The portrayal of army agent ‘Stakeknife’ in a BBC documentary could help reinforce the false impression he was a “one man show” terror operation, a former head of RUC Special Branch has said.
Raymond White, who took part in the Panorama broadcast on Tuesday night said there tends to be too much focus on the agent as an individual when crimes of the IRA’s infamous ‘nutting squad’ had numerous perpetrators.
The BBC programme – The Spy in the IRA – examined the activities of agent Stakeknife, who has been identified in several publications as west Belfast republican Freddie Scappiticci (something Scappaticci denies).
Bedfordshire chief constable Jon Boutcher has been tasked to investigate the activities surrounding agent Stakeknife, including whether a number of murders were preventable and whether there were any criminal acts committed by members of the security forces. His investigation has been named Operation Kenova.
Mr White said if the Kenova investigators hear from Stakeknife, the former agent will “simply put himself forward as a foot soldier who was part of a team.”
Mr White said: “He will say he was taken to locations of which he has no knowledge now, was asked to do an interrogation, did so and reported back [to more senior IRA figures].
Your thinking time maybe started at 2am for something that was going to happen at 6amRaymond White - Former Special Branch head
In the BBC programme, director of public prosecutions Barra McGrory said: “If there is any group that might be uncomfortable with this investigation it is the IRA, because if there is an agent engaged in a series of murders then it was the IRA that sent him out to do them.”
Mr White told the programme makers that police agent handlers operated in a “moral maze” that his modern day counterparts should count themselves lucky not to have experienced.
Speaking to the News Letter yesterday, the former assistant chief constable said it continues to frustrate former officers that their actions, during a fairly intense armed conflict when police guidelines were almost non existent, are being judged by today’s standards.
“If it was a one-off terrorist incident happening every three months or so then you could invest the time and effort, but when things are happening almost around the clock on a daily basis then your thinking time maybe started at 2am for something that was going to happen at 6am,” he said.
“You didn’t have time to go through what they can go through now – taking legal advice and thinking ‘what are our options?’ You had a quick call from your source to say that something was on at six in the morning and ‘I have to go to a certain address.’ That was it. You didn’t know whether it was a bombing or a shooting. It’s almost portrayed [now] as if you had time to call some kind of COBRA (Cabinet Office Briefing Room A) meeting,” Mr White added.
• Contributing to the BBC Panorama documentary ‘The Spy in the IRA,’ Northern Ireland’s Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory describes some of the information he is evaluating as “chilling”.
“It made for very disturbing and chilling reading,” Mr McGrory told the programme makers.
“It paints a picture of an intelligence gathering operation at the upper levels of the IRA, during which many many terrible things happened.”
Asked how many murders the evidence so far suggests the agent Stakeknife was involved in or linked to, the DPP said: “To some extent or another yes, there is a connection between the agent known as Stakeknife and at least 18 murders. It is a lot of murders and it goes back quite a period of time.
“What we are talking about here are almost parallel processes. We have one in which there is a police investigation but all along there is an entirely secret dimension to these events. That drives a coach and horses through the rule of law. It means that those who carried out these murders were not properly investigated or brought to justice. For me that is an appalling vista.”
Mr McGrory also said the role of other senior republicans would also be examined as part of the Stakeknife probe.
“If there is any group that might be uncomfortable with this investigation it is the IRA, because if there is an agent engaged in a series of murders then it was the IRA that sent him out to do them.
“That is why this case disturbs me so greatly – because there was a potential complete corruption of the judicial and legal process, insofar as investigations, prosecutions and trials were concerned.”