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Last Updated: Monday, 13 September, 2004, 12:53 GMT 13:53 UK
Pat Finucane: A controversial killing
Pat Finucane
Pat Finucane: The picture used by loyalist killers

The killing of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane by the loyalist UDA/UFF remains one of the most controversial of 30 years of violence.

Loyalist paramilitaries shot Mr Finucane 14 times as he sat eating a Sunday meal at home, wounding his wife in the process. The couple's three children witnessed the 1989 attack.

In its statement claiming the killing, the UFF said they had killed "Pat Finucane, the IRA officer". While Mr Finucane had represented IRA members, the family vehemently denied the allegation - and have been supported in this by the police.

But, what has made the investigation into his murder so important to many in Northern Ireland is that it lies at the heart of allegations that some members of the security forces collaborated with loyalist paramilitaries to the extent that they could have stopped the killing if they had so wished.

High-profiles cases

Pat Finucane first came to public prominence because of his representation of paramilitary suspects facing charges of trial.

Just like many lawyers in the city, Protestant and Catholic, many of Mr Finucane's clients came from paramilitary organisations facing terrorism-related charges.

In 1988, One of Mr Finucane's most controversial client's was Patrick McGeown, a suspected member of the IRA.

BRIAN NELSON
Brian Nelson: Double-agent
Recruited 1987
Infiltrates UDA
Becomes active in targeting shootings
Jailed 1992
Died April 2003

Mr McGeown was accused of organising the murder of the two army corporals who had lost their way and got their car caught up in an IRA funeral cortege, an event that was captured on television and remains one of the most terrifying scenes of the Troubles.

Believing they were under attack, mourners dragged the two corporals from the car and took them to a sports ground. The men were shot dead on waste ground by IRA gunmen.

At an early stage of the case, Mr Finucane successfully argued there was insufficient evidence against his client.

During this time, some police officers questioning republican suspects allegedly told them what they thought of their solicitor.

"They told me that my solicitor [Finucane] was a Provo," said Brian Gillen, a senior republican, in 1999. "'He's just the same as you. We'll have him taken out." And generally just running him down, at the same time trying to associate him with something he wasn't associated with."

Later, a number of loyalist paramilitary suspects who had been questioned at the police's Castlereagh holding centre left reportedly having being told that Mr Finucane was a member of the IRA.

Family insulted

Mr Finucane's son, Michael, now a solicitor himself, said the suggestion that his father was in the IRA was a grievous insult.

"It was easy for them to believe that he was a member of the IRA," he told the BBC in 2002.

THE FAMILY
I don't believe the claim that was made by Nelson's commanding officer that they were unaware of certain things, or that they were kept in the dark by their agent
Michael Finucane
"I think their limited mentalities did not stretch to differentiating between the role of the lawyer and the offence suspected of the client. The line between the two was not apparent to them."

According to BBC investigations, army double-agent Brian Nelson was asked by his loyalist paramilitary chiefs to compile a dossier on Mr Finucane.

That dossier included a photograph of him leaving court with Mr McEwan.

Since the details of the alleged collaboration began to emerge, the question has always been how much did Nelson pass on to his army handlers?

The head of the Metropolitan Police in London, Sir John Stevens, has been investigating wider allegations of collusion since 1989. In April 1999 he launched a specific third inquiry into the allegations surrounding Mr Finucane's death.

Criminal charges

Shortly after starting the new inquiry, the Stevens team charged former RUC Special Branch agent and loyalist quartermaster, William Stobie, in connection with the killing.

PANORAMA SPECIAL

Mr Stobie admitted having supplied the weapons. But he denied he knew the name of the target and insisted that he alerted his handlers that a shooting was imminent.

In November 2001, the case against Mr Stobie collapsed. But he did not live long to celebrate his freedom. Within weeks he had been shot dead outside his own home by loyalist gunmen.

Critically, army officers interviewed by Stevens have denied having knowledge of the plan to kill Mr Finucane.

The family do not accept this and have long campaigned for an independent inquiry.

"I don't believe the claim that was made by Nelson's commanding officer that they were unaware of certain things, or that they were kept in the dark by their agent," said Michael Finucane.

"They trained them, they infiltrated them, they ran him, supported him and monitored his activities very closely. They did it over a long period of time, a number of years, and I am not prepared to accept their story that they only knew the half of it.

"It's had a huge effect on all our lives, and so many people I think have been asked to swallow so much pain and have done so, my family included.

"But if we are prepared to do that, then we ought not to be expected to put up with lies and deceit as well."

In September 2004, a loyalist accused of murdering the Belfast solicitor more than 15 years before pleaded guilty to the charge.

Ken Barrett, 41, entered the plea at the beginning of his trial in the Crown Court in Belfast.

At previous hearings, Barrett denied shooting Mr Finucane at his home in the north of the city in February 1989.




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