Sean Graham Massacre report: Sources don’t tell you everything says former RUC Special Branch officer

A former RUC detective has tried to paint a picture of the murky world inhabited by intelligence sources during the Troubles, in the wake of the latest ombudsman report which castigates the RUC.

By Adam Kula
Wednesday, 9th February 2022, 1:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 9th February 2022, 12:09 pm
Former RUC Special Branch Officer William Matchett
Former RUC Special Branch Officer William Matchett

William Matchett spent most of his 30-year career in the anti-terror RUC wing Special Branch, and also served with the PSNI after the Patton transition.

He held the rank of detective inspector.

He stressed that throughout the Troubles officers were “at the forefront of defending democracy from a sectarian Provo agency that waged a ruthless war”.

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He also criticised the ombudsman’s reliance on the term “collusive behaviours” , describing it as being “a non-crime that appears in no other part of the UK, Europe or the western world”.

The ombudsman’s report said there are valid concerns around “inadequate supervision and control by RUC Special Branch of informants, and the continued use of informants who were actively involved in serious criminality”.

When it comes to navigating the clandestine world of criminal moles, Mr Matchett said: “Sources do not tell you everything.

“My old Special Branch commander was given the last rites and miraculously lived.

“A source set him up and PIRA almost got what they wanted. With intelligence you never have the whole picture.

“A penetrative source is a member of an unlawful terrorist organisation.

“They are constantly engaged in conspiracies to murder; a bad guy who reported on evil guys.”

So what were the “collusive behaviours” identified by ombudsman Marie Anderson?

They included:

:: Two failures to warn potential targets of a danger to their lives;

:: The failure to retain records “and the deliberate destruction of files in relation to the authorisation and implementation of covert investigatory measures following the attack at Sean Graham Bookmakers”;

:: Failure to maintain records of the deactivation of weapons;

:: Failure “to exploit all evidential opportunities, for example the failure to recover significant evidential material used in the attack at Sean Graham Bookmakers and to make early arrests”;

She was explicit that she “found no evidence that police were in possession of intelligence which if acted on, could have prevented any of the attacks” in her report.

She also had “no evidence” that “informants were pr otected from arrest and conviction”.

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