Belfast Telegraph

PSNI chief defers Stakeknife statement to avoid Loughinisland report clash

The Chief Constable George Hamilton has confirmed he is to delay a briefing on the Stakeknife investigation to avoid a clash with the publication of the investigation into the Loughinisland murders.

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) chief constable George Hamilton had been due on Thursday to unveil the officer tasked with re-examining the murders allegedly linked to the notorious British spy who operated within the IRA's ranks.

West Belfast man Freddie Scappaticci has always strongly denied being the man behind the codename.

Mr Hamilton was expected to set out the remit of the investigation and announce Bedfordshire chief constable Jon Boutcher as the lead officer at a meeting of the PSNI's oversight body - the NI Policing Board.

However, Thursday is also the publication day of a long-awaited report by a police watchdog into the loyalist murders at Loughinisland, Co Down, in 1994.

Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire will publish his findings after examining allegations of police collusion with the UVF gunmen.

A lawyer representing the victims' families had called on the Policing Board to postpone the Stakeknife briefing to allow public attention to focus on the Ombudsman's report.

Six Catholic men were shot dead indiscriminately by loyalist paramilitaries as they watched a Republic of Ireland World Cup game at a country pub in Loughinisland.

It has been alleged that the RUC the predecessor to the PSNI, did not conduct a proper investigation because it was protecting an informer and that there was collusion between some police officers and the killers.

A report by previous ombudsman Al Hutchinson found that the RUC failed to properly investigate what happened in Loughinisland but said there was insufficient evidence of collusion.

Those findings were quashed after a legal challenge by relatives of those killed, and Dr Maguire has conducted a new investigation.

Mr Hamilton will now brief members of the Policing Board in a behind-closed-doors meeting at the board's headquarters in Belfast on Thursday afternoon.

A Policing Board spokeswoman said: "The briefing session planned will be strictly private and confidential to the Board."

Chief Constable George Hamilton said: “The Northern Ireland Policing Board is our formal accountability structure and it normally meets on the first Thursday of the month. In line with our commitment to openness and transparency, we had made long-standing arrangements to brief members of the Northern Ireland Policing Board at the June Policing Board meeting and to subsequently publicly share, details surrounding the investigation team that will be conducting an investigation into the alleged the activities of the person known as ‘Stakeknife’.

“When these arrangements were made we were unaware that the date of the Northern Ireland Policing Board meeting had also been selected by the Office of the Police Ombudsman to release the Loughinisland report.

“There are multiple victims and families of victims affected by each of these investigations and it is important that they are afforded the same opportunities to articulate views and to have their voices heard. As a mark of respect for all those affected by these investigations we are deferring the public announcement of the investigation into the alleged activities of the person known as ‘Stakeknife’ until Friday 10 June.

“We recognise the impact of these investigations and we hope that the outworkings and findings of investigations support victims as Northern Ireland works through its troubled past.”

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