Northern Ireland news

Officer leading Stakeknife probe on shortlist to be next PSNI Chief Constable

Jon Boutcher speaking to the media in Belfast last year to give an update on the Stakeknife investigation. Picture by Liam McBurney, Press Association
Staff Reporter

THE police officer in charge of the probe into allegations of murder by the British Army agent known as Stakeknife is reportedly in the running to become the next PSNI Chief Constable.

Jon Boutcher, who announced in April he is to stand down as the chief constable of Bedfordshire Police, is among several officers earmarked to replace George Hamilton.

According to the Irish Times, the other candidates are PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin, Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton and former Chief Constable of Cheshire police Simon Byrne.

Mr Hamilton is due to retire from the PSNI next month.

Mr Boutcher is leading Operation Kenova - an investigation into how the British army's covert Force Research Unit (FRU) ran Stakeknife from the late 1970s until he was exposed as an agent in 2003.

Freddie Scappaticci has denied being the agent codenamed Stakeknife.

He has also denied involvement in dozens of murders while a member of the IRA's internal security unit, the so-called "nutting squad", which sought to expose informers.

Stakeknife is alleged to have been implicated in up to 50 murders, particularly when he was head of the "nutting squad".

Mr Hamilton announced in January he planned to retire.

At a speech at Queen's University Belfast last week, Mr Hamilton said politicians were "shifting the blame" for the "stalling" peace process.

"I think it is a damning indictment, that in the ongoing political vacuum, members of grieving families are passing away without any resolution, without justice and without answers," he said.

Several members of the Policing Board will interview potential chief constable candidates.

In April, it was revealed that the recruitment criteria had changed to allow officers who had not served in a senior role in another force to apply for the post.

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