Belfast Telegraph

Inquest 'one of most significant'

An inquest into the death of a loyalist murder victim could shed a chilling light on one of the murkiest periods from Northern Ireland's bloody past, it has been claimed.

A solicitor for the family of Gerard Slane, 27, who was gunned down at his west Belfast home, said the hearing would lay bare the full role of a controversial army agent.

"This could be one of the most significant inquests that the Coroner will have to determine," said Paul Pierce.

"It will be the first time that we are aware of that the role of Brian Nelson, a military agent, will be totally examined.

"The relationship with the military and his role was never explored when he stood trial in Belfast Crown Court for offences for which he was convicted."

Mr Slane, a Catholic father-of-three, was shot dead by a UDA gang acting on information provided by Brian Nelson. At the time, Nelson was working for a secret army intelligence unit known as the Force Research Unit (FRU).

The gunmen sledge-hammered their way into his house at Waterville Street and opened fire, hitting Mr Slane in the head.

Nelson was unmasked as an army agent involved in murder in 1990 after an investigation into collusion by Sir John Stevens, then the Deputy Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire.

Two years later he pleaded guilty to five counts of conspiracy to murder - including Gerard Slane - and was jailed for 10 years.

During a brief preliminary inquest hearing at Mays Chambers in Belfast it emerged that the Ministry of Defence had 20 volumes of sensitive documents relating to the killing. A further four volumes of non-sensitive material would also be disclosed.

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