A west Belfast man was allegedly permitted to engage in a “murderous campaign” to strengthen his position as a British spy, the High Court has heard.
Lawyers for victims’ relatives made the claim against Freddie Scappaticci as they pressed to have an outside police force investigate 24 killings.
Scappaticci denies being the army’s most prized agent within the IRA, operating under the codename Stakeknife.
But legal action has been launched in a bid to secure a wide-ranging probe into the full circumstances surrounding a series of killings stretching back to the 1980s and attributed to the paramilitary organisation’s internal security team.
Last month 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.
Judicial review proceedings brought by the family of Caroline Moreland are now focused on ensuring outside investigators are brought in.
Ms Moreland, a 34-year-old Catholic mother-of-three from Belfast, was abducted and murdered by the IRA in July 1994 for being an alleged British informer.
In court a barrister for her family, Sean Devine, claimed: “This challenge concerns at its core a murderous campaign that a named individual, Mr Frederick Scappaticci, was allowed to engage upon whilst managed by the security forces in order, we say, to enhance his position as an intelligence asset.”
Scappaticci left Nothern Ireland in 2003 when he was identified by the media as Stakeknife.
But before quitting his west Belfast home he vehemently denied being a British agent.
With his alleged role now set to come under fresh scrutiny, victims’ relatives want a thematic inquiry carried out without any delays.
Their opposition to PSNI involvement is based on a perceived lack of independence and the availability of resources.
Due to the Director of Public Prosecution’s intervention, Mr Devine sought an adjournment to allow time for investigators to be identified.
Paul McLaughlin, for the Chief Constable, agreed that proceedings should be put on hold.
The court also heard there were resource issues and potential political implications.
Granting a four-week adjournment, Mrs Justice Keegan stressed: “Given the issues raised about delay I’m keen to keep some timetable.”
Outside court Ms Moreland’s daughter, Shauna, said the families had taken a step in the right direction.
“We just don’t have faith in the PSNI to investigate any further,” she said.
Her solicitor, Kevin Winters, claimed the action went right to the upper echelons of British military intelligence.
Referring to the possible political implications raised in court, he said: “It demonstrates the level to which this case goes.”