I had known for some years that ‘Steak Knife’ was Freddie Scappaticci’s real code name but I had it in my mind that after a British court had ordered a ban of some sort on the use of the proper nom de guerre, someone had dreamed up ‘Stakeknife’ as an alternative and the media had more or less fallen into line behind this fiction, not least because it was protection for the story’s main source, former FRU handler Ian Hurst.
But the memory can play tricks and so to be sure of my ground I contacted Ian to ask how it was we ended up calling Freddie Scappaticci by a non-existent code name. His real code name was Steak Knife, but the term he and co-author Greg Harkin employed was ‘Stakeknife’.
This was Ian’s explanation, in an email sent yesterday:
‘The correct code name is Steak Knife.
‘The reason we named him Stake Knife in the book was our attempt at placating the MOD who we (Hurst & co-author, Greg Harkin) did have some very brief contact with prior to the book being published. The state never asked for that change, we just wanted to get the book out and we thought it best to play with the code name to elicit some co operation from the state given we did not want the book to be banned – in hindsight it was a mistake because it confuses the public and in reality I now know, it would have made no difference.
‘There was no separate legal case in regards to the name.’
So there we have it, Freddie Scappaticci was Steak Knife, not Stakeknife.
And he added, intriguingly: ‘Let us not forget that it was Liam Clarke that first wrote about this code name after he was briefed by senior members of the military at HQNI social event in mid to late 1980 – I believe the Steak Knife reference was then printed within weeks in a defunct local news paper he had once worked for, Belfast Press, Irish Press – not sure of the exact name – Liam did make reference to this in his latter years in an article.’
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