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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 September, 2004, 09:59 GMT 10:59 UK
Finucane killer 'uncovered'
By Adam Flinter
BBC Panorama

The man who murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane more than 15 years ago admitted being involved in the killing to the BBC Panorama programme which led to him being charged.

Ken Barrett was secretly filmed by Panorama for the 2002 programme Licence to Murder, which claimed that some members of the security forces collaborated with loyalist paramilitaries in Northern Ireland.

Ken Barratt
Ken Barrett, centre, pictured arriving back into NI for questioning
Mr Finucane was shot 14 times as he sat eating a Sunday meal at home in the attack in 1989.

In the programme, Ken Barrett claimed that some police officers were urging young loyalists to "take out" Mr Finucane, because he had represented IRA members.

Some loyalists had claimed he was a member of the IRA - a claim vehemently denied by his family, with the full backing of the police.

In fact Barrett, 41, was secretly filmed claiming that Pat Finucane "would have been alive today" if the police hadn't interfered" as, at the time, solicitors were "off limits" to attacks.

But Pat Finucane did become a target, and Barrett was charged with "taking him out". He told the programme about the moment the killing was suggested by a loyalist godfather.

"He (the godfather) says: 'He'll have to go'. He said: 'He's a thorn in everybody's side. He'll have to go.' He was determined in pursuing that. That's the one he wanted."

Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane
Pat Finucane was murdered in 1989
The killing of Pat Finucane was now being actively planned with Barrett tasked to kill him, but he didn't know what his target looked like.

However, Panorama claimed that the army agent Brian Nelson, was able to assist - providing him with a photo and later showing him where Pat Finucane lived.

Barrett said: "Brian knew what we were doing. Brian took me up to the place. Brian showed me the once and that was all I had to see."

The murder was planned for a Sunday night in February 1989. Late that afternoon the murder gang assembled in a loyalist club.

They needed to be certain that the solicitor was at home. According to Barrett, the police officer to whom he had been introduced, had said there was one sure way of knowing this.

Barrett added: "All I needed to know was that he was in the house. If the car wasn't there, he wasn't there. He never went anywhere without the car."

Murder gang

As the clock ticked towards seven, a phone call was made and weapons brought for Barrett and a second gunman. The murder gang's vehicle was a hijacked taxi.

Tensions were running high, as Barrett explained: "Men get nervous when they're hanging about, and get a wee bit edgy, whereas if we get the all clear and go then it's there and that's it."

They were tense with good reason too. Earlier that evening, close to Pat Finucane's home, the security forces had been searching lock up garages for weapons.

According to Barrett, confirmation that the coast was clear came from the police officer who had urged him to shoot Finucane via a telephone message.

He said: "The decision was taken and that was it. There was none of this f***ing about, driving round here and driving round there. The decision was taken. Bang. Let's go. That's how quickly it happens."

Michael Finucane
Michael Finucane witnessed his father being killed

As the murder gang sped towards their target Pat Finucane, his wife and three children were gathered round the dinner table as a family.

He was shot 14 times in the violent murder, and his wife was also wounded in the attack. But when Panorama spoke to Barrett in 2002, he showed little remorse.

"As I've told you before, the peelers wanted him whacked, and we whacked him, and that's the end of the story as far as I'm concerned," he said.

Barrett also revealed the choice of weapon used on the night, adding: "Everybody thinks he was hit by a Magnum. But it was a .38 Special with Magnum rounds."

But while it was the "end of the story" for Barrett, witnessing his father being killed was something that his then young son Michael Finucane can never forget.

He told Panorama: "I remember sitting at the kitchen table eating dinner. There was a bang from the hallway, my father jumped up and slammed the door shut while my mother ran behind him and hit the personal attack button.

"The next thing I remember is being on the floor against the wall in the corner, holding my younger brother and sister, and shots going off very loud and it seemed like forever. At that point my memory blanks.

"But the thing I remember most is the noise. It's a place I don't care to visit very often but I know it's there, and sometimes I go back and visit, but not often. I try not to dwell on it."

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