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Stakeknife probe to be led by officers from outside Northern Ireland, reveals police chief Hamilton

By Jonny Bell

Published 10/06/2016

Belfast man Freddie Scappaticci was named as the British agent Stakeknife by the media in 2003 - an allegation he has always denied
Belfast man Freddie Scappaticci was named as the British agent Stakeknife by the media in 2003 - an allegation he has always denied
PSNI confirm Chief Constable Jon Boutcher, from Bedfordshire Police will lead operation Kenova the investigation into the alleged activities of Army agent known as Steaknife. Pictured are Chief Constable Jon Boutcher and PSNI Chief constable George Hamilton at police headquarters in Belfast today. Picture Mark Marlow/pacemaker press
Chief Constable Jon Boutcher and PSNI Chief constable George Hamilton at police headquarters in Belfast to announce operation Kenova. Picture Mark Marlow/pacemaker press

Chief Constable George Hamilton has confirmed that the investigation into the alleged activities of the IRA double agent known as Stakeknife will be conducted by officers outside the PSNI.

Freddie Scappaticci is alleged to have been the most high ranking British agent within the Provisional IRA who was given the codename 'Stakeknife'.

Mr Scappaticci has always denied the allegations. He left Northern Ireland when identified by the media as Stakeknife, in 2003.

He is believed to have led the IRA's internal security unit, known as 'the nutting squad,' which was responsible for identifying and interrogating suspected informers.

Stakeknife has been linked to over 50 murders.

Last year the Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory called for a police investigation into the agent's activities.

On Friday - after delaying his announcement to allow for the publication of the Loughinisland report - Chief Constable Geroge Hamilton said the investigation will be led by Chief Constable Jon Boutcher, from Bedfordshire Police.

The investigation has been named Operation Kenova and is expected to last around five years and will cost around £35million.

It will be based in London and staffed with officers with no connection to Northern Ireland police, the security services or the Army.

Making the announcement, Chief Constable George Hamilton said: “After taking a number of issues into consideration, I have decided that a team resourced with external officers and staff funded by the PSNI is the most appropriate way forward, given the size, scale and complexity of the investigation.

"Chief Constable Boutcher will have the delegated authority of me as the Chief Constable of the PSNI. He will appoint a Senior Investigating Officer and a team of detectives from other UK law enforcement agencies to progress this investigation.

“I believe this option contributes towards community confidence and reduces the impact on the PSNI’s ability to provide a policing service today."

He continued: "I have every confidence in Chief Constable Boutcher and I have no doubt his previous experience when it comes to dealing with highly complex and sensitive investigations will be of great benefit to him as this investigation progresses.”

The focus of the investigation will be:

  • Whether there is evidence of the commission of criminal offences by the alleged agent known as Stakeknife, including but not limited to, murders, attempted murders and unlawful imprisonments.
  • Whether there is evidence of criminal offences having been committed by members of the British Army, the Security Services or other Government agencies, in respect of the cases connected to the alleged agent known as Stakeknife.
  • Whether there is evidence of criminal offences having been committed by any other individual, in respect of the cases connected to the alleged agent.
  • Whether there is evidence of the commission of criminal offences by any persons in respect of allegations of perjury connected to the alleged agent.
  • If the team identifies matters which indicate that former or current police officers may have committed criminal or misconduct offences, they will be formally and expeditiously referred to the Deputy Chief Constable of the PSNI who will refer the matter to the Office of the Police Ombudsman.

Any other matters falling outside the parameters of the investigation will be brought to the attention of the Chief Constable of the PSNI by Chief Constable Boutcher for consideration. The Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland will, if necessary, consult with the Director of Public Prosecutions or the Police Ombudsman as to the appropriate basis on which to address these additional matters.

Chief Constable Jon Boutcher, from Bedfordshire Police, has 31 years of police service, most of it spent as a top-level detective.

He added: “I am humbled to have been asked to lead such a critically important and complex investigation.

“I do not underestimate the huge task of establishing the circumstances behind how and why these murders occurred during those dark days.

“My principle aim in taking responsibility for this investigation is to bring those responsible for these awful crimes, in whatever capacity they were involved, to justice.

“The recruitment process for the investigation team will begin immediately, this will require time and I ask for a degree of patience as I do this.

“As soon as officers and staff are in place the investigation team will begin reaching out to victims, victims’ families and all interested parties to receive information.

"Updates regarding this will be provided on the Op Kenova investigation website.

“I am committed to doing all I can to find the truth for the victims and their families. It is them who we should be thinking of throughout.

“It must be extremely hard to have listened to various commentaries within the community and the media about how and why their loved ones died. I hope this investigation ultimately addresses the uncertainties and rumours. All I can promise is an absolute commitment to pursuing the truth.”

The recruitment process will begin shortly for the team which will be based in secure accommodation in London and will carry out enquiries in Northern Ireland as necessary.

The investigation team will not include personnel who are serving in or have previously served in the RUC, PSNI, Ministry of Defence or Security Services. The PSNI will not have any investigative responsibility but will have the discretion to support any investigative requirement of Chief Constable Boutcher in Northern Ireland.

The Chief Constable of the PSNI will ensure that mechanisms are in place to update the Director of Public Prosecutions as to the progress of the investigation. Once the investigation has concluded, a report will be provided to the Chief Constable of the PSNI including any recommendations for the consideration of the DPP.

Chief Constable Boutcher will report to the Chief Constable of the PSNI who will be accountable to the Policing Board for the investigation. It is envisaged that Chief Constable Boutcher will accompany senior officers from the PSNI to brief Policing Board members as appropriate on governance and logistical issues.

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