Northern Ireland news

Jon Boutcher confirms Glenanne Gang probe

Bedfordshire Police Chief Constable Jon Boutcher speaks to the media in Belfast to give an update on the Stakeknife investigation. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday December 18, 2018. A major independent police probe into the Army's notorious IRA agent Stakeknife is rigorously but fairly investigating members of the security forces, he said. See PA story ULSTER Stakeknife. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire.
Connla Young

Former English police chief Jon Boutcher will lead an independent investigation into state collusion with the notorious loyalist Glenanne Gang.

The announcement came hours after the Irish News revealed on Saturday that Mr Boutcher was poised to take on the job.

The UVF gang, which included members of the RUC and UDR, is believed to have killed up to 120 Catholics in the 1970s.

It was responsible for some of the worst atrocities of the Troubles, with members believed to have been involved in the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings which resulted in the deaths of 33 people including a pregnant woman.

Mr Boutcher met with up to 30 families of those killed in Co Tyrone on Saturday to brief them on the pending investigation.

It is understood the former chief constable of Bedfordshire Police hopes to have the investigation up and running by January with a view to completing it within two years.

Campaigners say they are hopeful about the investigation.

Alan Brecknell from the Pat Finucane Centre said: “We met with him a number of times over a number of weeks to discuss the terms of reference.

“He met with the families (on Saturday) and I would have thought it was a successful meeting.

“I wait in hope to see where it goes.”

The fresh probe comes months after the Court of Appeal in Belfast ruled that bereaved relatives were being denied their legitimate expectation that an independent police team will oversee an investigation in the activities of the gang.

A draft PSNI Historical Enquiries Team (HET) report into the activities of the gang was said to have been 80 per cent complete before being halted in 2010.

At a court hearing last month Sir Declan Morgan refused police leave for the ruling to be referred to the Supreme Court in London, instead leaving it up to that court to decide if it wants to take the case on.

Mr Boutcher said he has started meeting with relatives and has “promised each of them that I will do everything I can to establish the truth about who was responsible for these terrible crimes.

"For the families, that especially means finding out about what, if any, assistance was given to the Glenanne Gang by others in any manner whatsoever, and that will include whether people turned a blind eye to what was happening," he said.

In 2016 Mr Boutcher was appointed to lead Operation Kenova, which was set up to probe the activities of the British agent known as Stakeknife.

He is also investigating the killing of Jean Smyth-Campbell in west Belfast in 1972 and a probe into an IRA explosion that claimed the lives of three RUC men at Kinnego Embankment near Lurgan in Co Armagh in 1982.

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