Family of undercover soldier Ted Stuart make history with legal challenge

Seamus Wright, one of two of the Disappeared whose remains were found in Co Meath in June last year, was said to be working as an IRA informer
Seamus Wright, one of two of the Disappeared whose remains were found in Co Meath in June last year, was said to be working as an IRA informer

THE brother of an undercover British army operative, murdered by the IRA, is to make legal history by demanding that the circumstances of his death be subject to a new police investigation.

Tedford Stuart, known as Ted was a member of the shadowy Military Research Unit (MRF) the secretive organisation made up of undercover soldiers were responsible for carrying out a number of allegedly unlawful killings in the early 70s.

If successful it will be the first time the murder of an undercover soldier stationed in Northern Ireland will be investigated by legacy agencies.

In 2013 members of the MRF spoke to BBC's Panorama team about their activities, however, their identities were concealed. They revealed they'd been involved in the shooting of civilians.

A number of murders including that of shipbuilder Patrick McVeigh, shot dead in 1972, were later referred by the PPS back to the PSNI for reinvestigation.

However, the shooting of the soldier, originally from Strabane, was not among those to be investigated.

His family have launched a challenge to the decision to omit him from the investigation in Belfast's High Court.

The 20-year-old, a member of the Royal Engineers, had volunteered to work undercover and was the driver of a laundry van being used by the army to spy on republicans in west Belfast.

The Four Square Laundry was at the time one of the army's most sophisticated spy operations. The laundry operated as a cleaning business collecting clothes from homes in west Belfast that were then taken away for forensic examination for explosive residue before being laundered and returned.

The collection vans were also fitted with surveillance equipment.

Mr Stuart was the driver of a laundry van that came under attack from the IRA in Twinbrook, west Belfast in October 1972. An undercover female soldier known only as 'Jane' was injured in the attack but survived and was later awarded a Military Medal for bravery.

The IRA claimed two more soldiers concealed in a hidden compartment in the van were also killed during the operation, however, the British army have never confirmed this.

West Belfast man Seamus Wright, who was abducted by the IRA before being executed and secretly buried, was believed to have been at the heart of the spying operation after being recruited as an informer.

Mr Wright's remains along with those of Kevin McKee were discovered in a single grave in Co Meath last June by the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims Remains.

Mr Stuart's brother Colin now wants an investigation into his brother's murder, given that a high level IRA informant was at the centre of the operation his solicitor Kevin Winters of KRW Law said the family want to know what prior knowledge the army had of the attack.

"They want to know was there information that could have prevented the attack and was Mr Stuart sacrificed to protect the wider intelligence operation in place in west Belfast at that time", Mr Winters said.

"There can be no hierarchy of victims and this application is an important marker in the rights of the families of British soldiers, the right to have the deaths of their loved ones investigated and the right to have their employers, in this instance he MOD, held to account for any failure to protect those in its employ.

"The murder of Ted Stuart in circumstances which are contested requires investigation", he added.

The murder had been reviewed by the police service's now defunct Historical Enquiries Team (HET) but Mr Winters says this failed to comply with Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

Although judicial review proceedings are directed at the PSNI, the Northern Ireland Secretary of State was to feature in the case as a notice party.

But at the High Court on Tuesday it was accepted that it should instead be the Ministry of Defence.

Hugh Southey QC, for Mr Stuart, said: "What is being sought in this case is an investigation into particular activities of the British Army."

Mr Justice Maguire agreed to adjourn the hearing for instructions to be taken from the MoD at a date yet to be confirmed.