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Wednesday, 19 June, 2002, 06:14 GMT 07:14 UK
Police 'aided lawyer's murder'
Pat Finucane was murdered in 1989
Pat Finucane was murdered at his home in 1989

A BBC Panorama programme says elements within Northern Ireland's police and military intelligence collaborated with loyalist paramilitaries in the late 1980s over the murder of Catholics.

A man identified as a loyalist killer tells the programme - to be broadcast on Wednesday - that the targets included the lawyer, Pat Finucane, who was murdered 13 years ago.

Mr Finucane was a thorn in the side of the British establishment in Northern Ireland until the Sunday evening in 1989 when loyalist gunmen burst into his home and shot him dead in front of his wife and children.

As Panorama reveals, the story of who killed him and why continues to haunt the authorities in Belfast and London.

It also raises disturbing questions about collusion between elements of the security forces and loyalist murder gangs.

The central charge in the programme is that such collusion resulted in the murder of a number of innocent Catholics - among them Mr Finucane.

In one extraordinary moment, reporter John Ware sits in a car with Ken Barrett, a loyalist paramilitary who is unaware that this meeting and others are being secretly filmed and recorded.
Pat Finucane: Shot dead at his home
Pat Finucane: Allegations of collusion surround murder

Barrett tells Ware bluntly: "Finucane would have been alive today if the peelers (police) hadn't interfered."

Barrett - described in the programme by a veteran detective as "a killer" - says a special branch officer encouraged loyalists to murder Pat Finucane.

They then tipped off the assassination squad on the fatal night that the coast around his house was clear - in other words that there were no police or Army patrols around it.

It is shocking stuff, but the programme suggests it is part of a pattern, and that at the centre of that pattern were paramilitaries like Ken Barrett, but also the still more sinister figure of Brian Nelson.

'More professional'

Nelson was a former soldier from Northern Ireland recruited by military intelligence and sent back to Belfast to infiltrate the loyalist paramilitary organisation the Ulster Defence Association (UDA).

In partnership with his handlers though, his job rapidly and dangerously expanded until he was supplying loyalist killers with intelligence documents from the security forces.

Sir John says he never believed that story and makes it plain he believes the shadowy forces he was investigating were out to stop him

The aim, according to the programme, was to make the targeting by loyalists "more professional".

The result was that innocent Catholics were killed.

Since 1989, Sir John Stevens, who is now commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, has been investigating the allegation that shadowy elements within military intelligence and the RUC special branch were colluding with loyalist assassination squads.

Duplicate office

The obstruction he has faced was most dramatically illustrated by the fire which destroyed the offices in which officers working for him were based, in a police station near Carrickfergus, County Antrim, in 1990.

There was a story the fire had been caused by a discarded cigarette end.

But in the Panorama programme, Sir John says he never believed that story and makes it plain he believes the shadowy forces he was investigating were out to stop him.

Panorama has shed light on a murky and dangerous world, and will tell a British audience one dark aspect of what was undertaken in their name

"What happened was, round about the second or third day of that inquiry, we were given some notification that something might well happen.

"That's the reason why we had a duplicate office in Cambridgeshire where we had statements which made sure that when the fire took place we could continue with the inquiry."

The Stevens report is due out soon, but this Panorama report - with detectives who worked on the inquiry helping to paint a picture of this murky world of collusion and bereaved Catholic families telling of its human cost - seems to point to the conclusions it will reach.

Ken Barrett: Secretly filmed
Ken Barrett: Secretly filmed

In political terms, in Northern Ireland perhaps, it will not change perceptions - not least because republicans have been alleging for years that something like this was going on.

But the revelations will cause shock elsewhere in the UK.

Panorama has shed light on a murky and dangerous world, and will tell a British audience one dark aspect of what was undertaken in their name in Northern Ireland's recent past.

The nationalist SDLP's Alex Attwood told the BBC on Wednesday there now needed to be a full international independent inquiry into the murder.

The RUC became the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) in November last year.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Denis Murray
"One police officer said that 'Finucane had to go'"
BBC Panorama producer Eamon Hardy
"The documents that we have... present a very, very dark picture"
Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey
"We have to move on... to make sure these things can never happen again"
Panorama: A Licence to Murder




FORUM
See also:

18 Jun 02 | Panorama
10 Jun 02 | N Ireland
14 Nov 01 | N Ireland
26 Nov 01 | N Ireland
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