Northern Ireland

Stakeknife 'saved life' of FRU agent Willie Carlin

Willie Carlin said his life was saved by the British agent Stakeknife when his cover was blown
Willie Carlin said his life was saved by the British agent Stakeknife when his cover was blown

WILLIE Carlin's life was saved by the infamous British army agent known as Stakeknife.

Former British soldier Carlin, who worked as agent for both MI5 and the British army, came within hours of death in 1985 after his cover as a mole inside Sinn Féin was blown.

In his new book Thatcher’s Spy: My Life as an MI5 Agent Inside Sinn Féin, he lifts the lid on a murky world of intrigue and espionage as he provided information to the British on the republican party’s strategic political thinking.

He also reveals how he escaped the north in Margaret Thatcher’s private jet and later met the British Prime Minister in London.

The Derry man had been on the payroll of MI5 since returning to his native city in 1974.

After breaking his links with The Security Service in 1980, he attempted to re-contact it the following year when the IRA killed census worker Joanne Mathers.

Unable to reach MI5, he later contacted a British army intelligence officer in Derry and began working for its undercover Force Research Unit.

In March 1985 his life of double dealing came to a sudden halt when he was contacted out of the blue by one of his handlers.

He was later brought to a British army base in Derry and told his cover had been blown and he had only hours to pack his belongings and leave his home city.

Read more:

  • 'Political pressure may have been placed on judge' in IRA supergrass case
  • IRA tip-off led to arrest of INLA man behind Droppin' Well bomb, Willie Carlin claims
West Belfast man Freddie Scappaticci denies being the British army agent known as Stakeknife<br />&nbsp;
West Belfast man Freddie Scappaticci denies being the British army agent known as Stakeknife

Mr Carlin later learned that his role as a spy in the republican movement had been revealed by a former MI5 handler, Michael Bettaney.

In 1984 he was convicted of trying to pass British secrets to the Soviets and was himself betrayed by a KGB officer who was also working for MI6.

While in Swaleside Prison in Kent, Mr Carlin claims Bettaney befriended IRA prisoners, including former senior member Brian Keenan.

Over time he revealed that British intelligence had a highly placed informer in Derry Sinn Féin who was close to Martin McGuinness.

Republicans later established that the agent was Willie Carlin and dispatched its internal security unit to interrogate him.

It is now known that a senior figure in the republican unit, known as the ‘Nutting Squad’ was the FRU agent Stakeknife.

It has been reported that he is west Belfast man Freddie Scappaticci - although he denies the claim.

Mr Carlin later found out that when Stakeknife was ordered to travel to Derry he tipped off his handlers, who in turn contacted his FRU contacts.

He said he and his family, who were not aware that he was working as an agent, were removed from the city by the British army just hours after his cover was blown.

After spending several days at an army base the family were flown in Margaret Thatcher’s private jet to start a new life in England.

Mr Carlin claims that his handlers told him the prime minister was “furious” that he had been unmasked as an agent.

The activities of Stakeknife are currently being examined as part of an investigation known as Operation Kenova.

Earlier this week it emerged that files have been prepared for the Public Prosecution Service for consideration containing evidence regarding offences including murder, kidnap, torture, malfeasance in a public office and perverting the course of justice.

Read more: 

  • 'I saw Martin McGuinness leave MI5 safe house'
  • Willie Carlin one of last people to see murdered census worker Joanna Mathers alive