New DNA evidence has been discovered by investigators in their probe into a murder linked to IRA double agent Freddie Scappaticci.
Officers working for Operation Kenova retrieved the sample from the clothing of victim Tom Oliver.
The Co Louth farmer was shot dead by members of the IRA’s infamous ‘nutting squad’, headed by Scappaticci, on July 18, 1991, with his body dumped in Belleeks in south Armagh.
Mr Oliver (43) was falsely accused of being a Garda informant and was tortured before being shot seven times in the head.
His killing is among those being examined by Operation Kenova, which was set up to investigate the activities of Scappaticci, who has been named as the army agent codenamed Stakeknife. He denies the claim.
But any possible arrests as a result of the evidence have been thrown into doubt by the government’s proposed amnesty for Troubles-related killings.
It is understood that the DNA, which is currently being assessed, belongs to a suspect believed to have helped the Provos abduct the father-of-seven from his farm on the Cooley Peninsula.
“This DNA sample doesn’t belong to Mr Oliver. It is from someone else who was in close proximity to him at the time he was taken away,” said a source.
It is expected that a report on the murder will be released tomorrow by Jon Boutcher, the former chief constable of Bedfordshire Police who heads Operation Kenova. Mr Boutcher last week said the government’s legacy proposals do not “sit comfortably” with him.
“The rule of law has stood us incredibly well. To take away the hope, the prospect, the potential of justice for these families — and these are some of the most heinous crimes committed in the United Kingdom in modern history — certainly doesn’t sit with me comfortably,” he explained.
“I read the paper, as many families will have done, and my phone rang off from families who were in tears.
“These families have been let down, given unfulfilled promises and endured countless setbacks, but they always conduct themselves with the greatest of dignity and humility.”
Tom Oliver was snatched by the IRA internal security unit after he found a barrel containing guns on his land and reported it to gardai.
When he was taken, he had been on his way to tend a cow on his farm. His son Eugene later found his car.
It is believed Scappaticci had him murdered to conceal his identity as British Army agent.
Mr Oliver’s killing sparked outrage and revulsion in the area, with 4,000 people marching in protest against the IRA.
In a statement released after the murder, the victim’s family said: “Whoever they were, they thumped him and thumped him to get him to say what they wanted him to say.
“After the post-mortem, a priest said it looked like they’d dropped concrete blocks on every bone in his body.”
The murder was being reinvestigated by gardai until it was taken over by Operation Kenova, after which it emerged the case had links to the IRA’s internal security unit.
An internal gardai review of the initial investigation reported “grave concerns” about how it was handled.
The report, written in 2015 but revealed in full for the first time in today’s Sunday Independent, raises troubling questions about the murder probe.
“I find it extraordinary that not one single statement has ever been taken from any of Mr Oliver’s immediate family, and in particular Thomas Oliver’s son, Eugene Oliver, who apparently discovered his vehicle,” it says.
“Thomas Oliver’s wife was never interviewed, nor was a statement ever taken from her.”
The report also points out that a fingerprint found on the steering wheel of Mr Oliver’s car was never followed up.
It concludes: “Having analysed this file as presented to the cold case review team and the review report itself, I can only say that the investigation was below standard and I would go on to say that there was no clear effort to investigate the incident, for whatever reason, to a [satisfactory] conclusion.”
Three years ago, former Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams told a radio station it would not be “productive” to jail those responsible for what he termed a “politically motivated” killing.
He said families were “fully entitled” to seek prosecutions, but he did not believe it would help the peace process.