Northern Ireland news

Family to challenge plan to drop loyalist murder of pensioner from inquiry

Francisco Notarantonio was shot dead by the UDA in 1987
Connla Young

THE family of a west Belfast pensioner killed by loyalists are preparing to legally challenge a decision not to include his case in Operation Kenova, which is investigating the activities of the British agent known as Stakeknife.

Lawyers for the family of Francisco Notarantonio (66) have previously called for the inquiry's scope to be widened to include his death.

The former republican internee was shot dead by the UDA in his west Belfast home in 1987.

It is understood that Operation Kenova chief Jon Boutcher has told Mr Notarantonio’s relatives that newly-discovered evidence falls outside its current terms of reference.

Solicitor Michael Brentnall said they are now “challenging the decision of Operation Kenova to refuse to broaden the terms of remit of their investigation" to include his murder.

It has previously been believed that Mr Notarantonio was killed to protect Freddie Scappaticci, who has denied being the agent Stakenife working at the heart of the IRA's internal security unit.

It is understood that during recent meetings Mr Boutcher told relatives that he can find no evidence of a link between Stakeknife and their loved one.

Stakeknife is thought to have worked for the British army’s Force Research Unit (FRU), as did former UDA intelligence officer Brian Nelson - who provided details of targets to loyalists.

Until recently Mr Notarantonio’s family believed the information used by the UDA to target the pensioner was provided by Nelson.

They also believe two of the UDA ‘C’ Company killers were RUC Special Branch informers.

Mr Brentnall said the dead man’s family now believe that Stakeknife’s name was associated with their father’s death to create confusion.

“Our client has instructed our office to challenge this decision on the basis that his Article Two European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) rights are being infringed as a result and seeks to overturn the decision of Operation Kenova and ensure they investigate the full extent of the murder and the name swap story,” he said.

In December last year Scappaticci was convicted by a London court of possessing extreme pornography after images were found on a laptop seized by officers from Operation Kenova during a search of his home.

Mr Brentnall claimed investigators must show consistency.

“This refusal is more acute given the fact the contradictory approach which has been taken in respect of their investigation, as Operation Kenova were a party to the prosecution of Freddie Scappaticci in respect of extreme pornography arising out of their investigation, as per their terms of reference,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Operation Kenova said last night that it can "understand the family’s frustration, however the investigation can only engage with those offences which meet the public terms of reference".

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