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Calls for an independent investigation into Stakeknife

Solicitor Kevin Winters at a press conference after the announcement of the investigation into the activities of Stakeknife. Picture by Mal McCann

THERE have been calls for an outside police force to be brought in to examine allegations against the intelligence services and the agent known as Stakeknife after director of public prosecutions Barra McGrory announced that he has asked the Chief Constable to carry out a major new investigation.

While 24 murders have been linked to the IRA double agent - alleged to be west Belfast man Freddie Scappaticci - it is though the figure could almost double in an inquiry stretching from the 1970s until the early 1990s.

The investigation will include allegations that members of British military intelligence at the highest level controlled the activities of Stakeknife while he was head of the IRA's 'internal security' unit.

Assistant chief constable Will Kerr confirmed on Wednesday that the PSNI had received a referral from the DPP but said "it would be inappropriate to comment further".

Freddie Scappaticci publicly denied being the double agent codenamed Stakeknife in 2003 before fleeing his west Belfast home for a secret address in England.

He is believed to have led the IRA's internal security unit known as 'the nutting squad,' which was responsible for identifying and interrogating suspected informers.

Mr McGrory said he has requested two new investigations.

"The first will be an investigation of broad scope. This will seek to examine the full range of potential offences that may have been committed by this individual", he said.

"It will also include an investigation into any potential criminal activity that may have been carried out by security service personnel."

He said the allegations were "perhaps the most significant in my time as DPP".

"I have not taken the steps to commence investigations lightly but, rather, consider they must be taken to ensure that public confidence can be maintained in the office of the DPP and in the wider criminal justice system."

Since August 2013 Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire has been investigating individual allegations that police could have prevented some of the killings linked to Stakeknife.

His office said yesterday that his investigations into RUC Special Branch alleged misconduct will "remain independent of any other inquiry into these matters".

Solicitor Kevin Winters, who represents a number of victims' families, said while he welcomed what he described as an "important development" there are doubts over the PSNI's ability to carry out the investigation both in terms of "independence and resources"

"We welcome the order made by the DPP to the PSNI. However, we must sound a note of caution on behalf of our clients.

"We are arguing that so far the PSNI has failed to undertake a thematic investigation into the activities of Scappaticci, the RUC and MI5, that it does not have the resources to do so and that any such thematic investigation will lack the necessary degree of independence to deliver truth, justice and accountability."

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