Northern Ireland

Relative of Stakeknife-linked victim doubts Operation Kenova report will be published

PSNI confirm report to be made public next month

Freddie Scappaticci
Freddie Scappaticci Freddie Scappaticci denied being the British agent known as stakeknife

The brother of a man believed to have been killed by the former British army agent known as Stakeknife has voiced doubts over whether a long-awaited report into his activities will be published next month.

Confirmation that the Operation Kenova report will be made public on March 8 came at a meeting of the Policing Board on Thursday.

In 2003 Belfast republican Freddie Scappaticci was named by sections of the media as Stakeknife.

The agent, who has been linked to multiple murders, denied the claim.

Scappaticci, who is reported to have died last year, was a former commander of the IRA’s Internal Security Unit (ISU), also known as the ‘Nutting Squad’, which was responsible for hunting down suspected informers and agents.

It is believed some of those interrogated by the unit were tortured in a bid to extract confessions.

The Operation Kenova report, which has been with the PSNI for several months, was expected to be made public last year.

PSNI Chief Constable Jon Boutcher
PSNI Chief Constable Jon Boutcher (Liam McBurney/PA)

Former Operation Kenova head and report author Jon Boutcher was appointed as PSNI chief constable last year and has recused himself from involvement in its publication.

Former Police Scotland chief constable Sir Iain Livingstone has since replaced Mr Boutcher at Operation Kenova.

Some relatives of some of those killed have voiced frustration at the ongoing delays in making the report public, including Belfast native Fran Mulhern.

His brother Joseph Mulhern was abducted and killed by the IRA in 1993 and it was claimed that he was an informer.

His father Frank later said he was given an account of his son’s death by Scappaticci.

Fran Mulhern remains sceptical the report will be published.

“Yet another delay,” he said.

“Why do they need five weeks when they have had it in its current state for several months.

“We will watch this space, but I won’t be surprised if something ‘unexpected’ pops up, which leads to another delay.

“It’s a case of I will believe it when I see it.”

Solicitor Kevin Winters, of KRW Law, said “(Thursday’s news is timely given increasing agitation and anxieties over delays in publication”.

Before Christmas the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) confirmed that no action will be taken against 15 people after five files linked to the case were considered.

SDLP Policing Board member and MLA Mark H Durkan welcomed Thursday’s announcement.

“Operation Kenova is a vital element in addressing the legacy of our past,” he said.

“The decision of the PPS to date not to prosecute anyone for anything arising from the Kenova investigations has denied families justice and the publication of the report must now provide truth and accountability around the horrific actions of people in state agencies and terror groups.”

The assembly member also spoke of his concern that the report could face a legal challenge.