Stakeknife probe legal challenge put on hold

Court

Court

A legal bid to secure a wide-ranging investigation into the circumstances surrounding up to 50 killings allegedly linked to the top British agent in the IRA has been put on hold.

Lawyers for the family of murdered Belfast woman Caroline Moreland were due to seek a judicial review at the High Court over the type of probe into the activities of the army’s prized intelligence asset, who operated under the codename Stakeknife.

But a judge agreed to adjourn the case until May after being told senior counsel is now to be brought in to represent her children.

Ms Moreland, a 34-year-old Catholic mother of three, was abducted and killed by the IRA in July 1994 for being an alleged British informer.

Her children issued proceedings aimed at obtaining a full investigation into a series of murders attributed to the paramilitary organisation’s internal security team.

In October last year Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory QC called for police to examine Stakeknife’s activities, along with what was known by RUC Special Branch and MI5.

Although relatives of those allegedly killed by the IRA’s so-called ‘Nutting Squad’ have backed that move, they are opposed to the PSNI taking charge.

At an earlier hearing it was claimed that west Belfast man Freddie Scappaticci was permitted to engage in the campaign in order to strengthen his position as a British spy.

Scappaticci left Nothern Ireland in 2003 when he was identified by the media as Stakeknife.

Before quitting his home he vehemently denied being the agent.

Counsel for the Moreland family argue that police with no ties to Northern Ireland should carry out the investigation.

During an earlier stage in the case it was claimed that relatives of up to 50 murder victims are waiting for answers.

It was previously confirmed that Chief Constable George Hamilton has decided detectives from an external force should handle the inquiry.

Any investigation into Stakeknife could last five years and cost up to £35 million.