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Ex-Provo Notarantonio who was questioned over Denis Donaldson murder dies from cancer aged 67

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Victor Notarantonio

Victor Notarantonio

Victor's father Francisco, who was murdered in 1987

Victor's father Francisco, who was murdered in 1987

Denis Donaldson

Denis Donaldson

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Victor Notarantonio

A former IRA man who was questioned by Garda about the murder of British agent Denis Donaldson has died in his Belfast home.

The fingerprints of Victor Notarantonio were found in the remote cottage in Glenties where Donaldson was shot dead in 2006. The 67-year-old ex-IRA member told detectives that he had visited Donaldson four weeks before the killing to discuss a family matter.

He denied any involvement in the murder, which was claimed by the Real IRA, and he was released without charge.

A source said: "When Victor visited the cottage he had picked up an old mirror that Denis had been restoring. After his prints were identified, he voluntarily went for questioning by gardai and he was released without charge late last year."

The Belfast Telegraph can today reveal that in the late 1970s Notarantonio kneecapped Gerry Adams' paedophile brother Liam. The shooting was an authorised IRA punishment attack, but was unrelated to the child sex abuse charges of which Adams was later convicted.

Hundreds of mourners attended Requiem Mass for Notarantonio at St Teresa's Church in west Belfast yesterday. Notarantonio, who had been battling cancer, was buried in Blaris Cemetery in Lisburn.

As the head of a huge Irish-Italian family, he was well-known locally. His father Francisco was killed in controversial circumstances in 1987.

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The 66-year-old retired black taxi driver was shot dead by UFF gunmen as he lay in bed. The pensioner had been involved in the IRA in the 1940s and had been interned in the 1970s, but had long ceased to be active.

It was alleged that the Army's Force Research Unit (FRU) guided Brian Nelson to direct the UFF to kill him rather than to pursue their original target, a senior IRA informer whose life the British were intent on saving.

There have been claims that Notarantonio was made the substitute target in order to protect Freddie Scappaticci, a member of another Irish-Italian family who has been reported to be the senior British spy within the IRA known as Stakeknife.

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Victor's father Francisco, who was murdered in 1987

Victor's father Francisco, who was murdered in 1987

Victor's father Francisco, who was murdered in 1987

The Notarantonios were associated with the mainstream republican movement for decades. Gerry Adams and Victor Notarantonio had grown up side-by-side in Ballymurphy.

The Adams' lived in Divismore Park while the Notarantonios were two streets away in Whitecliff Parade. The Sinn Fein president was just 13 months older than Victor Notarantonio.

However, Notarantonio wasn't in awe of the Adams family. In the late 1970s he carried out the punishment shooting on Liam Adams.

In 2013 Liam Adams was sentenced to 16 years imprisonment for raping his daughter Aine when she was aged between four and nine. The kneecapping was unrelated to the child abuse allegations which later surfaced.

While it was an authorised IRA punishment shooting, it led to tensions between the Adams and Notarantonio families.

Victor Notarantonio was heavily involved in cigarette smuggling. He worked for the Provisionals but, in later years, had a major falling out with them.

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The scene of Donaldson's murder in 2006

The scene of Donaldson's murder in 2006

Denis Donaldson

Denis Donaldson

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The scene of Donaldson's murder in 2006

Notarantonio's nephew Joe O'Connor had joined the Real IRA, becoming its Belfast commander. In October 2000 the 26-year-old father-of-three was killed by the Provisionals. He was shot seven times in the head. Many feared that the assassination would lead to a deadly republican feud.

On the evening before he was buried, nine Real IRA gunmen took to the streets and fired shots in a terrifying show of defiance and strength.

O'Connor was laid out in an open coffin in the family home in Whitecliff Parade. His IRA combat belt and gloves rested on his chest. The black beret on his head failed to hide the bullet wounds.

A massive 12ft green, white and orange wreath proclaiming 'Oglaigh na hEireann: IRA' hung above the coffin. I interviewed Victor Notarantonio that night.

"I never thought the day would come when it would be the Provos killing us," he said.

The Real IRA's failure to take revenge on the Provisionals for the murder angered some of the Notarantonios.

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Outside and inside the house

Outside and inside the house

Outside and inside the house

Outside and inside the house

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Outside and inside the house

In 2006 the family became involved in another violent confrontation. Victor Notarantonio's son Francisco used a 13-inch chef's knife to stab to death a neighbour, father-of-six Gerard Devlin, after a vicious street brawl.

He was sentenced to 11 years in prison for manslaughter. As a result of the feud between the two families, around 80 members of the Notarantonio family left Ballymurphy.

Sunday World journalist Hugh Jordan, who knew Victor Notarantonio, said: "He described the scenes in Ballymurphy during that feud as like something from Gangs Of New York. As a journalist, I found Victor a fascinating man and he told me the truth, even when it didn't suit his agenda. Nothing happened in west Belfast that he didn't know of. When the grass grew, he heard about it."


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