Page last updated at 19:51 GMT, Friday, 3 July 2009 20:51 UK

Chef case collapse sparks queries

Larry Zaitschek
Larry Zaitschek currently lives in the United States

Questions must be asked after police could not disclose new evidence about a break-in at Special Branch offices, the SDLP has said.

MLA Alex Attwood was speaking after the collapse of a case against a man wanted for his alleged role in the break-in at Castlereagh police station.

Larry Zaitschek, 41, from New York, had worked as a chef at the base.

Police said they could not disclose all relevant material and conceded he would not receive a fair trial.

Mr Zaitschek was being sought by police in connection with the raid in 2002 when a policeman was bound and gagged and files were stolen.

He has been living in the United States since shortly after the raid.

Alex Attwood said people needed and deserved to know the truth about why police could not disclose the new material.

"What is this information? Is it information that the British Army were involved some way or other around the Castlereagh break-in?" he said.

"Or is it information that the London government or another government has and refuses to disclose, or is it information that may involve an illegal group like the IRA, that for some reason, including for political reasons, is not being disclosed?

"We do not know, we can only speculate."

Mr Zaitschek told BBC Northern Ireland on Friday that he "had nothing to do with the break-in at Castlereagh".

"I have said that since day one and I should say that, especially in light of today's new developments, while the PSNI say that the test was met, I would suggest that the test has never been met," he said.

The police said this new material did not originate from either them or the security and intelligence agencies.

"Despite the efforts of the PSNI, we are not in a position to make available all the relevant material to PPS for the purposes of disclosure," a police statement said.

The police statement expressly says that the information is not from an intelligence source - so where is it from?
TUV leader Jim Allister QC

"Consequently, the PPS have concluded that Mr Zaitschek could not receive a fair trial and PSNI are in agreement that a prosecution could not proceed in those circumstances."

TUV leader Jim Allister said he was not satisfied with the police explanation for not making the evidence available to the PPS.

"It is clear to me that there is something very bizarre and unexplained going on here," he said.

"Certainly there are cases where prosecutions are abandoned because of an inability to meet disclosure obligations and that generally is in circumstances, where in order to protect a source, information is withheld.

"It is quite clear that this is not the situation here because the police statement expressly says that the information is not from an intelligence source - so where is it from?"

UUP representative Basil McCrea said it was an unsatisfactory conclusion to the case.

"It will be very disappointing for a lot of people that some resolution to this case has not been found one way or the other," he said.

The incident at the Castlereagh security base on 17 March 2002, where Mr Zaitschek worked as a cook, was a huge embarrassment for the police.

Three men walked in to what was supposed to be a highly secure room packed full of sensitive security information, tied up a police officer and stole dozens of Special Branch files.

Castlereagh police station
Special Branch offices at Castlereagh were burgled in 2002

These files included details of Special Branch officers and their agents' codewords.

Millions of pounds were spent re-housing officers and others, whose security had been compromised.

Mr Zaitschek flew to the US shortly after the break-in, leaving his wife and young son behind.

It is understood that Mr Zaitschek's wife was in protective custody after the incident and may have been used as one of the key prosecution witnesses.

Mr Zaitschek has always denied all the charges against him and denied having anything to do with the break-in.

In June 2006, he began High Court action against the Public Prosecution Service.

He said he wanted to return to Northern Ireland to see his son, and demanded to know whether any action was to be taken against him.

The IRA denied being responsible for the break-in.

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