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Informers 'sacrificed' by state, IRA infiltrator to tell Stakeknife probe

 

By Suzanne Breen

A former double agent in the IRA is to tell detectives in the Stakeknife inquiry that he believes the State deliberately sacrificed the lives of informers.

Martin McGartland, one of the only persons to ever escape from the clutches of the IRA's internal security unit, will tell officers from Operation Kenova that he suspects that his handlers abandoned him to die - and that the same happened to others.

The investigators are due to meet him at a secret location in England after he contacted them last week.

They have told him that they will need up to three days to interview him.

Stakeknife has been linked to the murder of at least 18 alleged informers, and Mr McGartland will tell detectives that he believes the intelligence services deliberately didn't intervene to save their lives.

He said that he personally knew west Belfast mother-of-three Caroline Moreland and Chris Harte, who were both executed by the IRA's 'nutting squad'.

He told the Belfast Telegraph: "I jumped from a window of the flat in Twinbrook where I was being held in August 1991.

"I had told my handlers the day before that I had been summoned to meet the IRA and that I didn't want to go. But they promised me that their surveillance teams would follow me and that I'd be safe.

"Nobody came to rescue me, I saved my own life. I believe many other informers were made similar false promises and were just left to die by the State because they'd outlived their usefulness."

A 50-strong team of detectives, led by Bedfordshire Chief Constable Jon Boutcher, has been set up to investigate the activities of Stakeknife, the British Army's most senior known agent in the IRA.

West Belfast man Freddie Scappaticci was identified in the media as Stakeknife in 2003. He has denied the allegation. A BBC Panorama programme last week linked Stakeknife to at least 18 murders.

Mr McGartland said he had faith in Operation Kenova to uncover the truth.

"I know that other senior English policemen like John Stalker and John Stevens have tried their best but failed because of massive opposition from the security services," he said.

"I think this time will be different because there has been such a furore over Stakeknife, the British know they have to do something. I believe that Jon Boutcher's investigation will result in criminal charges."

Mr McGartland was recruited by Special Branch to spy on republicans in 1987 when he was 17. Four years later the IRA became suspicious of him and he was summoned to a meeting in Sinn Fein's Connolly House headquarters in Andersonstown.

"When I told my handlers about it, I expected them to whisk me out of the country but instead they told me to go," he said.

"They promised that they'd be monitoring my every movement and that I'd be totally safe."

Mr McGartland was taken from the building by Paul 'Chico' Hamilton and Jim McCarthy.

"I knew I was in big trouble when the car started to speed away," he recalled. "I kept expecting the Branch to ram the car and rescue me.

"When we reached a block of flats in Twinbrook and there was still no sign of them, I really started to panic."

Mr McGartland was taken inside, informed he was "under arrest" and had a gun put to his head. He was tied up and forced to lie on a sofa face down with a blanket over his head.

"I prayed that soldiers would come bursting through the door but nobody came," he said. After seven hours, the informer asked to go to the toilet and then jumped out off a third-floor window.

"My handlers later claimed that the police lost me on the journey from Connolly House. At first I accepted this but I don't anymore. Special Branch's surveillance teams were first-class operators."

The former agent claimed that Hamilton and McCarthy had been filmed leaving Connolly House with him.

He believes that Operation Kenova detectives will find a similar pattern of "false promises" made to other informers.

Mr McGartland said that he had been sworn into the IRA with Harte (24), whose body was found on a border road in Tyrone in February 1993 after he had been abducted by the nutting squad six days earlier.

He also knew 34-year-old Ms Moreland, who was murdered by the IRA just six weeks before its 1994 ceasefire

"I fear that other informers were also encouraged to meet the IRA by their handlers, lied to and told that everything would be okay.

"I believe that many were effectively sent to their deaths.

"I had the chance to escape and took it.

"So I want to speak up for all those who weren't so lucky," he said.

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