Northern Ireland news

Senior officer says Stakeknife investigation 'might not have been possible' before now

West Belfast man Freddie Scappaticci, thought to be the agent known as Stakeknife.

A senior police officer probing the murders of up to 30 people linked to the agent Stakeknife has said the investigation "might not have been possible" any earlier due to a "different" attitude from intelligence agencies.

Jon Boutcher, Chief Constable of Bedfordshire Police, is heading up Operation Kenova into the activities of the British army's highest ranking IRA mole.

Among the murders thought to have been ordered by Stakeknife during his time as head of the IRA's 'internal security' unit was west Belfast man Joseph Mulhern, who was murdered in 1993 amid allegations he was an informer.

The 22-year-old was missing for 10 days before the discovery of his body.

Joseph Mulhern, who was shot dead by the IRA in 1993 amid unfounded allegations that he was an informer.

His father Frank last night said he believes his son could have been saved were it not for military intelligence wanting to protect their agent, described as their 'jewel in the crown'.

"They could have saved my son at any time and they didn't. They knew he was to be abducted and knew where he was being held - they sacrificed his life to save their agent," he said.

"He could be married now, I could have more grandchildren, a son to go for a pint with. Instead they sacrificed his life to protect their source and that's all wrong."

The west Belfast grandfather said he has placed his faith in the Operation Kenova officers who he felt were trying to "get to the truth" of the activities of Stakeknife.

Frank Mulhern, whose son Joseph Mulhern (22) was shot by the IRA in July 1993. Picture by Mal McCann

Military intelligence sources have claimed that Stakeknife provided a continuous flow of information that saved lives.

Speaking to the Irish News, Mr Boucher said he was getting "full cooperation" and added that there had been a change in attitude since the days of the Stevens investigations.

Sir John Stevens, who carried out an inquiry into allegations of collusion between the British army, the RUC and loyalist paramilitaries, told journalist John Ware recently that documents were withheld from his investigation.

His final report was published in April 2003 but military documents into the activities of army agents were not included.

"We have had full cooperation in relation to our investigation and access to documents across the all the agencies," said Mr Boutcher.

"I'm not sure this investigation could have taken place in 2003, or that the time would have been right then.

"There's a different view from all the agencies at this time, many people have left or moved on, and all I can say is everything I've asked for I've been provided with.

"I've experienced none of the difficulties John Stevens had."

Lawyer Kevin Winters, who represents many of the families believed to have been killed by Stakeknife said: "The families engaged in Kenova welcome the engagement and they want to see it work without any danger of interference".

Meanwhile, west Belfast man Freddie Scappaticci, who has denied being the agent Stakeknife, reportedly made a rare appearance in the city last week for the funeral of his 98-year-old father Daniel.

Appearing thinner and tanned, he was said to have got out of a dark car with blacked-out windows before entering St Agnes' Church on the Andersonstown Road, close to his former Riverdale Park home.

He left the church before the Mass ended and was not present in Milltown cemetery for the burial of his father's Italian flag-draped coffin, or for a small family gathering that took place in a west Belfast bar afterwards.

Press photographers who were gathered outside the church were asked to leave by relatives.

Freddie Scappaticci was alleged in 2003 to be Stakeknife, an allegation he strongly denied.

Northern Ireland news

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