Police didn’t know about Shankill bomb: Former top officer

Norman Baxter backed Chief Constable George Hamilton's stance on advance warning of the Shankill bomb
Norman Baxter backed Chief Constable George Hamilton's stance on advance warning of the Shankill bomb

A retired senior RUC detective has publicly backed the chief constable’s belief that police had no advance knowledge of the Shankill bomb.

Retired detective chief superintendent Norman Baxter – who, prior to his retirement from the PSNI in 2008, was Operational Intelligence Advisor for Northern Ireland with responsibility for counter-terror intelligence – told the News Letter that he was “confident” George Hamilton is correct to have dismissed the idea.

It has been claimed that information stolen during the 2002 Castlereagh police station break-in (widely blamed on the IRA) shows that a senior republican mole passed on details of the planned attack to the security forces.

The story stems from the Irish News in late January, when it reported that it had seen material which had been encrypted, but were then deciphered by the IRA.

Former PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott has since declared he was “100 per cent convinced” that the police had no foreknowledge of the 1993 atrocity, in which nine civilians, and the bomber, died.

When the claim was put to Mr Baxter, he said: “As a former head of serious crime branch with some insight into this sort of thing, I would have to say that I am confident that the chief constable is correct that there was no knowledge in advance of the bomb which could have prevented the murders.”

Mr Baxter added that the Police Ombudsman should be “actively seeking this information as the allegations are undermining confidence in the criminal justice system”.

Meanwhile, veteran journalist Ed Moloney (who has been in dispute with The Irish News about other matters over recent years) said he wished to know why the material itself had not been published when the story broke.

He said: “This story was not sourced, not even anonymously, and so the content of the documents take on added importance in terms of the credibility of the allegation.”

TUV leader Jim Allister had previously told the News Letter he does not know if the claims can be believed or not.

“I just don’t know,” he said.

“I’m not ignorant of the fact the Provisionals are quite capable of laying false trails and misinformation.”

A statement was released last week on behalf of an unnamed man who said he has been endangered by the claims because people believe him to be the alleged IRA informer.