BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: UK: N Ireland  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
England
N Ireland
Scotland
Wales
Politics
Education
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Thursday, 5 September, 2002, 12:01 GMT 13:01 UK
Castlereagh break-in: Who was behind it?
The complex is the PSNI's Belfast headquarters
The complex is the PSNI's Belfast headquarters

It happened on Saint Patrick's Day and it was the most embarrassing security breach of the past 30 years.

The scene was the Belfast Headquarters of the Police Service of Northern Ireland at Castlereagh.

On a Sunday night, almost six months ago, the secrets of the Special Branch were stolen from an office there - from room "2-20".

In the period since, more than 100 Special Branch officers have had to move home and others have had to fortify their houses.

According to a senior police source, the raiders did not get the "crown jewels", but clearly they got enough to cause this major security scare.

The police have prepared their initial file on the case
The police have prepared their initial file on the case

Room "2-20" is an important place in the Special Branch operation.

It is staffed round the clock and, behind its door, sensitive information is kept - an alphabetical list of Special Branch officers and their telephone numbers, the codenames of their agents and the names of their police handlers and a log of "addresses of interest".

On the night of the break-in, "Tommy", who was the branch man on duty, was assaulted and his office left bare.

But who was behind it?

According to security sources, it was the IRA and, according to the IRA, it was an element of British Intelligence.

Evidence

The police case is about to be tested.

For the past six months or so, a team of 40 detectives headed by Chief Superintendent Phil Wright has been investigating this case.

They have been looking at a former chef at the Castlereagh complex - an American Larry Zaitschek - and at a link to the IRA.

This has been the major line of the investigation, the part of inquiry, to use the words of one source, where "the evidence talks to you", but there are other lines which detectives continue to "explore" and "dissect".

That said, Mr Wright's team is about to make its case for the extradition of Larry Zaitschek.


If the police assessment is correct and if it can be proven, then there will be political implications

Detectives have been looking wider than Castlereagh and, to quote one senior officer, have been investigating "the totality of Larry Zaitschek's activities" - his life, his finances, his travel and the people he associates with.

The chef's wife, from whom he is separated, is now a witness in the police case and is on a witness protection programme.

The initial report of the investigating team, which runs to more than 1,000 pages, has been completed and will be passed to the Director of Public Prosecutions next week.

Senior police sources in Northern Ireland are confident they can connect the chef to the break-in and to other intelligence gathering activities linked to the IRA.

He was in the Castlereagh complex on the day of the robbery even though he no longer worked there and returned to the United States soon after the break-in.

Review

Larry Zaitschek denies any involvement in the raid.

The decision on whether to proceed with the extradition case will be a matter for the DPP and the attorney general once they have assessed the police evidence.

Detectives involved in the Castlereagh investigation have had their work double checked.

A team from the Metropolitan Police, headed by a chief superintendent from special operations, has been reviewing the PSNI investigation.

That report is due soon and is not expected to produce anything that will challenge or query the major line being pursued in the investigation.

If the police assessment is correct and if it can be proven, then there will be political implications.

The British Government may have moved at the end of July to create a new beginning for the ceasefires, to wipe the slate clean in terms of past wrongs, but that will not be the unionist approach.

If the Special Branch robbery can be placed at the door of the IRA - if that organisation was really behind the theft of its "enemy's" secrets - then that will be viewed as a clear breach of the "complete cessation of military operations".

All of that will mean big problems for the political process.

See also:

07 Jun 02 | N Ireland
07 Apr 02 | N Ireland
06 Apr 02 | N Ireland
03 Apr 02 | N Ireland
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more N Ireland stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more N Ireland stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes