I got to know Martin/Ian not long after he had begun his media campaign – launched in The Sunday Times Irish edition – to expose Freddie Scappaticci as an agent for the FRU and to demonstrate that in using him as an agent, British intelligence had on numerous occasions sanctioned murder.
I have to say that I always found Martin/Ian pleasant to deal with, although the chirpy Mancunian was frustratingly obtuse when the discussion turned to the identity of the British spy in the IRA’s ranks. I never had a reason to think he ever lied to me; he never told the full truth either but not a lie that I knew of.
The spy was of course Freddie Scappaticci, or Scap, as he was widely known. Scap was the second in command of the IRA’s Internal Security Unit (ISU), which had the job of hunting down informers in the Provisionals’ ranks. For reasons that remain unexplained both Scap and his boss, John Joe Magee remained in charge of the ISU for the best part of two decades, in flagrant breach of a elementary rule of counter intelligence.
Having a spy so well placed in the IRA, someone who could help the British recruit and protect other informers, gave the British an unprecedented advantage in their war against the Provos and in all probability hastened or even initiated the journey towards the peace process.
It would be many years before Scappaticci was eventually outed and by that stage Ingram/Hurst had acquired a name for controversy and unreliability as far as much of the mainstream media was concerned.
By the way, Clarke was not alone in his suspicions about McGuinness. Toby Harnden, author of Bandit Country, also suspects that McGuinness was a British spy.
Since then, and for all we know because of his claims about McGuinness, the British establishment effectively declared him persona non grata.
The Saville inquiry into Bloody Sunday took evidence from him but concluded he had exaggerated his importance. And when the British government appointed prominent barrister, Sir Desmond de Silva to investigate the role of FRU agent Brian Nelson in the UDA killing of Belfast lawyer Pat Finucane, Ingram/Hurst was not asked to give evidence even though as a former FRU soldier he had a lot to say about the killing (not least that a former colleague had admitted to him that intelligence reports had been fabricated to clear FRU of allegations of foreknowledge about the Finucane murder).
De Silva would not entertain Ingram/Hurst as a witness but broke his own rules to hold several face-to-face meetings with Col Gordon Kerr, the commander of the FRU. (Perhaps guessing what response he would get, he didn’t even bother approaching this writer even though I did figure in his report.)
None of this means that what Ingram/Hurst has to say about Scappaticci should therefore be ignored (although it remains to be seen what attitude the Operation Kenova team has taken to him). He was, after all, correct about the most basic element in the story: Freddie Scappaticci was a British spy.
Frederick Scappaticci grew up in the Markets area of south Belfast, the son of Daniel Scappaticci, an Italian immigrant who arrived in Belfast in the 1920s. Belfast, like Glasgow, Manchester, Dublin and other cities at the time saw a large influx of Italian families seeking a better life. There were so many Italian immigrants in the old docks area, around the Markets area of Belfast, that it was known as ‘Little Italy’. The Scappaticcis ran a number of ice-cream businesses. Scappaticci was reputed to be an unruly and bad-tempered teenager, once breaking the leg of a fourteen-year-old in a row over football. Football was his passion –in 1962 he travelled to Nottingham Forest for a three-week trial but was sent home. The left-sided midfielder, although barely five-and-a-half feet tall, was highly rated by scout Johnny Carey, a former Manchester United and Irish international. However, the other Manchester –Manchester City –was Scappaticci’s team and after he became an agent the FRU would often arrange tickets for him for big matches at Maine Road. It also provided good cover when Scappaticci wanted to spend a weekend with his handlers.
Scappaticci, like his father, was a republican. He was caught up in the early Troubles, and was fined for riotous behaviour in 1970. A year later he was interned with, amongst others, Francisco Notorantonio, Gerry Adams, Alex Maskey and Ivor Bell. Now working as a bricklayer, Scappaticci was twenty-five years old. Veteran Derry republican Michael Donnelly, who was also interned at Long Kesh, recalled the now-notorious Scappaticci temper in a conversation with BBC Northern Ireland journalist Vincent Kearney: ‘Freddie Scap was short-tempered and quick to throw a punch … If he had been a foot taller he would have been a dangerous bully, but as it was he usually had one or two with him when he did throw his weight about, and he didn’t do much damage.’
Donnelly said Scappaticci ‘hung around with the Ballymurphy team, who were led by Gerry Adams’. He was particularly touchy about his name, which many of his fellow inmates mispronounced: ‘He would stamp his feet and shout, “It’s Scap-a-tichi, Scap-a-f******-tichi!”’ said Donnelly.
Scappaticci was released in December 1974 and became a trusted member of the Provisional IRA. He volunteered his services to British Army intelligence in 1978. Meanwhile he was working his way up through the IRA ranks. By 1980 –the year the Force Research Unit was established to centralise Army intelligence under the Intelligence Corps –Freddie Scappaticci, with guidance and help from his handlers, was firmly ensconced in the IRA’s internal security department, aka the Nutting Squad.
From then until early 1996 (although there was less work for his Nutting Squad after the 1994 ceasefire), Scappaticci would have a role in investigations into suspected informers, inquiries into operations suspected of being compromised, debriefings of IRA volunteers released from questioning and vetting of potential recruits. The FRU had placed its prize asset at the centre of the IRA, at the heart of Northern Command. During my time in the FRU he was referred to as Stake, Stakeknife, Steak or Steak-Knife and sometimes as Alfredo –Italian for Freddie. By the time he was outed, Stakeknife had become the norm.
I first became aware of both his activities and the role of the FRU in those activities in the early 1980s. One evening during 1982 whilst visiting the office at Headquarters Northern Ireland, a telephone call on a source telephone, a dedicated line for agents, was taken by a colleague who was the 121 Intelligence Section duty operator. This colleague, whom we shall call ‘Sam’, was, like myself, inexperienced as an intelligence operative. Sam took the call from an RUC officer based at Donegall Pass RUC station. The gist of the conversation was that an individual had been arrested for drink driving and had asked the RUC desk sergeant to telephone his handlers and alert them to his predicament. The ‘individual’ was in fact, Freddie Scappaticci, whom the police had arrested near his home, which was on the Lower Ormeau Road, about half a mile from the Donegall Pass station in south Belfast.
Whilst Sam telephoned those responsible for the running of Stakeknife, seeking instructions, I kept the desk sergeant occupied on the phone. Throughout that evening I helped out in the office, running errands for the posse of FRU officers and handlers who had returned to their offices to deal with the developing situation. The RUC desk sergeant confirmed the identity of the arrested man as Frederick or Freddie Scappaticci; he was requested to avoid doing anything which would highlight the identity of the individual he had in custody. The name Scappaticci was not known to me in the context of the Troubles at that time. In truth, both Sam and I were curious –it was in our natures. We were trained to be nosy, to find things out that we weren’t supposed to, and we were both delighted that we were allowed and trusted to remain in the background whilst a crisis was managed.
Once Scappaticci had been safely released from RUC custody without charge and the handlers had left the offices, we ran his name through the intelligence computer system 3702. His name and his activities were clearly recorded. He was identified as being closely involved in the running of the IRA’s feared internal security unit and being linked to the IRA’s Northern Command. It was clear to Sam and me that this was a heavy-duty source at the higher echelons of the Provisional IRA. We knew even then that to have a mole inside the Provos’ own security unit was a massive coup. Sam and I were summoned the following day to a meeting with the operation officer FRU and told to keep the secret of Stakeknife’s identity. At the time both of us were frankly out of our depth, unaware why the operation officer was anxious over and above normal concerns for the source’s welfare. This was, however, to change.
Over the next few years I became friendly with one of Stakeknife’s primary handlers, a man that I will call ‘Andy’. Andy and myself were keen footballers, playing for both the local unit and in the many five-a-side competitions held on Thiepval barracks. Andy was aware that I knew the identity of his agent and was open with me concerning Stakeknife and his activities, although careful to paint Stakeknife in a positive light. I believe Andy knew even as early as the mid-1980s that this case could come back to haunt not only him but the FRU as a unit. On occasions when I suggested he be careful, he intimated that the paperwork generated would not accurately reflect much of the agent’s activities, certainly not the aspects which were clearly illegal.
Stakeknife produced high-grade intelligence, much of it read at the highest levels of the political and security establishments. He was, without doubt, the jewel in the crown. The problem was, Stakeknife could only shine if he immersed himself in the activities of those he was reporting upon, including murder and other illegal acts.
Stakeknife had knowledge of some high-profile kidnap cases, many of which ended well. One is the case of supermarket magnate Ben Dunne Jnr, kidnapped by an IRA gang in south Armagh in 1981. Scappaticci was influential in saving his life, according to FRU source reports. The then chief of Dunnes Stores, aged thirty-one, was on his way to Portadown to open a new branch of the company. He was pulled from his car by armed maverick IRA men when he stopped to help at a fake accident. During Dunne’s six-day ordeal, Father Dermod McCarthy met with the terror gang and later appealed on television for his release. As Father McCarthy tried to mediate, a fierce gun battle broke out between the IRA members and Garda Special Branch, who had located the terrorists’ secret lair in County Louth after receiving accurate intelligence. Although Gardaí and sources close to the family said no money was paid, I have read in intelligence reports that around Stg£300,000 was handed over.
Scappaticci was also a major source in the foiled kidnap attempt on Galen Weston, a Canadian-born business tycoon and friend of Britain’s Prince Charles. The Westons had set up home in Toronto, but maintained their spectacular Irish estate at Roundwood Park, a seventeenth-century castle on 245 acres in the Wicklow hills, outside Dublin. On 7 August 1983, seven terrorists approached the Westons’ mansion in their bid to kidnap him. However, a fortnight earlier the FRU had passed on information from Scappaticci to Gardaí via the RUC. The seven men walked into a Garda ambush, an elaborate trap set up to give the impression that the Westons were at the estate. Weston, then forty-two, and his wife Hilary, a former Irish model, were not at home. He was playing polo with Prince Charles. He dismissed claims that it was a kidnap attempt. ‘Anyone could have known I was in England,’ he said at the time. ‘I haven’t been to Roundwood for months. The estate is run as a farm but there are some nice paintings and furniture in the house –I suppose they were after that.’ Gardaí eventually convinced the Westons that the gang, which had cut telephone wires to the house, had more sinister motives and as a result the couple sold up and left Ireland.
Another kidnapping, in late 1983, would result in the deaths of a garda and an Irish Army soldier. Quinnsworth boss Don Tidey was stopped at what appeared to be a Garda checkpoint near his home in Rathfarnham, Dublin. However, a gun was put to his head as he was taken prisoner by the IRA. His nineteen-year-old son was beaten during the abduction, which was also witnessed by his thirteen-year-old daughter. After being held hostage for twenty-three days, Tidey was rescued in a joint Army–Garda operation in Ballinamore, County Leitrim, on 16 December. He was found in a dugout in a secluded wooded area under the guard of four armed men, all of whom escaped. Again, Scappaticci’s information had been passed on to the Gardaí by the British authorities after a tip-off to the FRU. Trainee garda Gary Sheehan, twenty-three, of Carrickmacross, County Monaghan, and Private Patrick Kelly, thirty-five, of Moate, County Westmeath, were killed in the shoot-out. In 1998 IRA jail-breaker Brendan ‘Bik’ McFarlane was bailed on charges connected with the kidnap of the supermarket boss.
Don Tidey and Ben Dunne, among others, owe their lives to Freddie Scappaticci. But there were those who lost their lives to Scappaticci in his role as tout-finder general. The difficult part for his handlers involved manoeuvring him into the prominent and influential role as second-in-command in the internal security unit. Intelligence given to Scappaticci by the FRU aided his credibility within the IRA. Unfortunately, Scappaticci’s very position would inevitably involve him in regular murders. The price, in my opinion, for his excellent intelligence was too high –although that assessment is with the benefit of hindsight and was not my opinion fifteen years ago. Gradually and with a large degree of patience, Scappaticci was developed into an agent who was trusted and respected.
From the moment I became aware of Stakeknife’s identity I wondered what had prompted an individual like this to turn traitor and inform on his friends and comrades. A few years after I became aware of Stakeknife’s identity, Andy informed me that Scappaticci had been a ‘walk-in’ –that is, he voluntarily walked into an Army base and offered to report information on individuals who had crossed paths with him. Andy told me that either an individual or group associated with the IRA had given Scappaticci a beating. This beating to a proud man had been the Rubicon that prompted him to turn traitor. But surely, I thought, that alone could not be the sole motivating factor that was to fuel a long and successful career as an agent for the British State. In conversations with handlers it became clear that Stakeknife was also motivated by personal grudges. Andy once told me that Scappaticci hated Martin McGuinness vehemently and that in all his dealings as an IRA officer connected to Northern Command his reporting of the activities of McGuinness was always full and detailed.
This dislike was aired publicly in two interviews given during in the mid-1990s to ITV’s ‘The Cook Report’. These give a fascinating insight into the agent’s mental make-up. ‘The Cook Report’ had broadcast a previous programme, delving into the activities of Martin McGuinness and his involvement with the IRA. The programme examined McGuinness’s dual role –his political career in Sinn Féin, and his position as an IRA commander. However, Scappaticci did not believe the programme had uncovered enough of McGuinness’s activities and he sensationally decided to offer his services, under an assumed name, to journalists in the hope of really digging the dirt on McGuinness. It is unclear whether he volunteered this information with the blessing of his handlers or if he was flying solo.
Scappaticci met the journalists in the Culloden Hotel, outside Belfast. He drove there in his own car, registered in his own name. This seems frankly suicidal, although it is true that by now he was not anywhere near as active in the IRA as he had been. Journalists are generally smart creatures, skilled at identifying sources and blessed with willing sources of their own. Stakeknife was easily identified by a quick check on the registration number of his car, casually parked within the grounds of the hotel. A registration number can be checked with police sources.
The journalists were surprised that a senior republican would willingly come out into the open, even under an assumed name. This casual approach seems to imply that Scappaticci was acting with his handlers’ knowledge. He would also not have wanted to upset his employers with this type of activity if it was not authorised. This man had made a career from not making mistakes –you do not survive over two decades as an agent in the IRA by being casual and reckless. This action seems reckless at best, although it was highly unlikely any republicans would have been in the hotel, or would have had access to the journalists he was meeting. It is impossible to be sure what Scappaticci’s motivations were.
Below is a transcript of parts of Scappaticci’s conversations with the ‘Cook Report’ team. He is remarkably outspoken in his allegations, which are denied by McGuinness and others. He makes a number of statements which are inconsistent with facts, for example his claim that he was no longer in the IRA. He also makes several errors or slips of the mind regarding details, mentioning the ‘five-man’ Army council rather than seven, forgetting that Northern Command covered eleven counties rather than nine, ie, the ‘war zone’ –the six counties of Northern Ireland and the five bordering counties in the Republic of Ireland. These slips, of course, undermine his validity as a credible witness on any issue, but despite this, the interview does give us Scappaticci’s own voice and attitudes, his vindictiveness, and his hatred of McGuinness. Of course, Scappaticci was covering his own back, presenting his own case to his interviewers, but I include it here to give the flavour of his thinking at this time. I would caution readers to be circumspect regarding the allegations made by Scappaticci below. Because of his unreliability we have removed names.
The first interview took place on 26 August 1993 at the Culloden Hotel in Cultra, County Down, about six miles from Belfast. TV director and producer Clive Entwistle and award-winning ex-Daily Mirror reporter Frank Thorne were with former Daily Mirror crime correspondent Sylvia Jones. ‘The Cook Report’ had earlier broadcast allegations that Martin McGuinness was involved in the murder of FRU agent Frank Hegarty in Donegal, an agent handled by me whose case is dealt with in more detail in Chapter 6.
‘Cook Report’ team: You’ve known our friend a long …
Scappaticci: McGuinness? Oh, I know him very well. I know him about twenty years, you know. Basically, see the thing you were putting across on the programme the other night, that he’s in charge of the IRA. He’s not as such. It’s a technical thing, right. The IRA’s split in two. There’s another command, a Southern Command. He’s in charge of Northern Command. He’s the Northern Command OC. There’s a Southern Command, it has nothing to do with the Northern Command. The Northern Command basically takes in the nine counties of Ulster, right. He controls all of that. He’s also on the IRA Army Council. There’s a five-man Army Council. He’s one of them. Nothing happens in Northern Command that he doesn’t okay, and I mean nothing. Now, he’s nothing to do with England. See what happens in England, he’s nothing to do with that. The person who controls England is a south Armagh fella, right?
‘Cook Report’ team: So who would be responsible for [the bombing of] Warrington?
Scappaticci: A fella called [A] in south Armagh. He actually controls all aspects of what happens in England and on the Continent. Him and another guy called [B]. [B] is an ex-Belfast fella now living in Carlingford, right. They are the people who control what goes on in England.
‘Cook Report’ team: Does McGuinness have anything to do with that though?
Scappaticci: Well, he would have an input obviously.
‘Cook Report’ team: He’s involved?
Scappaticci: Well, I mean, yes. He’s involved as such that he’s an IRA man.
‘Cook Report’ team: And he’s on the [Army] Council?
Scappaticci: Oh, yes, he’s on the IRA Army Council. They have to give the go-ahead for what happens in England, right. Basically, I felt see, the programme itself, it didn’t go deeply enough. If you want to take in Martin McGuinness, you have to take in a couple of other people.
‘Cook Report’ team: That was one of the problems we had. We have a lot of evidence on people like [C] and so on.
Scappaticci: No, no, no, not [C]. [C] is nothing. I’m talking about the likes of a guy called [D] … I was explaining to Frank, McGuinness is on the IRA Army Council. He also controls the Northern Command which takes in the nine counties of Ulster. That was formed in 1977 by Ivor Bell, split Northern/Southern Command. There’s a five-man Army Council which McGuinness is part of. Nothing happens in Northern Command that McGuinness doesn’t okay, but there’s another person there too, who’s, I would say, more militarily involved in Northern Command. He’s his [McGuinness’s] adjutant, a fella called [D] from Beechmount. Do you know of him?
‘Cook Report’ team: We know of him.
Scappaticci: Anything that would happen, [D] would have the say-so. Right? Would okay it with McGuinness. He meets McGuinness once or twice a week in Belfast. This is a regular arrangement, right? McGuinness would come to Belfast. Used to be McGuinness would come to Belfast on a Tuesday. Every week. He stayed for two days. Him and [D] would do what they have to do. But what they’ve basically done is, they’ve cut up the Northern Command area, right? [D]’s basically looking after Belfast. [D], since he come out of jail –he’s out of jail almost seven years –he’s Adjutant of Northern Command, operates under McGuinness. He [D] more or less controls Down, Armagh, Tyrone. They sort of broke it up into two halves. McGuinness would look after the top half, Derry …
‘Cook Report’ team: Do you mind if I make some notes?
Scappaticci: No, that’s okay. Derry, Donegal. They more or less split up the Northern Command into two. It’s to facilitate both of the … because McGuinness, obviously from Derry, looks after Derry, Donegal.
‘Cook Report’ team: But is McGuinness in overall control of Northern Command?
Scappaticci: He is the Northern Command OC. There’s a five-man Army Council, he’s one of them. Adams is another.
‘Cook Report’ team: He wouldn’t be responsible for English operations, but he would be part of the team that sanctioned them?
Scappaticci: What happens is, I’ll explain the situation to you, right? The IRA Army Council says: This is what our strategy should be for the next year. We’ll have to do this, blah, blah. We think the operations should be in England or the Continent or whatever. That then filters down to the people who control it, who I told you is [A] and a guy called [B], right, who’s living in Carlingford at the minute. He moved out of Belfast.
Scappaticci: … Now you see that guy Rob Friars that was caught in England with a bomb about six or seven weeks ago? Remember he was caught at the bus stop in London? Cannon fodder, know what I mean? But a big mate of this guy [D]. And it was actually [D] who recommended him for the England thing to [A], as [D] moves in and out of the south Armagh area a lot. See, if they are carrying out any interrogations of so-called informers, that’s where they do it, in that area, mostly. The likes of Derry people would be done in Donegal, but it would be the same team that would do the whole lot, right, and it’s under the control of [D] and they’re the ones that do that type of thing. So as I was trying to explain, by just saying McGuinness, I don’t think you went deeply enough into it, you know what I mean? It done no harm and exposed him [McGuinness] for what he is. And, see that woman that came on [Rose Hegarty], she was right in what she was saying, like, he is an evil person.
‘Cook Report’ team: Mrs Hegarty?
Scappaticci: Yes, because he gave the go-ahead for Frank Hegarty, right? Well, I’ll tell you what I know about it, right … There was weapons caught in Donegal. It was 150 rifles caught. Hegarty was the one that gave the information on that. He was then taken out, brought to England and missed his common-law wife. So he kept phoning back. So McGuinness got on the phone and says, “Come back, you’ll be okay, blah, blah.” Convinced him he’d be okay, convinced the mother. He [Hegarty] then came home and McGuinness was the instrument of him being taken away and shot.
‘Cook Report’ team: How do you know this?
Scappaticci: I know it because for a long time I was at the heart of things. I’m no longer at the heart of things, right. Haven’t been for two or three years, right. But I know what I’m talking about, right.
‘Cook Report’ team: When you say you were at the heart of things, how close were you to McGuinness?
Scappaticci: Well, let’s say I served on the same thing he’s on.
‘Cook Report’ team: The Army Council?
Scappaticci: No. The Northern Command.
‘Cook Report’ team: So you were part of the decision team to get Hegarty then?
Scappaticci: No, no, no. You see, that’s a totally different thing. You have to know the workings of the IRA to know what happens.
‘Cook Report’ team: What is McGuinness up to at the moment?
Scappaticci: Well, he’s still Northern Command OC, but there was a decision taken four year ago that McGuinness was going to step back from things on the military side and take a political role.
‘Cook Report’ team: Why was that?
Scappaticci: Sinn Féin, the popularity they had in the early eighties started to wane and they were realising this. McGuinness is fairly popular in Derry because he won the election up there and all that, so what was decided was that he should have a bigger role alongside Adams, to try to get Sinn Féin going and put gee-up into it, right? So they were grooming yer man [D] to take over as OC of Northern Command and what you see now is that [D] has basically taken the reins of Northern Command and McGuinness has more or less stepped out. McGuinness still has to okay everything but he’s more or less stepped back and is more in a political role. But he’s still in the IRA. Deep there, like, you know. Very deep.
‘Cook Report’ team: Were you side-by-side with McGuinness?
Scappaticci: No, no, no. He’s the type of person you don’t get side-by-side with. He’s a very cold person. He doesn’t have friends within the IRA. He has what he calls comrades. He doesn’t have friends as such. He frowns on womanising, he frowns on drinking –a very moralistic person.
Scappaticci is asked about getting his story on screen.
Scappaticci: Well, you see, things that I would be giving you would be people’s lives being taken, you see, that he [McGuinness] gave the go-ahead for doing it, you know. Bombing city centres, he gave the go-ahead for doing it. Decisions are taken, Army Council makes a decision, then there’s a Northern Command meeting called and the Northern Command meeting is told, “This is the craic, we’re gonna concentrate on city-centre bombs. This is what we have to do.” And there would be a one-day coordinated strike –that’s what they call it –in the Six Counties of bombs being put out in different towns, different cities for mass devastation. The reason they come back on this seventies thing of bombs in the city centres is because they see how hard it is hitting the British government moneywise, plus the effect it has. Now, you notice there’s not many British soldiers being killed now, because they haven’t got the expertise in Belfast to do it, the likes of that. Okay, they have in south Armagh and places like that, but they change their tactics every now and again.
At this point, the transcript notes that Scappaticci says that people thought the first post-election bomb in the city of London was a reaction to Peter Brooke, but that in fact it had been planned weeks earlier.
Scappaticci: The media love to have these theories, that the IRA are masterminds. They’re not. Okay, sometimes things fall into place and they can claim afterwards, “we did it for that reason,” but they didn’t do it for that reason.
Here the tape runs out on the first meeting. Clive Entwistle takes a shorthand note of what is said next:
Scappaticci claimed that Martin McGuinness would be paid £20 a week, plus expenses, have a car and driver provided, expenses for petrol, etc. If he went into a bar or local butcher’s he would get given drinks or meat free. So he lives for free. Scappaticci: He is ruthless. I can say this unequivocally. He has the final say on an informer, whether that person lives or dies. If it is an IRA volunteer who admits it [informing] he is court-martialled. Only two key people on the Army Council –that is, Martin McGuinness and Gerry Kelly, who acts as Adjutant General –make the decision. If he is not an IRA volunteer, it is Martin McGuinness who gives the say-so. It just needs McGuinness, he has the final say. That is 100 percent. If McGuinness is not about, [E] gives the order. Hegarty was an affront. He [McGuinness] took it very personally. There is something quite wrong with his head. He talks to you very quietly, very softly, but he would think nothing about putting us [the three in the car] down. He would be praying in chapel one minute, go outside and think nothing about ordering a shooting. Before Hegarty was shot I knew about it. A friend of mine was to interrogate Hegarty, but McGuinness, [A] and [F] interrogated him. McGuinness ordered his shooting. The reason they gave was because of the arms shipment found in Sligo. He had to be made an example. McGuinness was instrumental in getting him back. He engineered getting him back and talking to him on the phone. He [Hegarty] was knocking around [in the early 1970s]. Ivor Bell, ex-chief of staff, blocked Hegarty coming in. Bell didn’t like his [Official IRA] background. He just didn’t fancy him. When Bell went Hegarty started working for a fella from Derry. He’s now in Strabane … Hegarty started helping on the QM [quartermaster] side and got more deeply involved.
‘Cook Report’ team: Clive asks how big a blow the arms find was.
Scappaticci: Jesus, it was a major blow, that arms find, because at that time we didn’t have many. Before that there was only a small amount of arms. It only came out then that there was all this stuff from Libya. It wasn’t McGuinness who felt responsible, it was just that Hegarty had been responsible [for Gardaí finding more than 100 weapons in Roscommon and Sligo] and something had to be done.
‘Cook Report’ team: Clive asks about current strategy.
Scappaticci: All plans have to be sanctioned by McGuinness. Any change in strategy would have to be made by McGuinness. They are very sensitive about publicity. There was a groundswell recently to shoot unionist politicians like Sammy Wilson and SDLP. But Army Council will not let them do it.
‘Cook Report’ team: Scappaticci is asked why he had left the organisation after 22 years.
Scappaticci: There are more things in life than killing.
‘Cook Report’ team: Had he killed?
Scappaticci: No answer.
‘Cook Report’ team: Clive asks more questions.
Scappaticci: A culture has built up. McGuinness is now famous. He gets a kick out of it, out of killing. Where would he be today? Still a butcher’s boy. Where would Gerry Adams be? Working behind a bar. He was a barman. I would say if there was a free vote tomorrow it would be a massive yes to stop the violence. Adams would stop it but McGuinness would not. I have been at meetings with him, Adams and Sean Maguire, and the whole atmosphere of the armed struggle and how it was going to be developed was discussed. I was at two meetings. He [McGuinness] is a cold person. One minute he would be in church and next he would say ‘stiff him’. We tried to get conversation going again, but he just wasn’t interested. All he wanted to do was get away –so did we.
‘Cook Report’ team: Clive is told that Scappaticci attended meetings to discuss targeting Wimbledon, Buckingham Palace and the attack on Downing Street. Killing Thatcher was also discussed.
Scappaticci: But she was too well guarded. You might get a meeting where everything is in the melting pot.
‘Cook Report’ team: Was McGuinness involved in the mortar bomb attack on Downing Street?
Scappaticci: [A] and [B] worked out the strategy. Rob Friars welded up the mortar. They use people not known in England who can come and go unnoticed, who are not going to break. Bombings … would come personally from Northern Command, so McGuinness would automatically know about them. If [A] or [B] wanted, say, six men who were unknown, they would go to McGuinness who would go around the local OCs in Northern Command and ask them to find six suitable men. They would be told to say they had got disillusioned with the organisation and dropped out, or say they had got a job in Germany or Dublin or wherever. We used to take people across [to Britain] in fishing boats but I don’t know how they travel there now.
Scappaticci says the meeting has gone on too long and ends that meeting.
Next meeting: 28 August 1993, east Belfast. Present: Clive Entwistle, Sylvia Jones, Frank Thorne and ‘Jack’, aka Freddie Scappaticci.
Scappaticci: Hegarty came back because he was given assurances that he would be safe. You think life is sweet when those assurances come from the top man –Martin McGuinness. He gave his word of honour. McGuinness told Frank and his family he would be taken over the border to meet three prominent people in the IRA Army Council. McGuinness was part of the Army Council who first interrogated Hegarty, court-martialled him and then ordered him to be shot. Inside the IRA it was known from the moment those guns were found that Frankie was ‘going for his tea’. That was it. He was a dead man. It’s not important who pulled the trigger. McGuinness wouldn’t dirty his hands with that. Hegarty was court-martialled because he was an IRA volunteer. He threw himself on the mercy of the Army Council. They went into another room, said, ‘No –take him out and give him it.’ A real kangaroo court. They would have blindfolded him and assured him they were taking him home, then would have taken him from the car and told him to keep walking … a bullet in the back of the head. Four bullets is normal, usually by two people so that they are both implicated in the murder.
On McGuinness giving Hegarty and his family the word that Frank would be safe, Scappaticci scoffed:
Scappaticci: See if someone in the IRA says, ‘I swear to God,’ or, ‘I swear on my mother’s life,’ then you know you are getting double-crossed. That’s the code word. You say, right –bolt. Bolt. He said McGuinness would not normally be personally involved in interrogations.
Scappaticci: In the final analysis in the Northern Command, he [McGuinness] would have to give the go-ahead for them to be shot.
Entwistle: How many executions would you say McGuinness has authorised over the years?
Scappaticci: How many executions have there been, you tell me? I can’t keep a score of them. Forty? Fifty? Sixty? A hundred? You look at every British soldier shot, every policeman shot, every booby trap or whatever. McGuinness is ultimately responsible for all of it. It’s all under his control.
Entwistle: So the thousands of people who have died, McGuinness is responsible for their deaths?
Scappaticci: He’s responsible for the majority. If you met him in his role in Sinn Féin, he is a nice plausible person. But in his role in the IRA, he is a cold, ruthless person. He sends a shiver down your back. At IRA meetings, he is businesslike. You don’t get much chit-chat out of him.
Entwistle: How damaging was the arms find? How damaging was that information which Frank [Hegarty] had given at that time?
Scappaticci: The decision was taken for McGuinness to be more political. Sinn Féin had started to decline. They thought that Adams had too much of a workload and needed more help. And there was also schemes brought forward for the IRA to contribute to help pull them back together again. The IRA appointed a person in Belfast and his sole job was to look after Sinn Féin/IRA-type things – coordinate publicity campaigns, etc. If Sinn Féin wasn’t doing too well in an area, the IRA could be deployed in that area to do various things, to work alongside Sinn Féin.
Entwistle: To whip up support?
Scappaticci: Oh, aye.
Entwistle: Was it done as threats?
Scappaticci: Part of this coordination would have been ‘civil administration’ – that is, the people who knee-cap people, baseball-bat people who break legs, arms, is what their ‘civil administration’ is. There you are. The IRA made a conscious decision along with Sinn Féin to clean up the Divis Flats because of the crime and drug dealing. An IRA man was put in to call on people to band together and make the Divis Flats a hoods-free area. The hoods showed out and the IRA moved in and knee-capped four or five people. Then they gave a particular drug-dealing family forty-eight hours to get out of Belfast or be ‘stiffed’. They left. The Lower Falls became quiet. Sinn Féin got their act together and got two seats in the Lower Falls.
Entwistle: People have told us the link between Sinn Féin and the IRA is inseparable.
Scappaticci: It’s inseparable. Many Sinn Féin councillors are in the IRA. Martin McGuinness is on the IRA Army Council. [He names others but adds that some councillors are not IRA.] If you look at the IRA – you look at the 1970s – it’s still the same people who are coordinating and controlling things who were operating in the seventies and they are set in their ways.
Scappaticci was more nervous this time. He cut the meeting short. His claims were clearly designed to damage the republican movement, and in particular Martin McGuinness, at a time when republicans were moving towards calling a ceasefire and kick-starting the peace process. His animosity towards McGuinness is clear and not in any way guarded, and his intent is evidently to place pressure upon McGuinness at what was a very delicate time, with the fledgling peace process still finding its feet. If this meeting with the journalist was authorised by FRU operations, it would seem to be an attempt to destabilise the buds of peace from flourishing by the very people who are invested with the responsibility to establish peace. If it was not authorised, it is transparent evidence of one element of the agent’s motivation.
What makes Scappaticci’s conversations with these journalists truly remarkable was that Scappaticci had told his handler in the FRU that the man who actually pulled the trigger on the gun that killed Frank Hegarty was none other than Scappaticci himself. The FRU were well aware that he would be involved in the interrogation of Hegarty. One FRU agent had killed another. Hegarty could have been saved, but somewhere a decision had been taken that it was better for him to die to help maintain Scappaticci’s position. The Gardaí could have rescued Hegarty if they had been given details from the northern side of the border, but that information was never passed on. Coincidentally, his demise saved the State quite a lot of money in pension and resettlement payments.
After the ‘Cook Report’ programme was broadcast, Martin McGuinness hit back at his accusers. In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph on 25 August 1993 the Sinn Féin man, clearly angry, rejected all the allegations levelled against him. He said the programme was ‘tabloid journalism of the worst kind – sleaze, based on perjurers, people prepared to be used as stooges of the British.’ The allegations in the report were ‘inconsistent and could not be true,’ he insisted. Referring to one claim that he (McGuinness) had been present when people were held against their will, he said the claim was ‘absolute lies’. He went on: ‘There is no way I would have taken part in anything of that nature. They are total and absolute lies. I knew nothing about it.’ The reporters asked him about allegations from Frank Hegarty’s mother, Rose, and McGuinness responded: ‘Of all the people [interviewed] she was the one that came across as the most plausible but I am afraid she is somewhat confused about what happened at the time.’ Mr McGuinness said that her allegation that he had guaranteed her son’s safety if he returned to Northern Ireland were wrong and he claimed that he had in fact warned Hegarty that he was ‘very fearful of his life if he returned to Ireland’. Referring to the programme he said it was ‘British black propaganda’ and added: ‘It is part of a dirty tricks campaign which I believe will fail.’ He was immediately backed up by the party president Gerry Adams who told the Belfast Telegraph: ‘It was a programme full of lies and innuendo with Roger Cook manipulating political opponents, self-confessed liars and grieving relatives.’
There were other victims of Scappaticci, John Joe Magee and the Nutting Squad. Some of those victims were informers. Some were not. But the following people also died while Army intelligence ran the man behind the interrogations, the beatings, the torture and the shootings. My experience of handling agents in Northern Ireland suggests that Freddie Scappaticci would have been involved in the majority of the murders listed. But it would also suggest that he would have had knowledge of most of these deaths, when and where they were to take place. The British State therefore could also have been aware of many of these killings.
The killing of a relative as an informer was always a massive stigma for a republican family, a black mark that would continue for generations. The IRA has recently been conducting investigations into a number of executions by the Nutting Squad, at the behest of relatives who have always insisted that their loved ones were unjustly murdered. They have evidently known for some time that the wrong people were killed on some occasions.
The discovery of informers in their ranks was also very dispiriting and demoralising for IRA members. It was very much in the interests of British intelligence agencies to sow alarm, despondency and paranoia in IRA ranks by having a regular supply of informers allegedly ‘unmasked’. Considering what is now known about Scappaticci, it is likely that some of these people were killed to protect him, to throw the IRA off his scent, as his information would have compromised many IRA operations. There were thirty-five victims while Scappaticci worked in the Nutting Squad:
Paul Valente, a thirty-three-year-old married father of four, was from Stanhope Drive in Unity Flats, Belfast. He was shot dead on 14 November 1980 by the Nutting Squad. His body was dumped in the loyalist Highfield estate, and republicans claimed he was killed by loyalists, but it later emerged that he was killed by the IRA. It was also claimed that he had told RUC Special Branch about an IRA mole inside the police. I believe Scappaticci would have been involved in this inquiry, giving the security forces vital information.
Maurice Gilvarry, twenty-four years old, was abducted, tortured and shot dead by the IRA. His body was dumped on a road in south Armagh. Gilvarry, from Butler Street in north Belfast, was found on 20 January 1981. He had been providing information to the security forces for a number of years. His information had led to the deaths of three IRA members and a Protestant civilian in an SAS ambush at a post office in north Belfast in June 1978.
Patrick Gerard Trainor, a twenty-eight-year-old father of three from Farset Walk in Divis, Lower Falls, west Belfast. His body was found dumped on waste ground off the Glen Road in the city on 22 February 1981. His family denied claims that he had been an informer.
Vincent Robinson, twenty-nine, a father of two from Suffolk in west Belfast, was found dead in a rubbish chute in Divis Flats on 26 June 1981. He had been shot once in the head. His family and the priest Father Denis Faul denied he was an informer. Father Faul said, ‘Vincent Robinson was not murdered because he was an informer, for he was not. The accusation … is patently false.’
Anthony Braniff, twenty-seven, from Ardoyne in north Belfast, was a senior member of the Provisional IRA. His body was found dumped at Odessa Street in the Falls Road area on 27 September 1981. His relatives vehemently denied that he had worked for the security forces, a denial they maintain to this day. It was not unusual for the FRU to target senior republicans in this way – to get their agents to target such people as informers. Based on information from Scappaticci, the IRA later issued a statement claiming that Braniff was an informer. Braniff’s father, David, was murdered by the UVF eight years later. The IRA have recently issued an apology and stated that Anthony Braniff was not an informer.
John Torbett, twenty-nine, was shot at his home in Horn Drive in Lenadoon on 2 January 1982, after defying an IRA exclusion order, an order to go into exile indefinitely. He died in hospital from his injuries on 19 January. His family denied that the father of four young children had worked for the security forces, and the RUC stated that the accusation was ‘totally without foundation’.
Seamus Morgan, a twenty-four-year-old father of four, was from Dungannon, County Tyrone. In February 1982 Morgan, an IRA member, who had been an election worker for the hunger striker Bobby Sands, had moved to County Monaghan, claiming his life had been threatened by the security forces. He was abducted by members of the IRA’s internal security unit, questioned and shot dead. His body was found dumped near Forkhill, south Armagh, on 6 March 1982. His family and close friends denied he had worked for the security forces.
Patrick Scott, twenty-seven, was from Ramoan Drive in Andersonstown. His body was found near Dunville Street in the Lower Falls area of west Belfast on 3 April 1982. His legs and hands were tied, his eyes were taped shut and he had been shot a number of times in the head. Scott, a former member of the IRA, had told family members that he had been accused of being an informer and had gone to the IRA leadership to protest his innocence. His family still deny he was an informer.
James Young, forty-one, was an IRA member from Portaferry, County Down. His body was found dumped near Crossmaglen, south Armagh, on 13 February 1984. Young had worked for the RUC for a number of years and had successfully ‘jarked’ (made inoperable or fitted with tracking devices) a number of weapons used by the IRA in Belfast. He had been shot several times in the head.
Brian McNally, twenty-five, was an IRA member from Beech Lodge Road in Warrenpoint, south Down. His body was found dumped on the side of a road near Meigh in south Armagh on 26 July 1984. He had been tortured for a number of days by the internal security unit, who had broken both his arms and crushed his fingers. McNally, who had claimed in a Republican News article several weeks earlier that he had been beaten up by police, had vehemently denied being an informer. He was shot several times. His family insist he was not an informer.
John Corcoran, a forty-five-year-old father of eight from Ballyvolac, County Cork, was a senior member of the IRA in Munster. His body was dumped in a field near Ballincolig on 23 March 1985. He had worked as an informer for the Gardaí for up to ten years. It has been suggested that Corcoran was sacrificed to save another garda informer, Seán O’Callaghan. O’Callaghan told gardaí that Corcoran was being interrogated in County Kerry. Corcoran’s garda handler has strenuously denied that Corcoran was sacrificed.
Kevin Coyle, a twenty-four-year-old father of three, confessed to being an informer for the security forces in one of the Nutting Squad’s notorious taped confessions, which was later given to his family. He was taken from his home in Deanery Street in Derry city on 21 February 1985. His body was found in the city’s Bogside area two days later. Coyle had told a Sinn Féin press conference earlier in February that he had refused to work for the security forces.
Catherine and Gerard Mahon were murdered on 8 September 1985. Their deaths are examined elsewhere in this book.
Damien McCrory, a twenty-year-old from Strabane in County Tyrone, was found with two bullet wounds to his head on 7 October 1985. Damien, one of eleven children whose parents were both dead, was of low intelligence. His family denied claims by the IRA that he had worked for the security forces. The IRA however, who had questioned him for almost two days before his death, said he had confessed to working for the RUC. Family members pointed out that Damien was educationally subnormal and easily misled. His death angered many republicans in Strabane at the time.
Frank Hegarty was murdered on 25 May 1986. His murder is dealt with in detail elsewhere in this book.
Patrick Murray was a thirty-year-old IRA member from the Short Strand area of east Belfast. His body was found in an entry in the Clonard area of west Belfast in the early hours of 15 August 1986. His legs and hands were tied and his eyes taped shut, and he had been shot three times in the head. His family vehemently denied that he was an informer. The IRA said he had confessed during a ‘trial’ to working for the security forces for eight years.
David McVeigh, forty-one, was a married father of three from Lurgan in County Armagh, and a member of the IRA. He was abducted by the IRA on 5 September 1986, questioned and tortured for five days and shot on 10 September. His body was found near Carlingford, just inside Northern Ireland. His head was covered with black polythene and his hands were tied with bandages. His family denied he was an informer.
Charles McIlmurray was a thirty-two-year-old father of two from Slemish Way in Andersonstown, west Belfast. His body was found in the back of a van near the checkpoint at Killeen, south Armagh, on 12 April 1987. He had been shot twice in the back of the head. His face was covered with a black plastic bag and his hands were tied behind his back. An IRA member, McIlmurray had worked for the RUC and had admitted this to Dungannon priest Father Denis Faul. He believed he was covered by an IRA amnesty and agreed to confess. His wife was pregnant at the time. Asked by the Irish News about the murder, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said: ‘I think that Mr McIlmurray, like anyone else living in west Belfast, knows that the consequences for informing is death.’
Thomas Wilson, thirty-five, was a member of the Official IRA who the Provisionals alleged had been passing information to the security forces. His body was found near Rodney Parade, west Belfast, on 24 June 1987. His family denied he was a police informer.
Eamonn Maguire, thirty-three, from Finglas in Dublin, was alleged by the IRA to have worked for the Gardaí. He was questioned for six days by the IRA’s internal security unit. His body was found in south Armagh on 1 September 1987. His family denied he was an informer and said the father of two hadn’t been involved with the IRA for a number of years. The IRA however claimed he had compromised a number of their operations in the Republic.
Anthony McKiernan, a forty-four-year-old father of four, was from Stanfield Row in the Markets area of south Belfast. His body was found dumped in Mica Street in the Beechmount area of the Falls Road, west Belfast. He had been shot in the head. In a statement, the IRA said he had been a member of the organisation between 1971 and 1987 before being dismissed for ‘misconduct’. McKiernan was known to Scappaticci as they were from the same area. Scappaticci was among those who interrogated McKiernan before he was shot dead on 19 January 1988. His family has always insisted he wasn’t an informer.
Joseph Fenton, thirty-five, from west Belfast, was murdered on 26 February 1989. His murder is examined in more detail elsewhere in this book.
John McAnulty, a forty-eight-year-old road haulier, was abducted from a pub near Dundalk, County Louth, on 17 July 1989. His body was found dumped near Cullaville the next day. Scappaticci tortured McAnulty by beating him with his fists and stubbing cigarette ends all over his body. McAnulty ‘confessed’ to working for the RUC for seventeen years. Friends denied the claims, one of which was that his information had led to the arrest of Raymond McCreesh, an IRA man who died on the 1981 hunger strike at the Maze Prison.
Paddy Flood, twenty-nine, ‘confessed’ to being an informer and his body was found dumped near Newtownhamilton on 26 July 1990. Paddy Flood was not an informer, for the FRU, the police or anyone else. His wife has consistently denied that Flood, probably one of the IRA’s most lethal members, was an informer. She deserves to know that he wasn’t. Flood, from Tyrconnell Street in Derry city, had been involved in a number of operations against the security forces in the city. It is my belief that his death was a result of work by the security forces, working in conjunction with other agents inside the Provisional IRA.
Ruari Finnis, twenty-one, also from Derry, was another IRA own goal. Finnis’s body was found dumped behind shops in the Creggan estate on 6 June 1991. His hands were tied behind his back and he wore a blindfold. I do not believe Finnis was a security force agent – any compromised operations he may have been on for the IRA were almost certainly detected via electronic surveillance rather than human intelligence sources. His family deny he was an informer. The IRA say Finnis, from Harberton Park in the Waterside, confessed to working for the security forces. But who was asking the questions?
John Dignam, Gregory Burns and Aidan Starrs were found murdered on 1 July 1992. Their deaths are dealt with elsewhere in this book.
Robin Hill was a twenty-two-year-old IRA member from Ardmore Park in Coalisland, County Tyrone. His body was found at Beechmount Gardens, west Belfast, on 12 August 1992. His hands were tied, his eyes were taped shut and his body was dressed in a white boiler suit. He had been shot twice in the back of the head. The IRA said he was an informer. His family denied the claims.
Gerard Holmes, thirty-five, was from Moore Street in Derry city. His bound body was found dumped in the Creggan estate on 22 November 1992. His family vehemently denied he had worked for the security forces as the IRA claimed, even after receiving a so-called taped ‘confession’. A relative was quoted in the Derry Journal as saying: ‘The contents of the tape are not proof of our brother’s guilt. In fact the reverse is the case. The tape lasts approximately two minutes and contains nothing that suggests Gerry had been an informer at any time.
Christopher Harte, twenty-four, was from Dermott Hill Parade in west Belfast. He was married with one child. His hooded body, with hands tied behind his back, was found dumped near Castlederg, County Tyrone, on 12 February 1993. He had been held by the IRA’s security unit for six days before his death. Was Harte an informer? The security forces may have wanted it to appear that way – murder conspiracy charges against him were reduced and he was granted bail before receiving a suspended prison sentence. This tactic was often employed to cast suspicion on IRA members who were not informers, deliberately making it appear that they were. Police knew who killed Harte within hours of his body being found.
James Gerard Kelly was a senior IRA member from Maghera in County Derry. The building worker was found shot in the head and body on 25 March 1993. The IRA alleged the twenty-five-year-old had been an informer for the security forces. His family denied the claims.
John Mulhern, twenty-three, was from Nansen Street in the Falls Road area of west Belfast. His body, dressed in a blue boiler suit and with his hands tied, was found about twelve miles from Castlederg, just inside Northern Ireland, on 23 June 1993. He had been questioned by the IRA security unit for a week.
Michael Brown was a twenty-three-year-old IRA member from County Leitrim. His body was found at the rear of Pat’s Parlour bar on the Omeath–Newry Road on 29 April 1994. The IRA claimed he had worked for RUC Special Branch in Downpatrick. His body was dressed in a blue boiler suit and his hands were tied behind his back. The IRA had questioned him for a week before shooting him in the head.
Caroline Moreland, thirty-four, from Beechmount Grove, west Belfast, was the second woman to die at the hands of the Nutting Squad. Her body was found on 17 July 1994 at a secluded border road at Cloughmore, County Fermanagh. She had three children. The IRA claimed she had worked for the security forces for two years.
Scappaticci has made repeated denials since his exposure as the British agent Stakeknife. These denials are to be expected, if for no other reason than to protect both his own and his family’s reputation within the close republican community. Early in the evening on the Monday after Scappaticci had been named as Stakeknife in three leading newspapers, I was at Heathrow airport, having just given evidence to the Bloody Sunday inquiry in London. I received a phone call from Rosie Cowan, a journalist with the Guardian newspaper. Rosie wanted to know what developments could be expected over the coming days and weeks. She was astounded when I predicted that Scappaticci would return home in the next few days and attempt to ‘brass-neck’ his way out of his predicament. Scappaticci returned home some forty-eight hours later, professing his innocence, and that was when the charade started.
At this point I want to make it abundantly clear that Scappaticci is not entirely responsible for the misery that has been caused by the agent Stakeknife. The FRU must be held to account for its involvement in this killing machine. The fact that Scappaticci was an agent of the state is to be celebrated; the callous and immoral orders given by the FRU should not. While some of Scappaticci’s crimes might be covered by the Good Friday Agreement, the same cannot be said of the FRU, which, I believe, will never be brought to task for its involvement in state-sponsored murder. Terrorism is wrong. State-sponsored terrorism is equally wrong, end of story.
Harkin, Greg. Stakeknife: Britain’s Secret Agents in Ireland (pp. 60-94). The O’Brien Press. Kindle Edition.