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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 September, 2004, 12:42 GMT 13:42 UK
Timeline of Finucane murder probe
Pat Finucane was shot dead in Belfast in 1989
Solicitor Pat Finucane's murder in 1989 was one of the most controversial killings in Northern Ireland's Troubles.

Loyalist terrorists shot Mr Finucane in front of his family in their north Belfast home.

The following are the key stages in the attempts to solve his murder over the past 15 years.

Early 1987 - The British Army's secret agent handling team, the Force Research Unit, identifies former paramilitary Brian Nelson as a potential recruit. It persuades him to return to Northern Ireland and rejoin the Ulster Defence Association. The FRU initially pays him 200 a week to supply it with information.

Autumn 1987 - Brian Nelson, now codenamed 6137, begins supplying army intelligence with the UDA's list of possible targets. Nelson rises to become the UDA's intelligence chief.

November 1988 - Criminal charges are dropped against Patrick McGeown, accused of helping to organise the March 1988 killing of two army corporals. Pat Fincuane was Mr McGeown's lawyer.

12 February 1989 - Pat Finucane is shot dead in front of his family at his Belfast home. His wife Geraldine is injured in the foot.

Judge Cory said a public inquiry was more important than a trial

September 1989 - John Stevens, then deputy chief constable of Cambridgeshire Police, is appointed to carry out an investigation into breaches of security by the security forces.

January 1990 - The Stevens team has identified Brian Nelson as a key suspect and plans to arrest him and others in a dawn raid. Officers return to their secure investigation HQ hours before the planned arrests to find a fire raging in their offices. Fire alarms, telephones and heat-sensitive intruder alarms are not working at the headquarters. The fire destroys many of their files, though others had been copied and moved to England. Brian Nelson flees Northern Ireland. He is eventually apprehended after he decides to try and return to Belfast.

January 1992 - UDA intelligence officer and former soldier Brian Nelson is revealed as an Army agent who tipped off his handlers about a plan to kill Mr Finucane during his trial on five counts of conspiracy to murder. He is jailed for 10 years.

April 1993 - The Stevens Inquiry was followed by Stevens Two, when the Director of Public Prosecutions asked for further investigation of matters raised in his first inquiry.

April 1998 - The government rejects a call by the UN for an independent inquiry into the Finucane murder.

April 1999 - Stevens Three. John Stevens, then deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, is appointed to carry out an investigation into the Finucane murder.

Panorama broadcasts an investigation into allegations of collusion
June 1999 - Former UDA quartermaster William Stobie is charged with the murder of Mr Finucane.

October 1999 - A journalist wins a High Court action against an order to hand over notes of an interview with Stobie carried out soon after the killing of Mr Finucane.

November 2001 - Stobie, who admitted supplying the guns used in the killing but denied murder, walks free from court after the case against him collapses as a key witness refuses to give evidence.

December 2001 - Two months later Stobie was shot dead by loyalist gunmen.

April 2002 - Retired Canadian judge Peter Cory is appointed by the government to carry out an inquiry into six murders - including Mr Finucane's - where there were allegations of security force collusion.

May 2002 - Hugh Orde, in day-to-day control of the Stevens Inquiry into the Finucane murder, is appointed as Northern Ireland's new chief constable.

June 2002 - The BBC's Panorama programme broadcasts a special two-part investigation, "Licence to Murder", into allegations of collusion. The investigation details for the first time the workings of the Force Research Unit and alleges that elements of Northern Ireland's police and military intelligence collaborated with loyalist paramilitaries in relation to the death of Pat Finucane. It alleges a special branch police officer, who is not named, was involved in the killing of Mr Finucane by persuading loyalist to carry out the shooting.

April 2003 - Six days before the Stevens Report is issued, British agent Brian Nelson dies of lung cancer in Wales.

April 2003 - The "Stevens Three" report is published. It states that rogue elements within the police and army in Northern Ireland helped loyalist paramilitaries to murder Catholics in the late 1980s. The Finucane family reiterates its call for a full, independent, public inquiry.

May 2003 - Loyalist Ken Barrett is arrested and charged with the murder of Mr Finucane.

April 2004 - Judge Cory concludes the military and police intelligence knew of the murder plot but failed to intervene. He recommends a public inquiry. The government refuses until the criminal proceedings against Barrett are completed.

September 2004 - Barrett, who confessed in court to murdering Pat Finucane, is sentenced to 22 years' imprisonment.

September 2004 - Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy announces an inquiry. He said it would be necessary to hold the inquiry on the basis of new legislation to be introduced.


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