Northern Ireland news

Lawyer warns 'Stakeknife type inquiry' hangs over role of south Down agents as legal action launched

Suspected British agent Freddie Scappaticci
Connla Young

A leading lawyer has warned that "the spectre of another Stakeknife type inquiry looms large" over the full role of two suspected state agents operating in the Co Down IRA in the 1990s.

The comments came as Eilish Morley launched judicial review proceedings against the Police Ombudsman for not reopening an investigation into the death of her son Eoin Morley, who was killed by the IRA.

Former British agent Peter Keeley, also known as Kevin Fulton

Former British army agent Peter Keeley has been linked to the death of Mr Morley, who was shot during a botched paramilitary-style attack in Newry in 1990.

An ex-member of the IRA, Mr Morley later left that organisation and joined the IPLO.

Peter Keeley, who is also known by the name Kevin Fulton, is a former agent with the British army’s Force Research Unit.

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The legal action is expected to raise the existence of secret documents that have resulted in a legal firm, KRW Law, being hit with an injunction by the Police Ombudsman.

In her action Ms Morley is urging the Police Ombudsman to consider the sensitive documents, which are understood to point to the existence of a second informer operating within the IRA in south Down around the time of her son's death.

Details of the legal action come just weeks after it was reported that suspected agent Freddie Scappaticci had died.

Suspected British agent Freddie Scappaticci

In 2003, Scappaticci was named as the British agent known as Stakeknife, although he denied the allegation.

He was a key member of the IRA’s internal security unit and was involved in interrogating dozens of suspected informers, of which some were later killed.

His activities are currently being investigated by Operation Kenova, which is headed by former English police chief Jon Boutcher.

Ms Morley's solicitor Kevin Winters said on Thursday that the evidence his client now wants examined has the potential to spark a similar "Stakeknife type inquiry".

Last year Ms Morley settled High Court actions against the Ministry of Defence and PSNI.

She had already secured judgment against Keeley in relation to the death of her son.

Around 25 cases involving Keeley were listed for review in the High Court on Friday April 28.

A Police Ombudsman investigation into Mr Morley’s death was closed in 2005.

A judicial review lodged in 2021 was withdrawn last year by agreement and Ms Morley had hoped the ombudsman would consider new submissions to investigate her son's case.

In January this year the ombudsman decided not to investigate the complaint, prompting Ms Morley's fresh legal action.

Details of the documents emerged in 2017 when a former official at the Police Ombudsman’s Office was arrested in England.

He was detained by PSNI officers investigating the “suspected theft of sensitive documents from within the Office of the Police Ombudsman”.

The Irish News has previously reported that the documents do not name the alleged second informer, instead the person is referred to by code.

It is believed an attached intelligence report refers to the second agent, who worked for Special Branch.

It is understood the documents also reveal that the second informer was reporting to his handlers about the activities of Keeley.

RUC woman Colleen McMurray was killed by the IRA in Newry in 1992

The sensitive report is understood to reveal details about the killing of RUC officer Colleen McMurray in Newry in March 1992.

The 34-year-old died when the police car she was sitting in was struck by a Mark 12 horizontal mortar fired by the IRA using remote ‘flashgun’ technology.

Her colleague was also seriously injured in the attack, losing both his legs.

In 2021 the Police Ombudsman’s office published a report into the death of Ms McMurray.

Among the key findings was confirmation that intelligence about IRA members in the area was not passed to officers investigating the attack, including information about a man referred to only as Person A.

Person A is believed to be Peter Keeley.

It is understood the unauthorised secret documents came into the possession of a relative of Ms McMurray and were later given to the family’s solicitor.

The documents were later provided to lawyers for the Ministry of Defence and PSNI.

Ms McMurray’s widower Philip McMurray, a former policeman, and his solicitor Barry O’Donnell, of KRW Law, were interviewed by police in relation to the documents.

It is understood both were later told by the Public Prosecution Service that it was not in the public interest to prosecute them.

Ms Morley now believes that all linked cases and intelligence would have to be considered, including the documents subject to the KRW injunction, if the Police Ombudsman reopens its investigation into the death of her son.

A spokeswoman for the Police Ombudsman said: “It would be inappropriate to comment on the matter given legal proceedings.”

Solicitor Kevin Winters

Solicitor Kevin Winters, of KRW Law, said: “This is a challenge on the ongoing refusal to investigate Peter Keeley.

“More specifically, the case is about PONI (Police Ombudsman) refusal to factor in the content of sensitive documents which we say confirms Keeley’s full status as an agent at the time he killed Eoin Morley.

“We aren’t allowed to engage on these documents as we are still the subject of an ongoing injunction.”

Mr Winters said the evidence his client wants the Police Ombudsman to examine opens “up a much wider inquiry to include links to other alleged agents”.

“The spectre of another ‘Stakeknife’ type inquiry looms large except here we have an agent involved in attacks on the security forces while connected to the British army," he said.

“It’s for this reason there’s been no meaningful investigation to date.”

Mr Winters added there needs a wider investigation.

“Keeley was in fact a member of two armies at the same time, the British army and the IRA,” he said.

“In addition to the Morley case, we have had only one other report, the killing of Colleen McMurray.

“There are 25 other victims of Keeley’s activities with state oversight.

“A thematic investigation is long overdue.”

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