IRA used ‘wash houses’ to destroyed forensic evidence

Terrorists used “wash houses” to destroy forensic evidence during the Troubles, making it exceptionally difficult for the security forces to solve murders, a submission prepared for a US court said.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 30th December 2019, 12:00 am
IRA terrorists on the South Armagh border. Picture by Pacemaker
IRA terrorists on the South Armagh border. Picture by Pacemaker

Clothing was burned immediately after use during an attack and weapons were concealed in elaborately constructed hides except when being deployed, the government document said.

The paper, declassified at the Public Record Office in Belfast, was a draft submission for court hearings surrounding a bid to extradite a suspect from the US – Maze Prison escapee Jimmy Smyth – and argued against making intelligence-gathering details public.

It said: “Immediately after attacks terrorists disperse to wash houses to remove any trace of forensic evidence from their persons.

“Consequently the availability of good intelligence is often absolutely essential to enable terrorists to be arrested in incriminating circumstances and charged with offences, and/or to enable the security forces to take effective action to save lives by preventing terrorist attacks.

“That is why the protection of intelligence is of paramount importance.”

The draft court submission said material describing how evidence was obtained could compromise the methods of the intelligence agencies and reduce their capacity to save lives.

It added: “And by compromising intelligence agents and informers, apart from exposing them to a strong risk of torture and murder, such evidence could lead the source of intelligence to dry up – or become unreliable because it would be turned into a conduit of disinformation.”

Special units of the security forces carried out work in intelligence-gathering, surveillance and other special duties, the document said.

Alluding to SAS killings of IRA members, it said: “These latter incidents have resulted in a very much increased awareness by terrorists of the importance of special units ... [and have] given terrorists an additional and powerful motive of revenge against special units ...”