyalist car bombing in March 1999. The circumstances of her death mirrored those accompanying that of Belfast solicitor Patrick Finucane ten years earlier. In both cases, death threats by members of the RUC Special Branch preceded the killings.
Information that two former RUC members had been questioned in connection with the killing surfaced as relatives of Rosemary Nelson were told that the inquiry was finished, despite the failure to secure any convictions.
It is understood that the two RUC suspects were questioned following claims by a convicted loyalist killer that two named RUC officers had asked him to have Rosemary Nelson shot dead.
Loyalist Trevor McKeown first made the claim to a newspaper earlier this year. McKeown said that, in 1997, during an interrogation regarding an unrelated sectarian killing, the RUC members questioning him offered to pass on the Lurgan solicitor's personal details to have her killed.
McKeown's allegations were initially believed to have been linked to a bid to overturn his current conviction, but Rosemary Nelson's family have recently discovered that the officers named by McKeown were two of a number of RUC personnel questioned six years ago, after the solicitor filed a complaint against RUC threats to her life.
An internal RUC investigation followed the complaint but was subsequently discredited. Later a team headed by London Metropolitan Commander Niall Mulvihill was sent to investigate the complaint.
Mulvihill's team questioned a number of RUC members, but his report was never made public. No action was taken, on the grounds of insufficient evidence.
Following McKeown's allegations, the two former RUC members agreed to be interviewed by the Port team, but denied the loyalist's claims.
Rosemary's sister Bernie said the family had first wondered if McKeown was "trying to tell a story for his own ends", but later, "when we heard that he named names which were in the Mulvihill report, we were concerned".
The family was recently informed that the Port investigation had ended. Commenting, a spokesperson for the family said that they were disappointed, but not surprised that it appeared that no one would be prosecuted for Nelson's murder.
"It had been the family's view for some time that the Port investigation was not going to expose collusion in the case, nor was it going to bring people to justice."
The family went on to say that, in their opinion, there is extensive evidence suggesting collusion in the murder and that they are placing their trust in the inquiry being undertaken by Judge Cory. The retired Canadian Supreme Court Judge is currently examining six controversial cases, to determine if there is evidence of collusion sufficient enough to lead a public inquiry.
Court hears how PSNI interferes with forensic evidence
Sinn Féin's Pat Doherty MP said it is ``remarkable'' that the British Secretary of State Paul Murphy has not made any comment following revelations made last week in a Belfast Court the senior members of the PSNI police have attempted to interfere with the work of the Forensic Science Agency in order to wrongly convict people.
The claims came from one of the North's most senior forensic scientists, Ann Irwin, during a court case in Belfast last week.
On Tyesday, the case in which the revelations were originally made was dismissed because there was no evidence linking the man charged to the action. Despite this senior PSNI members attempted to secure his conviction based on false and flawed forensic evidence.
No statement has been made on the issue by PSNI chief Hugh Orde, his boss Paul Murphy or any member of the Policing Board.
Mr. Doherty said:
``In any other judicial system a revelation that senior members of the police force have over a period of years interfered in the work of a Forensic Science Agency in order to wrongfully convict people would spark outrage.
``It says much about public confidence in the system of justice in the six counties that most people are not surprised by the revelation.''
He demanded to know the identity of the senior officers involved.
``We can only assume they are Special Branch members and because of their seniority, close colleagues of the Chief Constable Hugh Orde.,,. From this silence are we to assume that the above individuals condone this practice or do not feel it important?''
``It is time for those who defend this force to tell us straight what they think of this scandal. It is time for the Secretary of State to speak on this matter and it is time for the many hundreds if not thousands of people convicted in the Diplock Courts on the basis of Forensic Evidence to seek a review of their convictions.''
Stevens seeks prosecutions
London police chief John Stevens, who is heading an investigation into British Crown force collusion with loyalist killers, revealed today his inquiries have led to new breakthroughs.
He has already established ``shocking'' levels of colluson in the murders of Belfast defence lawyer Pat Finucane and another loyalist victim, Adam Lambert.
But in Belfast today he confirmed he has sent files on another eight to ten murders to the Director of Public Prosecutions in the North of Ireland, and more were on the way.
Brian Nelson, a British military agent who acted as the intelligence officer for a UDA death-squad, is at the centre of the allegations.
Nelson, operating for the British Army's murderous `Force Research Unit', directed the UDA to kill Mr Finucane in front of his family at their North Belfast home in February 1989.
Stevens also confirmed his 12-year-long investigation into claims that the RUC police Special Branch and British army units were involved in assassination plots is now centred on an alleged top informer inside the IRA, referred to as `Stakeknife'.
Stakeknife himself carried out killings on behalf of the British Army, it has been claimed.
It is also alleged that loyalist gunmen who planned to murder Stakeknife were re-directed by Nelson to kill a West Belfast pensioner, Francisco Notorantonio, in order to save the life of the British Army agent.
Mr Nelson died earlier this year in mysterious circumstances, but Stevens claimed his investigation ``know exactly what happened and why it happened.''
He said he intends to continue his investigations for another six months.
Meanwhile, the British Secretary of State, Paul Murphy, said yesterday that he hoped a decision on Canadian judge Peter Cory's report into alleged collusion would be made by the end of the year.
The Cory investigation, which was set up to recommend whether public inquiries are necessary into certain collusion cases, has been criticised as a delaying tactic by the families of Pat Finucane, Rosemary Nelson and Robert Hamill, who all died in controversial circumstances.
In an interview in New York, Mr Murphy said that Judge Cory would come to London and Dublin next week to discuss his reports with the governments, and ``as soon as possible after that we'd want to make them public.''
FORMER RUC MAN BACKS COLLUSION CLAIM
A former RUC detective has claimed that police informers who carried out murders were later shielded from prosecution.
Speaking on a UTV documentary, Johnston Brown offers his support to Raymond McCord, who believes two men involved in the killing of his son worked for the RUC Special Branch.
Raymond Junior, a 22-year-old former RAF man, was battered to death in Newtownabbey six years ago.
His father believes he was killed by the unionist paramilitary UVF to cover up a drug deal.
``I know exactly what happened to him. he went to visit a friend in jail and after the jail visit he came home and was lured to his death by so-called friends,'' said the victim's father.
But Mr McCord's most serious allegation is that two men involved in the killing were working for the RUC Special Branch.
The allegation is now being investigated by the Police Ombudsman Nuala O`Loan.
``As a protestant from a unionist background, I always thought when I heard about this collusion it was republican propaganda. It`s not republican propaganda, its the truth.''
On tonights Insight show, he is backed by former detective Johnston Brown, who says members of the UVF in Mount Vernon appeared to be `above the law'.
Brown said: ``Could we have put the majority of them in jail in 1997, 1998, 1999? Absolutely. Lives would have been saved time and time again. There appeared to be no will to prosecute certain individuals.''
Meanwhile, Mr McCord is facing a campaign of intimidation by the paramilitaries.
`SPY' CIRCUS FOR HIGH COURT
Meanwhile, Freddie Scappaticci, who denies being the British Army agent and IRA informer `Stakeknife', has been summonsed by a senior British intelligence operative.
Sam Rosenfeld, who once worked undercover gathering intelligence on the IRA in both the Six and 26 Counties, has also summonsed London police chief John Stevens to appear at the High Court in London.
Outside the Royal Courts of Justice, Rosenfeld said: ``I want the truth. It's time the truth about all this collusion was known.''
The `Stakeknife' figure is accused of carrying out a series of killings of Republicans while working undercover in the IRA on behalf of the British Army's terrorist unit, the Force Research Unit (FRU).
Sinn Féin has backed Scappaticci in regard to the allegations made against him. Mr Scappaticci's Belfast lawyer said his client did not know Mr Rosenfeld.
The case is due to be heard on December 17.
Stevens, who is continuing his inquiry into allegations of collusion between the British forces and paramilitary asssasins, has confirmed he is to question an agent known as Stakeknife. They have yet to meet.
Rosenfeld, a building contractor, worked for the FRU between 1990 and 1993. British Defence chiefs are attempting to gag him to prevent damaging details being revealed about its `dirty war' in Ireland.
A former intelligence agent known as Kevin Fulton and Martin Ingram, once a FRU handler turned whistle-blower have been summonsed as well. Fulton has confirmed he will be attending.
Mr Rosenfeld claimed his partner lost their baby daughter a month before she was due to be born after a police raid on their home in Irvinestown, County Fermanagh in June 1992. He was not there at the time and is understood to blame bungling by the security forces for the loss of his unborn child.
He and Mr Fulton have also claimed their military bosses reneged on an agreement to re-settle them with a pension after their links with the intelligence agencies ended.
The the 1989 murder of Belfast lawyer Pat Finucane is one of a number of killings involving alleged collusion which is under investigation by Sir John`s team.
Mr Rosenfeld claimed this week that the British Ministry of Defence would attempt a cover up of details of their operations in Northern Ireland in the years before the IRA`s first ceasefire in August 1994.
He also said he had suffered British harassment for a decade.
He added: ``Everyone has suffered, particularly families who have had relatives murdered in disputed circumstances. They need closure in the same way I do.
``Sir John Stevens who has been investigating collusion for the last 14 years is in a position to answer important questions.''
May 24 2006
PAID FOR SILENCE - Finucane killer serves three years of 22-year term
Barrett’s generous relocation package for silence on state collusion
The killer of Belfast lawyer Pat Finucane has been given a generous relocation package by the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) in return for his silence on the extent of state collusion, one of his would-be victims claimed last night.
UDA gunman and British agent Ken Barrett was freed by the Sentence Review Commission yesterday after applying for early release under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
It is understood he has been relocated to begin a new life in Britain.
Barrett had served nearly three years in Maghaberry prison after pleading guilty to murdering Mr Finucane, who was shot 14 times in his family home in north Belfast by a gang of UDA gunmen.
An investigation by metropolitan police commissioner, John Stevens, confirmed that several gang members were paid agents of British intelligence agencies, including the notorious Force Research Unit.
Barrett dramatically changed his plea to guilty during the last week of his trial at Belfast Crown Court in September 2004. He was jailed for a minimum of 22 years for a series of offences, including murder and attempted murder.
Belfast Sinn Féin councillor Alex Maskey was targeted by the UDA triggerman in June 1988 while he was having a meal at an Antrim Road hotel – one year before Mr Finucane’s murder.
Another British agent – Shankill Road intelligence officer Brian Nelson – contacted Barrett and told him of the Sinn Féin man’s location. By the time Barrett arrived at the hotel, Mr Maskey had already left.
In 1992 Nelson pleaded guilty to five counts of conspiracy to murder and was sentenced to ten years, after being exposed as a British agent by the Steven’s inquiry team in 1990.
Mr Maskey said Nelson – who was also involved in Mr Finucane’s murder – had been released under similar circumstances to Barrett. He told Daily Ireland that Barrett’s release had been a “further act of collusion” and that the British agent had been given a generous relocation package in exchange for his silence on the extent of the state’s nefarious activities.
Mr Maskey said: “Nelson had also changed his plea to guilty in the last stages of his trial and was released during the late 1990s. He was relocated and was given a substantial financial package.
“There is no reason to believe that Barrett hasn’t been given the same treatment.”