Was agent Stakeknife a hero or a renegade? He was a spy for Britain at the incredibly coronary heart of the IRA


Late final month it was announced there would be no even further prosecutions of British Military veterans in relation to Bloody Sunday.

The taking pictures lifeless of thirteen civilians by customers of the Parachute Regiment for the duration of a civil rights demonstration in 1972 was a person of the most controversial episodes in Northern Eire‘s ‘Troubles’.

But a person prison investigation into the military’s part in that brutal conflict is still ongoing.

For the earlier 4 many years, Operation Kenova has been hunting at the actions of the Army’s super-agent inside of the IRA, codenamed ‘Stakeknife’.

He was a critical figure in the ‘secret war’ waged versus the paramilitaries. Yesterday, Northern Ireland’s General public Prosecution Service announced its initial decision based on the Kenova results.

For the past four years, Operation Kenova has been looking at the activities of the Army's super-agent inside the IRA, codenamed 'Stakeknife'. That person — though he has always denied it — is widely believed to be Freddie Scappaticci. Pictured: Scappaticci walking behind Gerry Adams (right) at the 1988 funeral of IRA man Brendan Davidson

For the earlier 4 many years, Operation Kenova has been hunting at the actions of the Army’s super-agent inside of the IRA, codenamed ‘Stakeknife’. That human being — however he has constantly denied it — is broadly considered to be Freddie Scappaticci. Pictured: Scappaticci strolling guiding Gerry Adams (proper) at the 1988 funeral of IRA male Brendan Davidson

The male who is considered to be Stakeknife, and a few other folks which includes two former MI5 officers and a senior prosecutor, will not be charged with perjury or misconduct in public office mainly because of ‘insufficient evidence’. 

Additional files introduced by the Kenova team are still getting regarded by the PPS.

As Kenova nears its conclusion, the Mail’s have investigation has spoken to a variety of former soldiers who labored undercover in Northern Eire, recruiting and dealing with IRA brokers like Stakeknife. 

Their testimony — under no circumstances prior to instructed — throws new light on a disturbing chapter.

It is long just after midnight on Carlingford Lough, via which runs the most easterly border between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Eire.

All is tranquil help you save for the slapping of the waves. But there is a fatal intent overseas both on land and h2o. 

Aboard a darkened vessel lying at anchor 50 % a mile offshore, a Specific Forces sniper lies in wait. Beside him is an officer from a British Military intelligence device.

His HQ has instructed him that a nearby IRA quartermaster is about to retrieve a Bushmaster looking rifle from a hide in Rostrevor Wood, which fringes the lough on the County Down aspect.

So delicate — and specific — was the inside of info that neither the sniper nor the intelligence officer were briefed on their mission till they stepped aboard the boat.

‘HQ understood specifically who the IRA male was, what variety of weapon he was fetching, in which it was buried and what it was intended for,’ the intelligence officer recalls. 

‘I was instructed that, when recovered, the rifle was likely to be handed above to an [IRA] Energetic Service Unit, which would then use it for an imminent assassination attempt on a senior RUC [Royal Ulster Constabulary] officer in X [I have excised the location for reasons which will turn into clear].

‘This was an prospect for a pre-emptive shoot.’

The hunter experienced turn into the hunted.

All went as predicted. ‘[Applying night vision devices] we viewed him digging up the weapon and then zeroing it [taking pictures to check precision] versus trees in the wood.’

But they still experienced to get permission to shoot him.

The man who is believed to be Stakeknife, and three others including two former MI5 officers and a senior prosecutor, will not be charged with perjury or misconduct in public office because of 'insufficient evidence'

The male who is considered to be Stakeknife, and a few other folks which includes two former MI5 officers and a senior prosecutor, will not be charged with perjury or misconduct in public office mainly because of ‘insufficient evidence’

‘The circumstance did not tumble inside of the British Army’s procedures of engagement in Northern Eire,’ states the intelligence officer. 

‘Was the IRA male threatening lifetime at that instant? No. But this was not a normal procedure. 

‘This was getting operate beneath a different established of procedures. ‘Big boys’ rules’, as they have been named.

‘We experienced to get the green light from a simply call signal at Pressure HQ in Lisburn. The ask for was then patched above to London. 

‘In other terms, to shoot this male was also a political decision.’

The stress mounted. The safe radio backlink light in and out. The boat was shifting. They feared getting spotted by nearby fishermen. 

‘Then the word came via. ‘No shoot.’ I mentioned to the sniper, ‘Off target’, we upped anchor and were gone.’

He pauses. He provides: ‘I do know that inside of 24 to 36 hrs a senior RUC in X was shot by the IRA with a related, if not the very same, rifle.’

The incident took place just about 40 many years back but this story, like other folks we can expose right now, has not been instructed till now.

Of study course, the evident concern, which has lingered down the many years, is this: ‘Why was the sniper purchased to hold fireplace?’

A plausible respond to is he was instructed not to shoot in get to secure the resource of the suggestion-off that experienced led to the prospective ambush to secure the British Army’s informant inside of the IRA. 

To have shot the quartermaster in Rostrevor Wood that night may have blown his cover.

It is feasible that all the applicable factors experienced been weighed in the stability and, at the final minute, senior figures experienced resolved that to drop the agent was also substantial a rate to pay out in the long expression. 

Even at the prospective value of a policeman’s lifetime.

Scappaticci was born 73 years ago in South Belfast

Scappaticci was born 73 many years back in South Belfast

That appears extraordinary. But it sometimes happened. Absolutely it seems to have happened repeatedly in the situation of the super-agent codenamed Stakeknife. 

It may even have been Stakeknife himself who tipped off his handlers about the Bushmaster rifle plot.

Stakeknife appears pretty the hero. 

In point, various resources concur that he was a person of the cruellest and most bloodstained figures in the history of the conflict in Ulster. And his legacy refuses to go away.

Help you save for a rump of dissidents, the Difficulties ended with the IRA ceasefire in 1994, the peace getting formalised by the Very good Friday Arrangement 4 many years later.

But just after much more than 3,000 armed service, civilian and paramilitary fatalities and disappearances, several of them unsolved, a line could not be drawn neatly beneath a few many years of mayhem. 

The families of victims whose killers experienced gone unpunished needed justice. Or at minimum explanations.

Final month observed the announcement by prosecutors in Northern Eire of their decision not to convey rates versus any much more than a person former member of the Parachute Regiment in relation to the Bloody Sunday shootings in 1972.

But an additional prison inquiry into the behaviour of the British Military in Northern Eire remains ongoing. 

Operation Kenova is ‘an investigation into the actions of the human being identified as Stakeknife’.

That human being — however he has constantly denied it — is broadly considered to be Freddie Scappaticci. 

He has been dwelling in essentially discreet exile from his indigenous Northern Eire for just about two many years.

The indications are that Kenova, which started in 2016 and is led by the former Bedfordshire Main Constable Jon Boutcher, is about to blow Stakeknife’s cover.

To quote Kenova’s have conditions of reference: ‘The concentration of this investigation is to ascertain no matter if there is evidence of the fee of prison offences by the alleged agent which includes, but not minimal to, murders, tried murders or illegal imprisonments attributed to the Provisional IRA.’

It will also glance at no matter if there is evidence of prison offences having been fully commited by customers of the British Military, the security products and services or other federal government personnel.’

The prospective for a sensational ultimate reckoning that is deeply damaging to figures on all sides in the Difficulties, is evident.

Mr Boutcher mentioned in December 2018 that the evidence he experienced gathered was of ‘prosecution standard’. 

In our have investigation into this secret, if not ‘dirty’, war, we have spoken to a variety of former soldiers who served in undercover intelligence models in Ulster, recruiting and jogging double brokers like Stakeknife. 

They have under no circumstances spoken prior to. Their stories paint a powerful photo of intense danger, ruthless and brutal decision-making, inter-device rivalry and blurred ethical boundaries.

Scappaticci was born 73 many years back in South Belfast, the son of Italian immigrants. ‘Scap’, as he is identified in Republican circles, was mentioned to have joined the IRA in 1969. 

In the summer season of 1971 he was a person of hundreds of Republican activists and paramilitaries interned in Prolonged Kesh (identified as The Maze jail). 

Quite a few of these internees — this sort of as Gerry Adams — would later increase to the best of the IRA and Sinn Fein.

By the time of his release in 1974, Scap’s qualifications in the terrorist organisation were secured. 

A violent-tempered specific, Scap was in time promoted to the IRA’s feared internal security device. 

Last month saw the announcement by prosecutors in Northern Ireland of their decision not to bring charges against any more than one former member of the Parachute Regiment in relation to the Bloody Sunday shootings in 1972

Final month observed the announcement by prosecutors in Northern Eire of their decision not to convey rates versus any much more than a person former member of the Parachute Regiment in relation to the Bloody Sunday shootings in 1972

Its customers were tasked with inspecting why functions experienced gone incorrect and winkling out informers — or ‘touts’ — inside of the ranks. 

This is why they were nicknamed the Nutting Squad.

The moment a tout confessed to betraying strategies to the Brits, he or she would invariably get a bullet in the back of the head — the ‘nut’. 

Applying fists, scorching plates, pokers and other implements of torture, the Nutting Squad was mentioned to be excellent at securing confessions. 

Scap finally turned the unit’s 2nd in command. 

The irony getting that he was, it seems, the finest tout of them all. How could the British Military have hoped to recruit a hardline Republican like Scap?

Such attempts introduced grave risks. A former undercover soldier instructed me of a person failure that ended in a bloodbath. 

He was despatched to rendezvous with a youthful male on the fringes of the IRA who experienced been judged a prospective recruit.

‘I experienced under no circumstances fulfilled the “asset” prior to,’ he recalls. ‘Someone in the RUC experienced built the first get in touch with. 

‘Such [an procedure] is so compartmentalised you only know the part you were intended to play, mainly because if you get [abducted by the Provos] that is all you can tell them.’ 

With any asset your task at initial is to really encourage a rapport and to gauge motive. I was the what we named ‘the icebreaker’. And if all went very well I would turn into his handler.


‘Anyway, I walked into a trap. When I arrived in the pub, as arranged, he was obviously on edge. 

‘But that is pretty standard in these predicaments so I dismissed it. Your task is to make them sense relaxed. 

‘We sat down jointly. Then I observed that he was really incredibly sweaty, incredibly anxious. It was not proper. 

‘With hindsight, I really should have obtained up and still left proper there. Then a few identified [IRA] gamers walked in and I understood for absolutely sure I was in the s***.’

As the soldier started to glance for an escape route the ‘asset’ pulled a gun and shot him at issue-blank array. 

‘He was aiming for my head but mainly because I was leaning back and turning he only obtained me in the neck.’

What did he do? His respond to is matter-of-point. ‘I drew my have gun and despatched him to Milltown’ — that’s the Belfast cemetery in which IRA volunteers are buried.

Bleeding profusely, the undercover soldier exchanged even further pictures with the other IRA gentlemen prior to escaping. It was his final undercover task in the province.

Scap’s alleged recruitment was down to the character of an additional undercover soldier who secured his cooperation.

It has been suggested that Scap experienced nursed a grievance just after a beating at the hands of an additional IRA male. 

But quite a few resources guidance the story that an NCO from the Devon and Dorset Regiment who won the Queen’s Gallantry Medal and George Medal for his agent do the job in Ulster was the determining factor. 

The indications are that Kenova, which began in 2016 and is led by the former Bedfordshire Chief Constable Jon Boutcher (pictured), is about to blow Stakeknife's cover

The indications are that Kenova, which started in 2016 and is led by the former Bedfordshire Main Constable Jon Boutcher (pictured), is about to blow Stakeknife’s cover

He basically experienced a gift for cultivating friendship and believe in.

‘That was how it happened,’ a former colleague statements. ‘There were other factors also but it was essentially “pilotage”. 

You are carefully holding the tiller and steering them in direction of a preferred study course of motion.’

Provided the codename Stakeknife, Scap reportedly came to be controlled by a part of the Intelligence Corps named the Pressure Investigation Unit (FRU), based in a manor dwelling in Kent.

Stakeknife was not basically their star. 

Among the competing intelligence agencies this sort of as MI5, Specific Department and the fourteen Intelligence Organization (identified as ‘the Det’), who did not constantly share the info or assets they experienced separately obtained, Stakeknife was the ‘jewel in the crown’ of British penetration of the IRA.

But this results introduced a fundamental ethical dilemma.

As former FRU handler Ian Hurst has pointed out in his ebook Stakeknife, which he wrote beneath a pseudonym, no a person can be at the coronary heart of a prison organisation without having committing offences.

‘Handlers of all products and services have recruited killers . . . through the Difficulties,’ wrote the finally disillusioned Hurst, some of whose statements have been questioned by former colleagues. 

‘This exercise . . . is genuinely appalling when customers of the security products and services know their brokers are killing folks and they do nothing at all about it.’

Stakeknife’s inside of info saved lives, it has been claimed. But that was only part of a even larger, grimmer photo. Because he and his device were also taking lives.

Informers or not, several of his alleged victims were IRA gentlemen customers of an organisation fully commited to murder to even further their induce. 

If a person of them ended up lifeless, trussed and naked with a bag above his head in a region lane, bearing the marks of torture, then couple tears would be shed in the FRU or somewhere else.

But there were also civilians from the nationalist local community who were giving info to the authorities till they were lifted by the Nutting Squad.

What is genuinely dizzying about the allegations built by Hurst and other folks is that a British agent — Stakeknife — was effectively getting allowed to torture and get rid of other British informants in get to sustain his privileged situation inside of the IRA.

A variety of instances stand out as getting impressive. Frank Hegarty was the IRA Northern Command’s quartermaster and recruited by the FRU. 

The scale of this coup was verified when Hegarty instructed his handlers about a cargo of arms from Libya, which arrived in the Republic in late 1985. 

The British Military tipped off the Irish law enforcement. A lot more than 100 assault rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammunition were seized.

Consequently compromised, Hegarty was whisked to a risk-free dwelling in England. 

But he grew homesick and, allegedly inspired by comforting telephone conversations with IRA/Sinn Fein supremo Martin McGuinness, he returned to Derry. 

There, he was abducted, ‘interrogated’ and killed by the Nutting Squad. Hurst statements that Stakeknife instructed his handler it was he who experienced ‘nutted’ the other FRU agent. 

Final night, Hegarty’s son Ryan declined to remark.

Joseph Fenton was an estate agent who lent homes to the IRA and allowed the RUC Specific Department to bug them.

Under early suspicion of getting a British informant, he allegedly implicated a married few, Gerard and Catherine Mahon, who were also acting as RUC informers. 

They were executed by the Nutting Squad. 

Fenton was later rumbled and confessed prior to getting murdered all over again, allegedly, by Stakeknife, who experienced evidently warned his have handlers to no effect what was about to come about.

Tom Oliver was a farmer and father of seven from the Cooley Peninsula on the other aspect of Carlingford Lough from Rostrevor Wood. 

A legislation-abiding male, he tipped off the Irish law enforcement about IRA activity in his spot. An IRA-bugged pay out-mobile phone did for Farmer Oliver. 

In 1991 he was horribly tortured and killed, allegedly by Stakeknife’s gentlemen. Yet another informant experienced died.

Would Stakeknife really have been allowed this sort of flexibility from prosecution? A former Military agent handler instructed me: ‘Back then you did sometimes ponder why a particular specific experienced not been lifted [arrested].

‘But if you have a strategic asset as significant as Stakeknife, you will have to stability how significant that asset is [in the long expression] versus how significantly you will have to go to secure him. 

‘It would not be unthinkable for him to be absolutely shielded. I know it was performed for other folks.’

Freddie Scappaticci was finally arrested in his provincial English risk-free dwelling by Kenova detectives in 2018. There was an surprising consequence from their look for of his premises.

In December that calendar year he appeared prior to Westminster magistrates and admitted two counts of possessing intense pornography, some involving animals. 

He been given a a few-month jail sentence, suspended for a calendar year.

‘You have not been prior to the courtroom for 50 many years — and that’s great character in my ebook,’ the justice of the peace instructed him.

That obtained a laugh in the consuming dens of Belfast in which this 7 days the Mail spoke to these who understood some thing of Scap. They think that Kenova will be allowed to wither and die.

A single Republican who experienced when ‘run with Scap’ rubbished the notion of a substantial-profile trial mainly because it would ‘expose all the touts who set Scap in place and who are still in place themselves. 

The Brits usually are not likely down that road. Moreover it would signify if he was charged, his handlers would have to be charged, and then their bosses, so it is likely nowhere’.

He mentioned Scap ‘did several, several stiffs himself’. But as an agent he experienced authorized clearance.

A spokesman for Kenova repeated a statement initial set out just about two many years back, expressing: ‘[We have] now gathered much more than 12,000 documents, secured one,000 statements and carried out 129 interviews with witnesses, victims and families ensuing in much more than 6,000 investigative actions for the team.’

A former member of ‘the Det’ remarked: ‘Why rake above these coals? It can be above. Place it guiding us and transfer on.’

Mr Boutcher and his Operation Kenova is identified these coals will not likely improve cold still.

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