New light has been shed on a Co Antrim pensioner's role in a strange tale involving the murder of an exiled politician and attempts to overthrow the Seychelles government, and the CIA.
Ian Withers (79) has admitted to spying on Seychellois 'dissident' Gerard Hoarau, who was shot dead on the doorstep of his Edgeware home in London in 1985, but denies being involved in his killing.
He has now, however, revealed that the role of previously un-reported player is being examined in connection with the case - the United States Central Intelligence Agency.
The strange tale began in 1979, when former police officer and private investigator Ian Withers received a call "out of the blue" asking him to undertake a surveillance operation on four people in London for a period of one week.
With the job done, the PI soon discovered he had been hired by the Seychelles government. Three months later he would find himself at a meeting in Italy being propositioned to become the Indian Ocean archipelago's national security adviser under the socialist, one-party regime of France Albert-Rene.
While it may be known as a tourism hot spot today in the late 70s and 80s it was place of political upheaval. Rene gained power in 1977 when he ousted then-president James Mancham in a coup, one of the people Ian Withers and his team would be following around London less than two years later.
Like many one-party states, dissension was frowned upon. Several opposition politicians had been exiled in a (failed) bid to avoid future coup attempts and sure up power. Ian Withers took up the position with Rene and was tasked with keeping tabs on those the regime had deemed 'dissidents', not just in London but around the globe.
By 1985, an exiled opposition politician, Gerard Hoarau, the leader of the Mouvement Pour La Resistance (MPR), was the focus of the Rene regime.
"By this stage the MPR had already attempted three separate coups and we picked up that they had an assassin on the island whose job it was to kill one or two of the ministers and various VIPs," he says.
"The Minister of Defence of the Seychelles then came to me and said that they had decided to throw everything at Gerard Hoarau, in view of this threat to life."
Mr Withers was working on the ground in the Seychelles at the time, so he arranged for another PI firm to have the homes of four dissidents in London, including Hoarau, bugged.
On one cold morning on November 29, 1985, Gerard Hoarau was killed in a hail of bullets fired from a Sterling sub-machine gun outside his London home.
The PI worked with the regime into the following year before moving to Dublin with his family.
For some 35 years no one has been held responsible for the slaying of Mr Hoarau, despite the finger being pointed squarely at Rene's government. The Rene government strongly denied involvement.
Then one August morning in Antrim town in 2018, police descended on the home of the semi-retired pensioner and arrested him on suspicion of conspiracy to murder the exiled politician. Mr Withers, who had relocated to the town some years previously, was flown to London and questioned, but later released without charge.
"When I was doing the interviews in London the police themselves informed me that they had found a fingerprint in the house used to do the bugging [on Hoarau], which I had bought on behalf of the Seychelles government for the use of [another private investigator]. It was the bugging centre," he explains.
"I did this through one of my companies and the police made a big play of it, but I had the company three years before this happened - it wasn't some company set up for this purpose. I bought it in my name, I signed the documents.
"So the police then told me that they had found a fingerprint, in the property, which they had identified. They then asked me on the warrant if I knew this other person called John Dutcher, who I had never heard of. Well, it transpired that John Dutcher (now deceased) was an ex-CIA operative."
He added: "The first thought would be 'was the CIA involved in some sort of operation to get rid of a troublesome individual in regards to the stability of the Seychelles?'
"What would be their interest? They had a space tracking station there, for their latest space program, so they did have an interest it making sure Seychelles stayed stable."
Thirty five years on, The Met Police probe into the murder remains open, and Ian Withers says he has been told he "remains released under investigation".
The Metropolitan Police have been contacted for a comment.