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Thursday, June 17, 1999 Published at 16:55 GMT 17:55 UK


Manhunt follows attack on IRA informer

Martin McGartland: Made TV appearances in disguise

IRA informer turned author Martin McGartland has been shot and injured at home in Whitley Bay, Tyneside.

The BBC's John Thorne: He was an agent for the RUC Special Branch
Police say they want to trace two men seen in the area at the time of shooting, who may have been wearing disguises.

Mr McGartland was shot at least six times in the stomach. He was taken to North Tyneside Hospital where doctors said he was stable after undergoing surgery.

The Search for Peace
It is understood that a gunman jumped over the wall and shot Mr McGartland in his garden shortly before 0900 BST.

Police say it is too early to say whether Mr McGartland's past was the motive.

It is believed that police are also considering the possibility that local criminal elements may be responsible.

Witness Gillian Green, 36, said: "I saw him being carried away on a stretcher by two paramedics.

"He had blood all down his side. The police were on the scene straight away."

New identity

Mr McGartland infiltrated the republican movement for the RUC Special Branch during the 1980s.

Solicitor Nigel Dodds: His identity and location have been disclosed
He later published a number of best-selling books, including Fifty Dead Men Walking, which recounted his experiences.

After he fled Northern Ireland, MI5 gave Mr McGartland a new identity and he had been living in Northumberland as Martin Ashe.

His new identity was made public when police prosecuted him for motoring offences under his real name.

At the time he said: "I have lost everything through this case coming to court."

Republicans accused

Six months ago, Eamon Collins, an IRA member who turned informer and went on to become an author, was stabbed to death.

[ image: Martin McGartland: Lived a shadowy life]
Martin McGartland: Lived a shadowy life
No organisation has admitted carrying out that murder, but it was widely believed to have been a revenge killing.

Speculation is already mounting that the IRA may be behind the shooting of Mr McGartland and one political party in Ireland has openly accused the republican group.

The loyalist Unionist Party branded the shooting another breach of the IRA ceasefire.

But members of the Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA, said they did not believe the organisation was involved.

Chairman Mitchel McLaughlin said: "We don't even know where this man lives and I doubt if anybody in Ireland knows where this man lives.

"There are quite a few of these individuals [IRA informers] around. They have placed themselves into the protection of the British security forces and it is a matter for them."

Forensic search

Armed police sealed off the area in Whitley Bay, Tyneside to carry out forensic investigations.

The author Kevin Toolis talking to News 24
Detective Superintendent Chris Symmonds said: "We are keeping an open mind about the circumstances of the incident.

"As with any serious crime a full investigation will be launched, which will include Mr McGartland's background to see if it sheds any light on the incident."

Of the two men being hunted, one is white, aged between 20-25, with a goatee beard and possibly a black baseball cap. He had black framed plastic spectacles and a green three-quarter length coat with a possible Nike logo.

The second man, who was seen in a car, was between 30-40 years, clean-shaven with either short dark hair or with longer hair swept back behind his ears.

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