Northern Ireland

Stakeknife admitted killing suspected informer in 1990, claims witness

Freddie Scappaticci, who denies being the IRA mole 'Stakeknife', pictured at the 1987 funeral of IRA man Larry Marley
Freddie Scappaticci, who denies being the IRA mole 'Stakeknife', pictured at the 1987 funeral of IRA man Larry Marley Freddie Scappaticci, who denies being the IRA mole 'Stakeknife', pictured at the 1987 funeral of IRA man Larry Marley

A man described as being the British Government’s most senior agent in the IRA admitted to killing an informer in 1990, court documents show.

Ahead of a BBC spotlight special to be broadcast on Tuesday night, it’s reported that Freddie ‘Stakeknife’ Scappaticci had bragged about shooting one of his interrogation victims in 1989.

Scappaticci, who died in April, had been the head of the IRA’s so-called nutting squad in 1990 where he was responsible for rooting out informants, and has been linked to over 20 murders.

The BBC report that in February 1989, Joe Fenton was shot dead after interrogation in  a west Belfast house by the nutting squad but no one has ever been charged with his murder.

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His body was later found in an alleyway close to the property.

Within months, the suspected informer Sandy Lynch was brought to the same house to face questioning by Scappaticci and others.

Also in the house at the time was the former IRA prisoner Gerard Hodgins.

"I had no idea that his name was Sandy Lynch at this time - we were just told to go to a house and babysit, the guy was an informer," he told Spotlight.

A timely police raid on the property meant that Lynch survived unlike many before him.

Scappaticci had already left the house at this time, but left fingerprints on the battery of an anti-bugging device.

After police confirmed it was his fingerprint, he fled to the Republic to escape arrest.

Lynch agreed to testify in court before entering a witness protection programme.

His court deposition set out how he was tortured by being stripped, blindfolded, tied up and taunted for hours.

"One of them told me that he enjoyed his work and that he would break me," he said.

Referring to Stakeknife, he added: "He said that I would wake up hung upside down in a cowshed and he would talk to me the way that he wanted to talk to me, that he would skin me alive and that no one would hear me squealing."

Claiming Scappaticci admitted to killing Joe Fenton, he said: "(He) tapped me two or three times on the back of my head and said: 'You'll get it right there... like that bastard Fenton.'

"He said that he had done it."

Despite the testimony, Scappaticci already had a false alibi in place by the time he was arrested over the fingerprint.

Gerard Hodgins later became one of eight people whose convictions over Sandy Lynch were quashed when it emerged that information had been withheld from prosecutors.

Former IRA prisoner Anthony McIntyre told Spotlight he believed Scappaticci was spared execution in 1990 in order to save face for the IRA.

"The IRA were keenly aware that every interaction they had with Freddie Scappaticci - every order they give to kill, every order they give to kidnap, every order they give to interrogate or torture, Freddie Scappaticci had passed that onto the British and also that Freddie Scappaticci may have recorded this and that they were in deep, serious trouble,” he said.

A multi-million pound investigation into Scappaticci, known as Operation Kenova, has been running since 2016.

It is hoped that an upcoming report will shed new light on whether the British government knew about any of the nutting squad’s interrogations and executions in advance.

Solicitor Kevin Winters represents several of the families of those killed.

"As I understand it there is a potential assertion that every single case that's a subject of Operation Kenova, in every single killing, that those deaths were preventable had there been some form of state intervention," he said.

"That's a pretty stark assessment to make.

"We're going to know that very, very soon whether or not that stands up to scrutiny."

At present, the Operation Kenova report is in a “security checking” stage, with the Ministry of Defence stating it would be inappropriate to comment further as the investigation continues.

The Public Prosecution Service is also considering 26 files concerning Stakeknife from the investigators.

The potential offences include murder, false imprisonment, serious assaults and misconduct in public office.

Spotlight: The Spy Who Got Away With Murder is available on BBC iPlayer and broadcast on BBC One Northern Ireland today at 10.40pm.