Belfast Telegraph

IRA ‘used wash houses to destroy forensic evidence of attacks’

Clothing was burned immediately after use during an attack and weapons were concealed in elaborately constructed hides except when being deployed.

Terrorists used ‘wash houses’ to destroy forensic evidence during the Northern Ireland conflict, official files have revealed (Yui Mok/PA).
Terrorists used ‘wash houses’ to destroy forensic evidence during the Northern Ireland conflict, official files have revealed (Yui Mok/PA).

By Michael McHugh, PA

Terrorists used “wash houses” to destroy forensic evidence during the Northern Ireland conflict, official files have revealed.

Clothing was burned immediately after use during an attack and weapons were concealed in elaborately constructed hides except when being deployed, a Government document shows.

The paper was part of archives from the mid-1990s disclosed by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (Proni).

It was a draft submission for court hearings surrounding a bid to extradite a suspect from the US – Maze Prison escapee Jimmy Smyth – and argued against making intelligence-gathering details public.

Immediately after attacks terrorists disperse to wash houses to remove any trace of forensic evidence from their persons Government files

It said: “Immediately after attacks terrorists disperse to wash houses to remove any trace of forensic evidence from their persons.

“Consequently the availability of good intelligence is often absolutely essential to enable terrorists to be arrested in incriminating circumstances and charged with offences, and/or to enable the security forces to take effective action to save lives by preventing terrorist attacks.

“That is why the protection of intelligence is of paramount importance.”

The draft court submission said material describing how evidence was obtained could compromise the methods of the intelligence agencies and reduce their capacity to save lives.

It added: “And by compromising intelligence agents and informers, apart from exposing them to a strong risk of torture and murder, such evidence could lead the source of intelligence to dry up – or become unreliable because it would be turned into a conduit of disinformation.”

Special units of the security forces carried out security and intelligence work in support of the RUC.

They were employed in intelligence-gathering, surveillance and other special duties intended to produce the arrest of terrorists, the draft submission said.

The SAS carried out a number of high-profile operations during the Troubles leading to the deaths of IRA members.

Republicans accused the state of tolerating a shoot-to-kill policy by its forces.

The document said: “These latter incidents have resulted in a very much increased awareness by terrorists of the importance of special units of the security forces in the Government’s efforts to prevent terrorist attacks and secure the arrest of terrorists.

“Such incidents have also given terrorists an additional and powerful motive of revenge against special units generally and against personnel serving with them.”

PA

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