Belfast Telegraph

Troubles files hidden by MI5, Stakeknife probe officer reveals on tape

Ian Hurst
Ian Hurst
The scene of bomb in which Patsy Gillespie died
Mr Gillespie with his wife Kathleeen
Freddie Scappaticci
Martin McGuinness
Ivan Little

By Ivan Little

A senior English detective investigating the activities of Stakeknife has been secretly recorded saying MI5 has been hiding a large number of Troubles-related documents.

The conversation - taped last year by Ian Hurst, a former member of the Army's shadowy Force Research Unit, which ran agents in Northern Ireland - was played last night in the final episode of BBC NI's Spotlight On The Troubles: A Secret History.

Hurst, also known as Martin Ingram, was filmed meeting the policeman about the investigation into IRA man Freddie Scappaticci, who has been widely reported to be Stakeknife.

Scappaticci has denied being Stakeknife and being involved in dozens of murders as a member of the IRA's internal security unit, called the 'nutting squad'.

Earlier this month it was recommended that Scappaticci and a number of other men should face charges.

In relation to the inquiries into security force collusion with loyalists, the former head of Scotland Yard Lord Stevens told Spotlight that even though he had received "something like a million documents - tons and tons of paper", he had learned that there was a large cache he had not been told about.

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The scene of bomb in which Patsy Gillespie died

"That may well take this story further," said Lord Stevens. "If it does, it needs to be exposed."

The Spotlight series earlier revealed that MI5 intervened to remove material from "an inquiry set up by the Prime Minister", but the latest instalment said there were even more secrets which the intelligence services kept out of reach of "hundreds" of probes.

In the conversation with Hurst, the detective confirmed many secrets had yet to emerge.

"We have found documents that Stevens never found which are very telling about the role that our man played in certain things," said the detective, who added that his team had been working full-time with MI5 on unearthing new material.

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Mr Gillespie with his wife Kathleeen

"We have a permanent team basically with the service going through each individual file," said the unidentified policeman, who also stressed that some of the material was not in the possession of either Lord Stevens or the Ministry of Defence.

He claimed that MI5 held on to material that other agencies had destroyed.

"I think they are documents that the service have kept, but basically they should have got rid of (them) - and that's the tree we keep shaking," he said.

"A little more comes out all the time. We are on average every couple of weeks finding a new document that we haven't seen before or a document that was given to us originally - or to the Stevens team, should I say - in a redacted form.

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Freddie Scappaticci

"The fuller version is with some of the secret agencies." Lord Stevens also told the documentary team: "We knew collusion had taken place. We could prove collusion had taken place. We had evidence that collusion had taken place."

In the final instalment of the Spotlight series reporter Darragh MacIntyre examined how the Troubles came to an end while also looking at how "finding the truth about the past" was among the biggest challenges for the future.

He also explored how the peace process was developed and visited two buildings in Londonderry and London, where meetings which were crucial to negotiations had been held. One was a house in Derry where in 1990 Martin McGuinness met a senior British intelligence officer to discuss how the violence could be brought to an end.

It was the first such encounter between the IRA and their sworn enemies since 1976.

Spotlight said that only weeks before the meeting Mr McGuinness was the leader of the IRA's northern command, which was behind such killings as the human bomb murder of Derry man Patsy Gillespie, who was a cook for the Army.

Mr Gillespie's widow Kathleen told Spotlight how her husband was taken away from their home to drive a bomb to a border base and was chained into the vehicle to ensure that he couldn't escape the blast, which also killed five soldiers.

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Martin McGuinness

Mr MacIntyre also visited the unlikely venue in London where former Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Brooke sent signals to the IRA that the Government was open to progressing peace and that "partition was an acknowledgement of reality, not an assertion of self-interest".

Mr Brooke chose to deliver the message not in a major keynote address in Northern Ireland, but to the bewildered guests at the annual luncheon of the British Association of Canned Food Importers and Distributors. Spotlight said the TV cameras were switched off before Mr Brooke got to a key line that Britain had no "selfish, strategic or economic interest in Northern Ireland and would accept unification if the people wished it".

The IRA did not miss a word of the speech, however, because an intermediary had supplied the terror group with an advance copy.

Afterwards, the drive for a settlement accelerated, with meetings between Gerry Adams and John Hume helping to pave the way for talks with the London and Dublin Governments.

The two administrations demanded the IRA declare a ceasefire, which was announced in August 1994.

That collapsed two years later with the Canary Wharf bomb, after which unionists demanded IRA decommissioning as a pre-condition for Sinn Fein entering talks.

According to Spotlight, while Sinn Fein was furious, Adams and his supporters were intent on pursuing politics, which split the republican movement.

While the IRA's problems grew as security forces in England disrupted more and more of their operations, the Provos were still able to bomb Army headquarters in Lisburn.

A short time later the IRA held a rare convention, which opponents of Adams' political strategy thought would weaken his leadership. However, they were to be proven wrong.

Even so Sinn Fein was still out in the cold until Tony Blair's Labour Government came to power in 1997 and the IRA declared a second ceasefire.

A second IRA convention was held in the now dilapidated 18th century Ballyconnell House in Falcarragh in Co Donegal, but dissidents led by Michael McKevitt lost out again to Adams and McGuinness, after which they set up the Real IRA.

Their return to war was to lead to one of the bloodiest incidents of the Troubles, the Omagh bomb, in which 29 people, including a mother expecting twins, were killed by a huge explosion.

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