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Caroline Moreland would be alive if RUC had arrested not recruited her, says agent who shopped mum-of-three

Published 17/06/2015

Caroline Moreland
Caroline Moreland

A former police agent who infiltrated the IRA has said murdered informer Caroline Moreland was recruited by the RUC after he told Special Branch he thought she was involved in a bomb plot.

Martin McGartland told the Belfast Telegraph that he believed that the life of Ms Moreland could have been saved if she had been arrested rather than turned.

The 34-year-old mother-of-three was abducted and murdered by the IRA in July 1994, just weeks before it declared a ceasefire.

The IRA held her for 15 days and later released a tape to her family containing her 'confession' and describing how she had been forced to hand over information.

A recent Spotlight documentary retold the story and alleged that the British agent Stakeknife - who was head of IRA internal security and later identified in the media as Freddie Scappaticci - had taken part in her interrogation. Scappaticci denies he worked for the State.

Ms Moreland's daughter Shauna questioned why her mother was killed when so many of those involved were working for the security forces.

Mr McGartland is from the same Beechmount area of west Belfast as Ms Moreland and infiltrated the IRA between 1989 and 1991.

He told the Belfast Telegraph: "My handlers said she would be placed under surveillance.

"I didn't realise it at the time - but I now know - that the normal procedure was to film people if they could and then approach them to work as agents.

"I believe that is how she was trapped.

"It looks likely that her life could have been saved if she had simply been arrested."

In 1991 Special Branch had asked Mr McGartland to join the IRA primarily to keep an eye on a man police suspected was central to the city centre bombing campaign.

Mr McGartland had been bought a car by the RUC primarily so that he could give lifts to this suspect and his friends.

"One evening in September 1990 I was driving along and I met this man and Caroline Moreland," he recalled.

"I asked him if he wanted a lift because they were dressed up to the nines.

"He got me to drop him quite near a bar used by lawyers in Chichester Street."

He went on: "I tipped off the Special Branch because it didn't seem right.

"A week later a 15lbs Semtex device was found in a woman's handbag in the bar.

"The two of them must have been doing a dry run to see the layout."

He added: "I know now that Special Branch were filming most of the jobs that I tipped them off on.

"They should have been able to get forensic evidence, too, because the device obviously never exploded."

Last night Shauna Moreland said: "I haven't heard this before and I will now have to look into it."

Mr McGartland's career as a secret agent ended when the police stopped a bomb attack on off-duty soldiers and the IRA realised that he was the most likely source of the leak. Mr McGartland was then told to go to Sinn Fein's Belfast headquarters at Connolly House to discuss the situation.

His handlers told him he would be under surveillance and this was confirmed in a biography of Ian Phoenix, the head of RUC surveillance at the time.

However, the surveillance was shaken off and Mr McGartland only escaped with his life by jumping from a third floor flat in Broom Park, Twinbrook.

Mr McGartland has lodged a complaint with the Police Ombudsman suggesting that the two men who abducted him were recruited also as agents.

"Although their pictures were taken and I identified them they were never arrested until recently. That stinks," he said.

The complaint has been under investigation for the past three years.

Belfast Telegraph

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