Northern Ireland

Disappointment as Public Prosecution Service sends Stakeknife 'no decision' letter

Thomas Emmanuel Wilson was shot dead by the Provisional IRA in June 1987
Thomas Emmanuel Wilson was shot dead by the Provisional IRA in June 1987

The family of a Workers Party member shot dead by the Provisional IRA say they are disappointed after relatives of people believed to have been killed by suspected British agent Freddie Scappaticci were told that a “no decision outcome” has been reached.

Scappaticci is believed to have died earlier this year.

Suspected British agent Freddie Scappaticci
Suspected British agent Freddie Scappaticci

In 2003 Scappaticci was named as the British agent known as Stakeknife but insisted the allegation was untrue.

Scappaticci was a former commander of the IRA's Internal Security Unit (ISU), which was responsible for hunting down suspected informers and agents.

The activities of Stakeknife have been investigated by Operation Kenova and a report is due to be made public soon.

Read More: Stakeknife probe: Former MI5 officers and ex-prosecutor avoid charges

New Operation Kenova head 'committed to continuing' work of investigation team

The Operation Kenova team, which was set up in 2016, has also been involved in several other investigations.

To date it has forwarded 33 files, covering all its investigations, to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS).

Twenty six of those relate to the Stakeknife investigation.

The PPS has now written to families in relation to ten of those files to inform them of the “formal no decision outcome” as they “contained just one suspect who died earlier this year”.

Although not named, the suspect is believed to be Scappaticci.

It is understood a total of 12 letters have been sent.

In a statement a PPS spokeswoman said “where the PPS is made aware of the death of a suspect under consideration in any case, no decision will issue and that is the end of any potential prosecution in relation to that individual”.

“The Test for Prosecution can only be applied to living individuals.”

The spokeswoman added that the total number of files now under investigation in relation to Stakeknife is now 15 and that “consideration of these files is at an advanced stage”.

In 2020 it emerged that four people, including two former MI5 officers and an ex-prosecutor, would not face criminal proceedings as part of the investigation.

At the time prosecutors said that the fourth person, understood to be Stakeknife, would not face a charge of perjury.

Thomas Emmanuel Wilson was shot dead by the Provisional IRA in June 1987
Thomas Emmanuel Wilson was shot dead by the Provisional IRA in June 1987

The family of Belfast man Thomas Emmanuel Wilson, who was killed by the Provisional IRA in June 1987, have spoken of their surprise at the decision.

Mr Wilson was shot dead off the Donegall Road in west Belfast and later accused of being an informer.

He was a member of the Workers Party, which is linked to the Official IRA.

The family say the PPS never made them aware that a file linked to the murder had been sent.

In a statement they said: “We are shocked and disheartened that it has taken so long for the Public Prosecution Service to make this decision.

“We are equally incensed that we were not made aware directly by the PPS that a file had been submitted by Operation Kenova.

 “Operation Kenova had advised us in May 2022 that the file concerning the murder had been submitted to the PPS in April 2021, but we did not receive any correspondence or notification of this until we received the letter from the PPS on 3 November 2023.”

The family say the PPS letter was light on detail.

“That letter basically stated that the person under consideration had died and therefore the test for prosecution can only be applied to living individuals and that no decision to prosecute can now be taken,” it said.

“However, there was no other information as to when the decision was taken or what considerations were given to the decision-making process.”      

Solicitor Kevin Winters
Solicitor Kevin Winters

Solicitor Kevin Winters, of KRW Law, said the correspondence received by his clients “falls way short of expectations”.

“It is our understanding that there was sufficient evidence contained in those referrals to prefer charges against Freddie Scappaticci concerning his role in multiple murders,” he said.

“But the prospect of a prosecution timed out due to his death earlier this year.”

 “It is all depressingly predictable given that the decisions serve state interests to ensure that this suspect will now never set foot in a court to face any charges for offences spanning over 20 years.

“Had it come to pass that this suspect was brought before a court it would have exposed National Security interests to the sort of public scrutiny never before witnessed in this jurisdiction.”

Mr Winters added that his firm has asked the PPS “why the decisions were not made long before the death” of Scappaticci.