A fresh investigation into allegations of state collusion with the Glenanne Gang has been called into question.
Former Special Branch inspector William Matchett fears the probe into the gang, which included rogue soldiers and police officers, has come about due to “the greatest fake news story in the world”.
He believes the recent film about the Glenanne Gang by Sean Murray, son of senior republican Sean ‘Spike’ Murray, has fed into the collusion narrative and prompted this investigation to be led by ex-police chief Jon Boutcher.
The film is based on a book by journalist Anne Cadwallader researched with the help of the Pat Finucane Centre.
Mr Matchett said: “Collusion is an accusation that doesn’t depend on evidence.
“This is arguably the greatest fake news story in the world.
“Collusion could be omission, poor record keeping, it’s so vague. You can twist it whatever way you want.
“It’s based on hearsay and opinion. If there was any evidence of state collusion relating to Glenanne it would have been investigated before now.”
Of the independent police probe led by Mr Boutcher, Mr Matchett said: “If Mr Boutcher doesn’t fall into the trap of following the fake news collusion narrative, if he follows normal criminal justice investigation procedures and deals only in credible evidence, no one is fearful of that one iota. If he sticks to the rules that every other liberal democracy sticks to that’s great.
“The hope is he doesn’t turn into another (Lord) Stevens where he takes five or 10 years to investigate, amass a huge report, doesn’t charge anyone and then at the end of it has to resort to using the term collusion, a statement of opinion rather than fact.
“If there’s evidence of wrongdoing then put them before the court, but we can’t end up in a situation where hearsay and opinion gets into the foodchain.”
He said the book by Anne Cadwallader and the film by Sean Murray helped the “Provisional narrative”.
He explained: “The Provisional movement was a monster that murdered as it moved, and lied as it breathed.
“It’s still here but it’s been decanted into another form. It’s a propaganda machine.
“The narrative is changing from a few bad apples in the barrel, to a few bad barrels, quite soon it will be the whole orchard.”
The Glenanne group was part of the UVF in mid Ulster blamed for around 130 sectarian murders during the 1970s and 1980s.
Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan recently said police had not honoured the “legitimate expectation” of bereaved relatives of murder victim Patrick Barnard that an overarching investigation into the Glenanne group would be held.