One of David Cameron's closest advisers described the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane as far worse than anything alleged in Iraq or Afghanistan, the High Court has heard.
Sir Jeremy Heywood, now the Cabinet Secretary, also questioned whether the Prime Minister believed it was right to “renege” on a previous administration's commitment to hold a public inquiry into a killing he referred to as “a dark moment in the country's history”, a judge was told.
Details of emailed correspondence between the top civil servant and another senior Downing Street official were revealed as lawyers for the Finucane family pressed for complete disclosure of notes or recordings from a series of ministerial meetings.
They want the material as part of their legal challenge to the Government's refusal to order a full, independent probe into the 1989 assassination.
A review by Sir Desmond de Silva QC published in December confirmed that agents of the State were involved in the murder.
Mr Finucane’s widow Geraldine branded the review a sham.
Opening the family's application for discovery of the documents, Barry Macdonald QC said the case was about past and present abuse of State power.
The first instance in 1989 involved the murder of a solicitor perceived to be “a thorn in the side” of the Government, police and security services, he claimed.
Mr Macdonald continued: “Secondly, it's about abuse of power in 2011 by the current Government when it decided to renege on a commitment to conduct a public inquiry into those events in 1989.”
Stressing the gravity of the case, Mr Macdonald detailed an email Sir Jeremy sent to Simon King, a private secretary to the Prime Minister, ahead of a ministerial meeting in July 2011.
In correspondence, he asked: “Does the PM seriously think that it's right to renege on a previous Government's clear commitment to hold a full judicial inquiry?
“This was a dark moment in the country's history — far worse than anything that was alleged in Iraq/Afghanistan.
“I can’t really think of any argument to defend not having a public inquiry. What am I missing?”
A reply email stated the PM “shares the view this is an awful case, and far worse than any post 9/11 allegation”, the court heard.
The hearing continues.
Sir Jeremy Heywood has been in the headlines recently after |he was accused of not carrying out a thorough investigation into the ‘Plebgate’ scandal that led to the resignation of Tory chief whip Andrew Mitchell. The powerful Cabinet Secretary is the most senior civil servant in the UK, an adviser to the Prime Minister responsible for the smooth running of the Cabinet. Sir Jeremy has previously served as the principal private secretary to the Prime Minister, as well as the Downing Street chief of staff and the first and only Downing Street Permanent Secretary. He was also a managing director at Morgan Stanley.