Belfast Telegraph

IRA guns trail conspiracy of silence fuelling family's fear that Special Branch protected 'super-tout'

By Malachi O'Doherty

The murder of John Larmour happened at a time when the police had one of their best spies in west Belfast.

That alone gives ground for suspicion in his family that his killers could more easily have been caught.

George Larmour says that he was visited one day in his shop by plainclothes policemen who had known John before he was gunned down one night while working in the shop. He had been filling in for George, the owner of Barnam's World of Ice Cream, who was on holiday.

"I had to reopen Barnam's three weeks after John was killed, for no other reason than that I was in debt. I had only been open a couple of months," said George.

"Colleagues of John's whom I didn't know walked into my shop and casually told me things - that someone was being protected in relation to John's murder. There is an informer who has provided intelligence to say who was involved.

"And I just looked at these people as if to say: 'Why are you telling me? Why don't you tell the Chief Constable?'

"That didn't give me any confidence that something was going to happen."

It is now well-known that at least one major spy was working for the police at that time, that he had infiltrated the Belfast IRA and was feeding high grade intelligence to Special Branch.

He was Joseph Fenton. Fenton was an estate agent who allowed the IRA to use some of his unsold properties. He also allowed Special Branch to bug those houses and flats and to listen in on the IRA members as they prepared for operations or cleaned up after one.

George simply thinks it is highly likely that one of those properties was used by the killers of John Larmour.

They had come into the ice cream shop on the Lisburn Road. One of them had ordered ice cream at the counter and then drew a police-issue Ruger pistol and shot John from behind.

The other killer then turned on two customers in the shop, a young couple, and shot them with a Browning 9mm. Yesterday we reported how George learned from the Historical Enquiries Team that the Ruger was police-issue, likely the very gun used by loyalist Michael Stone in an attack on an IRA funeral.

And the Browning was the pistol carried by Corporal Derek Wood, taken from him when his car ran into an IRA funeral. The weapon was used to kill him and his colleague, Corporal David Howes.

Today we can report on George's suspicion that the killers of his brother were protected.

That story, that an informer was linked to the murder of John Larmour, was repeated by two Belfast newspapers in November 2012.

"The Historical Enquiries Team alerted me before the publication of the articles that they would be appearing. They knew," George said.

"I don't know where they got their information from or why they felt obliged to tell me that the articles were coming, because they never kept me informed at any other time.

"The articles said that the super-tout was a top Provo turned peacemaker and a one-time member of the army council of the IRA.

"The articles claimed that this top Provo had been taken to Castlereagh and, instead of being charged with John's murder, he was offered around £70,000 to turn tout, which he is presumed to have done."

Fenton, who had allowed his properties to be bugged, was subsequently killed by the Provos in February 1989 after they found out how he had exposed them.

George added: "My concern is that Fenton's safehouses were bugged prior to John being killed in October 1988.

"Therefore, did MI5 and/or Special Branch actually record the planning of John's murder, yet not prevent it?"

The 2012 articles on this subject predicted that the identity of the super-tout would soon emerge, but this did not happen.

There was another major casualty in the intelligence war in the months after John Larmour's murder.

Solicitor Pat Finucane was shot dead by loyalists at his north Belfast home. This attack has been the subject of controversy and scrutiny, and it is now clear that intelligence from Special Branch guided loyalist killers to Finucane.

A year before, Finucane had issued a writ of Habeas Corpus to get access to the senior republican Brian Gillen, from Riverdale in Andersonstown.

By such measures, Finucane, George believes, was potentially a disrupter of police efforts to recruit agents. He was also well-positioned to get access to IRA men in custody who were under suspicion within the IRA of having turned.

Piecing these scraps together sounds like inventive conspiracy theorising, but George Larmour's record of reading events closely, listening to hints from inside the police and piecing suggestions together is already validated.

He and his nephew pursued a hint that one of the guns used by the IRA had belonged to Corporal Wood and had been used to kill him after he drove into an IRA funeral, and they were proven to be right.

"So many questions, so few answers," he said.

"And in the absence of answers, victims' families end up forming their own conclusions. And until someone has the courage or decency to tell me the truth, I can only assume that the reports that a super-tout is being protected are true."

The rumour that an informer was being covered has dogged the Larmour family down the years - hints dropped from inside the police, stories alleging the same thing in the local papers, drawing on anonymous sources.

George said: "It could well be that all these super-tout stories are simply that, headlines to sell newspapers with no substance behind them.

"But if somebody keeps telling you they can't comment on that, and when I write to the Chief Constables Matt Baggott and George Hamilton, all they do is throw it off their desks and pass it to the Ombudsman and don't give me an answer, what am I meant to believe?"

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