ANALYSIS: IRA agent Stakeknife was a 'prolific killer'
KNOWN as 'Stakeknife' Freddie Scappaticci is facing allegations that he could have been one of the most prolific killers of the Troubles.
While the announcement on Wednesday by the Director of Public Prosecution Barra McGrory that the activities of the west Belfast man are to be subject to a fresh investigation on the murders of 24 people, however, it is thought that figure could as much as double.
This investigation will not only centre on the role of the IRA man who headed up the organisation's 'internal security' unit but those who controlled, endorsed and in some cases directed his activities.
Special Branch, MI5 and military intelligence to the highest levels of power are all implicated in this murky world.
A world where a state agent was being directed to murder other state agents with impunity. Scappaticci has been described as the intelligence services' most valuable asset, this investigation will look under rocks and shine light into murky corners.
It has even been claimed that the man who lived a murderous double life even held a secret meeting with Margaret Thatcher at her Chequers country retreat where he was recognised as the 'jewel in the crown' of British military intelligence.
The investigation will not only centre on the role of the IRA man who headed up the organisation's 'internal security' unit or 'nutting squad', but those who controlled, endorsed and in some cases directed his activities.
Special Branch, MI5 and military intelligence up to the highest levels are all implicated in this murky world, one where a state agent was alleged to have been directed to murder other agents with impunity.
Lord Stevens has previously carried out three investigations into state collusion and we know that the actions of Stakeknife appeared as a common link across those investigations.
However, despite the fact that the last of those investigations concluded in 2003 and the findings of Stevens three were passed to the Historical Enquiries Team set up by former Chief Constable Hugh Orde, the actions of Stakeknife were never investigated.
Senior sources have described the scale of this investigation as 'colossal' saying it will 'dwarf' all that came before it both in terms of the number of killings involved but also the level of power held by those who directing Freddie Scappaticci.
Scappaticci, who has denied all claims against him, fled his home in west Belfast in 2003 and is now believed to be living in the north of England, revealing his exact whereabouts is banned under the terms of a high court injunction.
In February victims of the agent broke their silence to speak to the Irish News about the stigma that was attached to the murders of their loved ones, accused as they were of being informers. Their bloodied bodies were left by the side of road in the most cold, callous and savage of circumstances which only added to their grief.
Among those who bravely spoke out was Frankie Mulhern whose son Joe was shot dead in 1993.
The announcement by Mr McGrory will not guarantee immediate justice for families like Mr Mulhern but what it does do is open up this dark period to scrutiny and for the first time reveal the sheer scale of collusion with a man who is alleged to be Northern Ireland's most prolific state sponsored killer.