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Murders linked to IRA spy Stakeknife 'not properly investigated'

By Michael McHugh

Protecting the most senior Army spy inside the IRA by turning a blind eye to a series of murders would have driven “a coach and horses through the rule of law”, Northern Ireland’s Director of Public Prosecutions has said.

The agent codenamed Stakeknife — identified in the media as a Belfast bricklayer called Freddie Scappaticci — is linked to at least 18 murders, according to a BBC Panorama investigation to air tonight.

Some of those tortured and murdered by the IRA’s internal security unit  — the so-called ‘Nutting Squad’ — while Stakeknife was active in it were suspected by the terror group of being British agents.

However, the BBC probe by John Ware suggests killings were not properly investigated in order not to blow Stakeknife’s cover.

Scappaticci has always strongly denied he was Stakeknife.

DPP Barra McGrory told the programme a classified report detailing Stakeknife’s connection to these murders “made for very disturbing and chilling reading”.

“What we’re talking about here are almost parallel processes,” he said.

“We have one in which there’s a police investigation, but all along there is an entirely secret dimension to these events.

“Now that drives a coach and horses through the rule of law. It means that the people who carried out these murders were not properly investigated or brought to justice, so for me that is an appalling vista.”

One of the British agents murdered by the IRA was Joe Fenton, who was secretly providing information to RUC special branch.

He was killed by the IRA despite Stakeknife warning his handlers he would die, reports said.

Father-of-four Fenton (35) was shot in February 1989 shortly after Stakeknife left the house where he was being held by the nutting squad, which had obtained a confession following a violent struggle.

Panorama said Stakeknife told his own Army handlers Fenton would not survive but no action appeared to have been taken to prevent the killing.

Bedfordshire Police Chief Constable Jon Boutcher is investigating Stakeknife’s activities.

Almost 50 detectives are working on the £35m investigation and have uncovered significant new evidence.

The probe was launched after Mr McGrory referred the multiple allegations to the PSNI.

Mr Boutcher has said some families may learn for the first time that their relatives’ deaths were connected to the Army’s prized agent.

Former head of Belfast Special Branch Ray White — who was granted partial access to Stakeknife’s intelligence — declined to tell the programme how many agents he lost or if the Army agent had warned that other spies were at risk.

Asked if the intelligence services did sometimes “play God” in deciding whose life should be saved, White said: “Those decisions were thankfully rare in terms of having to make that particular determination. In the one or two circumstances that I do have a recollection of, we did our utmost.”

Panorama: The Spy in the IRA will be aired tonight at 11.10pm on BBC One

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