A BBC investigation has revealed that Freddie Scappaticci, the man believed to have been one of the British Army’s top agents within the IRA, admitted in 1990 to shooting a suspected informer. Scappaticci, who passed away in April, consistently denied being the agent known as Stakeknife. He is suspected of being involved in over 20 murders during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. As the IRA’s chief spy catcher, Scappaticci played a key role in the organization’s internal security unit, known as the “nutting squad.”
In February 1989, Joe Fenton was killed after being interrogated by the IRA’s internal security unit in a house in West Belfast. No one has ever been charged with his murder. Months later, another suspected informer, Sandy Lynch, was brought to the same property for questioning by Scappaticci and others. Lynch survived after the police raided the property, but Scappaticci had left fingerprints on an anti-bugging device’s battery. To avoid arrest, Scappaticci fled to the Republic of Ireland for a time.
Sandy Lynch, who was a police informer, went on to give evidence in court before entering a protection programme. In his court deposition, Lynch detailed the brutal interrogation he endured, including being stripped, blindfolded, tied up, and taunted for hours. He also made detailed references to Scappaticci.
Lynch’s deposition included graphic remarks that he said Scappaticci had made about Joe Fenton’s death. He claimed Scappaticci had tapped him two or three times on the back of his head and said…
“You’ll get it right there… like that bastard Fenton… He said that he had done it.”
However, Scappaticci appeared to be untouchable, as by the time he was arrested in connection with his fingerprint, he had already concocted a false alibi. Eight people, including Gerard Hodgins, had their convictions related to the Lynch episode quashed after it emerged that crucial information had been withheld from prosecuting authorities.
Following the Lynch episode, Scappaticci’s position in the IRA began to wane. Former IRA prisoner Anthony McIntyre told the programme…
“The IRA leadership’s reason for not executing Freddie Scappaticci back in 1990, in my view, was a result of a need to save their own skin.”
Operation Kenova, a multi-million-pound criminal investigation into Stakeknife’s activities, is being conducted by Jon Boutcher, a former chief constable of Bedfordshire Police. Last month, Boutcher announced that Scappaticci had died. Operation Kenova has been running since 2016, and its report may reveal details about the activities of agent Stakeknife, including what was known about the interrogation of suspected informers before they occurred.
Solicitor Kevin Winters, who represents the families of several of those killed by Scappaticci’s IRA unit, said…
“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.”
The Operation Kenova report is currently in the “security checking” stage. The Ministry of Defence declined to comment further due to the ongoing investigation. Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service is considering 26 files received from Operation Kenova relating directly to its investigation into the alleged criminality of Stakeknife. The files concern potential offences, including murder, false imprisonment, serious assaults, and misconduct in public office.
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