Northern Ireland

Landmark MoD payout in loyalist collusion case sets precedent

British army agent Brian Nelson and the Royal Courts of Justice 
British army agent Brian Nelson and the Royal Courts of Justice  British army agent Brian Nelson and the Royal Courts of Justice 

A £90,000 payout by the Ministry of Defence to a man injured in a loyalist attack is expected to set a precedent in other collusion cases involving the infamous military agent Brian Nelson.

Eamon Heatley had arrived at the Royal Courts of Justice on Wednesday prepared for a two day hearing which would have heard details of the role of the army agent in targetting him and his brother in 1988.

However, counsel for Mr Heatley, Brian Fee QC, announced a resolution had been reached following out of court discussions.

"The action is settled for £90,000 and costs (to Mr Heatley)", he said.

Entering judgment for the plaintiff, Mr Justice Horner said: "The parties are to be congratulated in resolving their differences."

The case centred around the findings of a review of the murder of solicitor Pat Finucane carried out by Sir Desmond de Silva and published in December 2012.

Mr Finucane was shot by loyalists in front of his wife and children at his north Belfast home in February 1989.

While de Silva was tasked with reviewing alleged collusion in the solicitor's murder he also found evidence of Nelson's role in a number of other murders and attempted murders.

Among them Mr Heatley, now aged 61, who was shot five times by loyalists on August 17, 1988.

The report found Nelson had mentioned the targetting of Mr Heatley to his handlers on 21 occasions, noting that former UDA leader Tommy 'Tucker' Lyttle had asked for the injured man's home address.

Legal papers set out that Nelson, the former British soldier who died in 2003, was actively involved in targeting the plaintiff and others for murder.

His handlers in the Force Research Unit (FRU), a branch of military intelligence, were aware of his role in selecting potential victims.

Mr Heatley's solicitor, Jack Quigley of Madden & Finucane, said the outcome fully vindicated his decision to bring the legally ground breaking lawsuit against the MoD.

"My client and his family have battled for 30-years to gain recognition of the wrongs perpetrated against him by the state.

"They welcome (the) settlement and the relevant closure that it brings, and now look forward to moving on with their family life", he said.

The case is expected to open the door for similar payouts in the cases of other victims named in the de Silva report.