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Collusion - Transcript of BBC Panorama programme, 23 June 2002

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Text: BBC Panorama ... Page Compiled: Martin Melaugh

Note: this transcript was typed from a transcription unit recording and not copied from an original script: because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy.

A Licence to Murder - Part two

DATE: 23 June 2002


Many scenes in this film have been reconstructed based on real events

JOHN WARE: A license to murder: the story so far.

JENNY MAGINN: I got out of bed and daddy had just come up to the top of the stairs and he fell on the landing.

PATRICK FINUCANE: It's a place I don't care to visit very often, but I know it's there.

SEAN SLANE: Just crying, asking him to wake up. Daddy wake up, wake up.

WARE: These are the children who saw their fathers murdered. This is the secret British agent who chose them as targets. And this is the military intelligence colonel who recruited the agent. The agent's name was Brian Nelson, but in the secret army records he was known as 6137. We've had unique access to these records which reveal his mission was to infiltrate the Loyalist murder gang to stop them shooting innocent Catholics, and to ensure the proper targeting of IRA members prior to any shooting. The agent was tasked to work hand-in-glove with Loyalist killers like this man, Ken Barrett, passing them names and addresses of IRA targets. We've had 12 meetings with Barrett over the past year, all of them secretly recorded.

Secret filming

KEN BARRETT: They're not passing us documentation to sit in the house and read it. They're passing us documentation because they know what's going to result afterwards.

WARE: So murky was this relationship between military intelligence and Loyalist murder gangs that it's still the subject of the longest and most sensitive police enquiry in recent times. It's headed by the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens. This week on Panorama his detectives speak for the first time.

Let me have a clear answer on this. Did the Stevens Enquiry come to the conclusion that military intelligence was colluding with their agent to ensure that the Loyalists shot the right people?

NICHOLAS BENWELL Detective Sergeant Stevens Enquiry, 1989-94: Yes, that was the conclusion that we came to.

WARE: When John Stevens began to investigate back in 1989 the army told him they did not run agents.

It wasn't true, was it?

SARAH BYNUM Detective Constable Stevens Enquiry, 1989-91: No, it wasn't true.

WARE: In fact it was a complete lie.


WARE: Eventually the Stevens Enquiry uncovered the agent Nelson. On the eve of his arrest Stevens' detectives returned to their offices.

Do you think it was arson?

BYNUM: Yes, I do.

WARE: Dark forces may have attempted to thwart the police inquiry but eventually agent 6137 was arrested. Once in custody Nelson seemed relieved it was all over. He even volunteered he was an army agent.

NELSON: At no point did I ever withhold or conceal any information that I was party to from them.

WARE: The army had prepared Nelson for precisely this situation. They'd instructed him to say nothing, and they'd even given him anti-interrogation lessons.

LYNN EVANS: He was very keen to tell us everything.

WARE: What was the total length of statement that you took from him?

LYNN EVANS Detective Sergeant Stevens Enquiry, 1989-93: Well I think you're talking a thousand pages of statement.

WARE: A thousand pages? Did he tell you the whole story do you think?

EVANS: I think Brian Nelson could tell us what Brian Nelson wanted to tell us, although he could stop short where he wanted to stop short.

WARE: The Stevens Enquiry needed to know if Nelson was telling the truth. So they interviewed all the army handlers who'd run him as an agent but in the most bizarre of circumstances. Silent but every present in the shadows were representatives of military intelligence, Special Branch and MI5. All the interviews were conducted simultaneously. And whenever the police wanted an answer checked in the secret records, the checks were made by the soldiers because only the soldiers were allowed to check the files.

NICHOLAS BENWELL Detective Sergeant Stevens Enquiry, 1989-94: So they were going there to consult the secret files and then they would come back and give the answers. One had the definite impression that you weren't getting everything. They had certainly left out a huge amount which they could have told us on that first occasion.

WARE: So they were being selective?


WARE: So a request from the Stevens Enquiry became a demand, one which had to be repeated many times over the coming months.

Is it fair to say the files were handed over under duress?


WARE: Am I right in saying that army officers, in fact quite senior army officers had to be spoken to?


WARE: So senior, in fact, that the army was warned that general officer commanding forces in Northern Ireland, Lieutenant General Sir John Walters could be arrested unless they co-operated. The message got home, and the details of agent 6137's targeting activities were made available to the Stevens enquiry. The reason for the army's resistance became clear. The records revealed the full extent of Nelson's involvement in the murder gangs of the Loyalist UDA.

When you did get access to the files, what did you discover about Nelson's activities? Just paint a picture for me.

BENWELL: That he had been at the heart of all the activity of the UDA/UFF. He had been directing the targeting operations which were being carried out by the UDA/UFF thugs.

WARE: One of the gunmen to whom nelson had been supplying targeting info was this man, Ken Barrett whom we secretly filmed over a series of meetings.

BARRETT: If we asked him details on a Republican, he knew it wasn't to send him fucking postcards. Like I mean they're not passing us documentation to sit in the house and read it. They're passing us documentation because they know what's going to result afterwards. You know what I mean?

WARE: How many crimes was Nelson involved in? Give me some sense of the scale of it - conspiracies, murders, whatever.

BENWELL: Over 50.

WARE: The colonel who recruited Nelson to the shadowy Force Research Unit, and who commanded his handlers was Gordon Kerr. When questioned by Stevens he prepared an extensive statement defending Nelson's relationship with murder gangs. He admitted he had used Nelson to redirect their guns at IRA targets.

GORDON KERR: By getting him into that position Force Research Unit reasoned in that way could persuade the UDA to centralise their targeting through Nelson and to concentrate their targeting on known provisional IRA activists.

WARE: However, the colonel claimed his plan, far from taking lives, was designed to save them. IRA activists, he argued, were far harder targets than innocent Catholics. This gave his unit, in co-operation with the Royal Ulster Constabulary, more time to prepare countermeasures to prevent the killings.

KERR: The Force Research Unit made the greatest efforts to inform the RUC of all relevant intelligence regarding planned UDA targeting and attacks. Nelson was a prolific provider of life saving intelligence, the statistics of 730 reports about targeting of 217 individuals are witness to that.

WARE: The Colonel in charge of the FRU, the Force Research Unit, suggested that Nelson had saved his intelligence and been used to save scores and scores of lives. Was that your finding?

SARAH BYNUM Detective Constable Stevens Enquiry, 1989-91: I think not. I can't say that it was clear to us that the whole goal of the army having him in place was to save life.

JOHN WARE: The colonel though was right about one thing: 730 warning reports were sent to the RUC Special Branch here at Castlereagh Belfast. Passing warning reports to the police was the crucial function of the Colonel's unit. The unit existed, supposedly to save lives. But it's what his unit chose to put in those reports that really mattered, because what they chose to leave out could be a matter of life or death.

WARE: One of the reports the army sent to the Special Branch concerned the targeting of a man called Gerard Slane. The secret records show the Loyalists thought he was a gunman for a Republican splinter group. The army could have told the police that Slane's life was in grave danger. It is obvious that 6137 wants a prestigious target to be hit, but that would have meant telling the police their own agent was doing he targeting. We know this because their records show it. Nelson is recorded as having passed both Slane's address and photograph to a loyalist godfather.

SEAN SLANE: Just woken up by the sound of glass breaking. My father ran downstairs and then came running back up, and he tried to knock 'em down, kick 'em down the stairs with a ladder. And I just heard gunfire, just all the cracks and the shots, and my father just dropped.

WARE: Gerard Slane, father of three young children, died almost instantly.

SEAN SLANE Aged 8 when his father was killed: And would lie down beside him, just crying, asking him to wake up. Daddy, wake up, wake up. But there was just no movement, he was just lying there still. Just lying, staring. What's going on?

NICHOLAS BENWELL Detective Sergeant Stevens Enquiry, 1989-94: One of my abiding memories was from a statement of a neighbour of Miss Slane's just after he'd been murdered, and the picture of the little boy, the son, in his pyjamas, and he was in such distress and grief, that he was jumping up and down in the front garden, and he was lacerating his feet on the broken glass from the front door where the killers had smashed their way in, and that's remained with me that image.

SLANE: I felt.. I really did think deep in my heart that it was a dream, that it wasn't happening, that it wasn't real. I thought it was a nightmare, that it wasn't real, I was just waiting on somebody.. like my father coming in saying Sean, are you okay, wake up. But it never happened, it never came. Thirteen years later I'm still sitting here hoping for m him to wake me up.

WARE: At Slane's inquest a detective said he was not a gunman. Colonel Kerr told the Stevens Enquiry there was nothing his unit could have done to prevent this murder.

KERR: Slane was killed but no one in the Force Research Unit or the Special Branch knew that an imminent attack was being planned, or that he had been singled out as a target.

BENWELL: That's not correct. They knew that Nelson had been targeting Slane. They also knew he'd been to his intelligence dump and he'd got a photograph of Slane which he'd handed to one of the most prolific killers in the organisation. That at least should have set the alarm bells ringing. And they should have been passed to the RUC.

WARE: But nothing was passed to the RUC. All the colonel's unit had prepared was a vaguely worded summary for the police. It said the Loyalists wanted three attacks to be carried out before the end of October. This report made no mention of Slane, nor by the time he was shot had it even been sent to the police. According to the Stevens Enquiry the Slane case was typical. His officers found the information the army sent to the Special Branch often lacked even the most basic details.

Do you infer from that then that the army wanted these attacks to take place, or at least were content for them to take place.

BENWELL: Certainly, yes.

WARE: By allowing the events to take their course.

BENWELL: By not taking any action to prevent the events taking their course as you say. It's collusion by omission.

KERR: It was a shock to learn that the Stevens team believed the Force Research Unit to have been deliberately withholding evidence and that we were suspected of conspiracy to murder. Needless to say, I wish to state categorically that any such suspicions are completely groundless.

Belfast, February 1992

WARE: A trial was held but neither the colonel, nor any member of his unit was in the dock. Had this happened, the trial would have been explosive. The secret records of how agent 6137 was run would have been exposed. In the end just one man took the rap for everyone and everything - Brian Nelson.

Panorama 1992

CAROLE CREIGHTON Brian Nelson's Sister: The army tried their best to get him out of that situation. They lobbied everybody. I lobbied everybody. We kept it within the establishment because we thought the establishment will see that they have to let this person go, they can't charge him with these things. The army lobbied to the very top, but they couldn't get him out.

WARE: Nevertheless a deal was done. Nelson faced two counts of murder. When the trial opened, these were suddenly dropped. In exchange Nelson pleaded guilty to the lesser charges of conspiracy to murder. On behalf of the State the Attorney General's Representative said the deal was in the interests of justice. It looked more like the interests of the state.

How much of the iceberg that the Nelson case has become did the public glimpse from that short court hearing in Belfast 10 years ago?

LAURENCE SHERWOOD Detective Chief Superintendent Stevens Enquiry, 1989-93: I guess just the pointy bit at the top, and that is not surprising when Nelson, having pleaded guilty to a serious of offences, then the court will have got a very... and did get a very truncated version of events. There wasn't the examination of evidence that you would have got in a full criminal trial.

WARE: The colonel did, however, go into the witness box to speak up for Brian Nelson. Now he made public his claim that Nelson had saved many lives, a claim that Stevens' officers had already told him was not based on fact.

KERR: There were several occasions when targets or assassination were brought to our notice by Brian Nelson. You wish me to quote statistics, in a period from 1985 to 1990 or up until his arrest, we produced, on Brian Nelson's information something like 730 reports concerning threats to 217 separate individuals to life. Threats to life of the individual on all cases. These were passed on.

NICHOLAS BENWELL Detective Sergeant Stevens Enquiry, 1989-94: I was incredulous, it just wasn't right, it wasn't correct. Afterwards I went through all the documents and I could only find maybe two cases where the information given by Nelson may have been helpful tothe security forces in preventing attacks.

JUDGE: The sentence I am about to pass will show that much of the mitigating material given forcefully before me by...

WARE: Forcefully but not true. Yet the colonel's evidence certainly had the desired effect.

JUDGE: I give of course considerable weight to the fact that he passed on what was possible life saving info in respect of 217 threatened individuals.

WARE: By the following day the colonel had turned Brian Nelson into a hero. Thanks to the colonel he got just 10 years, a light sentence considering what he'd done. What the headline writers didn't realise was that other claims made by the colonel were just as hollow as the ones he'd made in court.

KERR: I firmly believe that the purpose of running agents is not only to prevent terrorist killings but also to bring about the arrest of terrorists.

BENWELL: I cannot think of one occasion where the information provided by Nelson led to any of the activities you describe.

WARE: What, no terrorists arrested.


WARE: No guns recovered?


WARE: What did the state get out of Mr Nelson then?

BENWELL: You may well ask.

WARE: So we thought we would ask, and who better to ask than the Colonel himself. These days Gordon Kerr lives about as far away as Belfast as it's possible to get. He's in China and he's been promoted. Today it's Brigadier Kerr, and he has one of the most prestigious postings in the Diplomatic Service. He's our military attaché in Beijing. This morning I'm on my way to see Brigadier Kerr. Since commanding the Force Research Unit his career has certainly blossomed. Soon after leaving Northern Ireland he was awarded the military version of the Order of the British Empire. Well we're just entering the compound where Brigadier Kerr lives. I have written to him a couple of times asking him to talk to me about the Stevens Enquiry. He sent a message back through the Ministry of Defence to say he can't talk while the Enquiry is going on. But of course the Enquiry has been investigating this matter off and on for the last 13 years. I wanted to catch the Brigadier before he left for the Embassy. I brought with me a letter setting out the details of our allegations.

WARE: Ah, Brigadier Kerr.

KERR: Yes, good morning.

WARE: John Ware is my name from the BBC Panorama programme.

KERR: Hello John.

WARE: Good morning.

KERR: Good morning to you.

WARE: How are you?

KERR: I'm fine thank you.

WARE: I've come a long way but I've come for a good reason, and I've come for a good reason because I want to put the seriousness of the allegations to you.

(Kerr withdraws, closing door)

WARE: As Brigadier Kerr wouldn't talk to me I delivered my letter to the British Embassy in Beijing. The most serious allegation I wanted the Brigadier to respond to was that he and his unit had been complicit in murder. I never got a reply. But he will have some explaining to do when he's questioned by the Stevens Enquiry later this year. Back in Belfast Colonel Kerr and his unit were not alone in colluding with Loyalist murder gangs. The police colluded with them too.

MICHAEL FINUCANE Aged 17 when his father was killed: There was a bang from the hallway. My father jumped up. He 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 young brother and sister, and shots going off very loud and it seemed like forever.

WARE: Pat Finucane was a solicitor. Many of his clients were IRA. The Loyalists claimed he was too. Both the IRA and his family categorically denied this.

FINUCANE: It's an insult, and a grievous insult. It was easy for them to believe that he was a member of the IRA. 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.

WARE: The line became irrelevant to this man, Ken Barrett, one of the killers the agent Brian Nelson worked closely with. Ken Barrett shot Pat Finucane and he gave us details about the weapons used.

Voice of Ken Barrett Secret recording: No one knows this, right? Because everybody thinks he was hit by a magnum. But it was a 38 Special with Magnum rounds. With Magnum rounds – you remember that.

WARE: Barrett says the plan to shoot Pat Finucane was suggested to him by this man in red, Jim Spence. Spence is the classic godfather. He organised killings behind the scenes without getting his own hands dirty, as Barrett explained to us.

Secret filming

BARRETT: If you understand what I mean, he wasn't actually involved in the business end. Do you understand what I mean.

WARE: Okay, a commission.

BARRETT: He would have arranged, if you know what I mean, or set it up, but he wasn't actually involved in the actual..

WARE: The execution?

BARRETT: The end product, if you get what I mean.

WARE: What Barrett says about Spence organising the 'end product' in the Finucane case is reinforced by the secret army records. They report it was Spence who suggested the Loyalists attack Finucane. But when Jim Spence first came up with the idea, Ken Barrett thought he was crazy.

Voice of Ken Barrett Secret recording: I says: "Look, wait till I tell you, Jim." I says "You cant start whacking fucking solicitors here." I says: "You'll bring the peelers down on us like a bag of fucking shite… we'll have no guns, like." I says: "They'll raid everywhere." I says: "They'll take the fucking place apart if you start hitting the these people." I says: "Because they'll know who it came from. They'll know who's involved, right away."

BBC NEWS 12th February 1989 Gunmen walked into Pat Finucane's home at Fort William Drive ...

WARE: The Special Branch new the names of Barrett and the other gunman within days. Neither was ever arrested.

Voice of Ken Barrett Secret recording: The hit went down, I wasn't arrested for the hit.

WARE: The Special Branch is the hidden intelligence gathering arm of the police in Belfast. Their job is to give leads from informants to the ordinary detectives trying to solve murders like Pat Finucane's. But they operate in the shadows, an all powerful, unaccountable force within a force. Although Special Branch knew Ken Barrett had killed Pat Finucane, they withheld this from the detectives investigating his murder.

ALAN SIMPSON Senior Investigating Officer Finucane murder case: I was heading the Patrick Finucane investigation. I didn't get a great deal of help now from Special Branch, and I had 20 detectives, very, very good detectives running about North Belfast trying to pick up leads on this case.

WARE: Did you get any steers on any of the key suspects?

SIMPSON: No leads, no directions at all really from them which was quite unusual.

WARE: But two years later, one of Detective Superintendent Simpson's officers did learn all about Barrett. On the 3rd October 1991, at Barrett's request, a Detective Sergeant, Johnston Brown, met him in a car. Barrett was offering his services as an informer.

JOHNSTON BROWN Detective Sergeant Royal Ulster Constabulary, 1972-2000: So I asked him who murdered Mr Finucane and he replied straight back "Hypothetically – me." So I mean if you had of slapped me in the face you couldn't have got my attention quicker.

WARE: According to Detective Sergeant Brown, Barrett then described in detail how he'd shot the solicitor.

BROWN: I remember turning round in the car and looking at him, and he was sitting with his hands and his eyes blazing and just.. pump, pump, pump. He put his hands down into the foot well of the car and he was holding an imaginary gun, and you could where he was discharging the gun into Mr Finucane's head. He was reliving it. It was actually happening again to him by his very actions he was expressing how he had enjoyed it, he was boasting about it, gloating over it, and he said that as he was pumping the bullets into this man's face they were coming back up out of the stone floor and he was still dodging them in the car because he was reliving this trauma, there's no doubt about it. And when he sat back in the chair he said "Nothing I say is evidence here." He's right.

WARE: Now it was right because the confession was not taken under police caution. Nevertheless it was a starting point in getting him locked up for murder which is how Detective Sergeant Brown saw it. But with him in the car was a Special Branch Officer.

BROWN: He made it clear, there's nothing new here, we know he done it, we know he done it. Move away from it.

WARE: Move away from it?

BROWN: Move away from it, yes. He put that forward…

WARE: It's a very strange phrase to use, isn't it? 'Move away from it'.

BROWN: Well it is…

WARE: One police officer telling another police officer to 'move away' from solving one of the most heinous terrorist atrocities of the troubles.


WARE: Special Branch also told Brown's CID bosses to 'move away' from pursuing Finucane's killer, and what Special Branch wanted, Special Branch got.

13th February 1989 (shots of cordoned off home of Pat Finucane)

WARE: What's your view about the fact that again the Special Branch didn't avail themselves of that opportunity? It was staring them in the face.

ALAN SIMPSON Detective Superintendent Royal Ulster Constabulary, 1970-93: I just can't comprehend their thinking. I'm appalled at what happened. They said at the inquest into Mr Finucane that the killers had killed before, so here was an opportunity to take probably a serious killer off the streets.

WARE: Detective Sergeant Brown kept meeting Barrett to try to get more evidence out of him. But the Branch said these meetings had to cease. Extraordinarily it was from Barrett that he learnt about their next step.

JOHNSTON BROWN Detective Sergeant Royal Ulster Constabulary, 1972-2000: He said that he'd been in the car with a number of Special Branch officers who sat with him and told him that I was treading on too many toes, that I was to be removed from the Belfast Regiment, that they were going to put a threat on me.

WARE: Who was going to put a threat on you?

BROWN: Special Branch.

WARE: Ken Barrett told you that there was going to be a threat against your life?

BROWN: Yes, a murderer tells me that my colleagues are going to rid themselves of me out of Belfast because I'm treading on toes.

WARE: Three days later, what Barrett had warned would happen, did happen.

BROWN: A detective chief superintendent said that a serious Loyalist threat had been received by Special Branch that my life was in danger.

WARE: The threat was a threat to your family?

BROWN: A threat to my life and the lives of my family, yes indeed.

WARE: Purportedly from a Loyalist source.

BROWN: Yes indeed.

WARE: Received by Special Branch.

BROWN: Yes indeed.

WARE: Coming a few days after Barrett himself had predicted that's exactly what was going to happen.


WARE: That wasn't a coincidence.

BROWN: They would say it was, but no.

WARE: Detective Sergeant Brown took this threat seriously and finally backed off. There the matter rested for another seven years until the RUC were forced to have outsiders investigate once again.

Sir JOHN STEVENS Head of Stevens Enquiry: For clarity I will refer to this investigation that we start today as 'Stevens 3'.

WARE: John Stevens had already twice investigated Security Force links in the Finucane murder, first in 1989, then in 1993. Now, for the third time in 10 years he was back in Belfast.

STEVENS: I have assembled 20 detectives, an independent team of investigators with current and former officers from the Metropolitan Police Service and the Northumbria Police.

WARE: An early visitor to the new Stevens Enquiry was Detective Sergeant Johnston Brown, which was when the threats to him from his colleagues in Special Branch began all over again.

BROWN: I was confronted by a Special Branch colleague. He says: "If we put a bar up, or an obstacle up, be like the rest of them, don't go over it or under it, go away." He says: "You walked into the offices of English detectives and you spoke about us and you think there's no come back, you think there's no retribution. You listen to me…" And he lost it. He threatened me. He said that "We'll send our Ninja men in to your house, there's not a lock that we can't get past. And they'll come out of your loft with a wee bag" he says "with a couple of dirty LVF guns in it.

WARE: Loyalist guns.

BROWN: Yes, Loyalist Volunteer Force. I knew by I could see his eyes bulge and his neck bulging and his very demeanour he mean this. It was such a confrontation I shall never forget, and he said "They'll come down out of that loft with these guns, are they yours Jonty or maybe they're… are they your sons? You think about that.

WARE: Detective Sergeant Brown gave a statement to the Stevens Enquiry that there was a tape of Barrett's confession to the murder of Pat Finucane. This has been secretly recorded by the Branch at Brown's first meeting with Barrett on the 3rd October 1991. Stevens asked the Branch for the tape, and a tape labelled the 3rd was handed over. But when Stevens played it back, they thought Brown had been wasting their time.

BROWN: Once I'd made the statement and signed it they told me there was no confession.

WARE: On the 3rd.

BROWN: They had.. on the tape, yes, they asked me was an audio not a record that you couldn't question, independent audio record of what was said and I said well my notes are here and that's all I can do.

WARE: Although the Special Branch had labelled the tape the 3rd, it was in fact a tape of the second meeting Brown had had with Barrett on the 10th. The same Branch Officer had been present and the questions had been identical – almost.

BROWN: Mr Barent was repeatedly saying "What's he asked me that for, what's he asked me… we went over this last week. It's going over the same ground. It's going over the same ground. And I was sitting as perplexed as he was.

WARE: So your Special Branch colleague was asking exactly the same questions that you had asked the previous week…


WARE: With the one exception.

BROWN: The murder of Mr Finucane – out.

WARE: What's now clear is that the tape of the 10th had been relabelled the 3rd and that the meeting of the 10th had been a set up by the Branch to recreate the official record of the 3rd but with Barrett's murder confession erased. Why would the Special Branch want to wipe any evidence, remove any evidence, of there having been a confession to the Finucane murder? Why would they want to do that?

BROWN: I can't answer for Special Branch. I have asked them time and time and time again, and I haven't got any answers from them, and I don't expect to get any answers from them. Are you asking me am I surprised that this happened? No I'm not.

WARE: The official Special Branch record of Ken Barrett's confession to the murder of Patrick Finucane may have disappeared, but at least there is now a record – our tapes, and they run to many hours. These tapes may help explain why the Special Branch went to such extraordinary lengths to prevent Ken Barrett from being brought to justice. Barrett says he was encouraged to shoot Pat Finucane by a police officer. This officer, he says, tried to convince him the solicitor was in the IRA.

Secret Filming

WARE: When you met him first time, what did he actually say to you about Finucane?

BARRETT: Just that Pat was one of their men, you know – he was an IRA man, like. And he was dealing with finances and stuff for them, and he was a bad boy and if he was out, like, they'd have a lot of trouble replacing him. Stuff like this, you know.

WARE: Barrett also told us that the police officer assisted his murder gang. An hour before the murder soldiers and policemen had been searching lockup garages for weapons near the solicitors home. Barrett says a message was relayed from the officer via a call box close to where Barrett and his fellow gunmen were waiting.

Secret filming

WARE: The road block had been taken down. And that's what this guy was telling you - the road block had gone.

BARRETT: All clear. That meant there's no, say, presence in the area, if you know what I mean?

Voice of Ken Barrett Secret recording: Now, you couldn't phone me and say "Everything's clear" unless you know where the police are at that particular time. It's a brave drive.

WARE: Barrett also says the Loyalist godfather, Jim Spence, who wanted the solicitor shot, had introduced him to this police officer.

Voice of Ken Barrett Secret recording: He says: "You're more, well, how do you put it.. " He says: You're more the psychopath than what Spence is." He says: You're more a one for business here, aren't you?" I says: "What do you mean, business?" He says: "No, you want Provies buried." I says: "Aye, of course I do." He says: I understand where I stand." I says: "Yes, every time." I says: "You do the business for us. If in the near future we can help you at any stage, that'll be done." He says: "Yes, as long as we're on the same wavelength."

WARE: Over the years Spence and his police friend have stayed tuned. In the summer of 1999 the police set out at dawn to bring Spence and Barrett in for questioning by the Stevens Enquiry. It was 6am, but Spence was already dressed and sipping a cup of tea. He'd been tipped off. Barrett says he was tipped off too.

Voice of Ken Barrett Secret recording: Spence says to me: "If you want to give your man a ring he'll let you know the ins and outs." I rang him and he rang me the next day. They thought they'd surprised everybody. And when they were arresting me, I went out to get into the car and he says to me: "Did you know you were being arrested this morning?" I says: "What makes you think that?" He says: "You don't look very surprised to see us. I said: "No."

WARE: Jim Spence is one of Belfast's untouchables. The police know he's organised murders but he's never spent a day in gaol for this. The protective arm of Spence and his police and murder gang associates extends to everyone involved in Pat Finucane's murder, provided they play the game. Billy Stobie didn't. He was a weak link in the chain. He told us Spence asked him to produce guns for Pat Finucane's murder.

Voice of Billy Stobie Recorded 6th September 2001

STOBIE: I was told to get two 9mm Brownings.

WARE: By whom?

STOBIE: By Spence.

WARE: When?

STOBIE: I seen Spence on the Tuesday, right?

WARE: Right.

STOBIE: And then I took a 9mm Browning and a Heckler & Koch, and the conversation was that, "I'd need two 9mm Brownings and the Heckler & Koch only carries 9 shots and the 9mm Browning carries 13."

WARE: Billy Stobie was charged with Pat Finucane's murder by the Stevens Enquiry. When we talked to him at his home on the Fourth River Estate he was awaiting trial. Not much moves on this bleak Loyalist stronghold without Jim Spence knowing about it.

Voice of Ken Barrett Secret recording: Spence is fucking cracking up, he's going through the roof. He phoned me and he says: "You know where them other two fuckers are?" I says: "Who?" He says: "Your man from Panorama." I says: "No." He says: "They're in Strobie's house." He says: "Fuck this. Something will have to be done. Stobie will be lucky if he sees his fucking trial."

WARE: Stobie did live to see his trial – but only just.

BBC News 12th December 2001 The Red Hand Defenders have said they carried out the murder of William Stobie…

WARE: Billy Stobie talked too much, not just to me but to several others.

NEWS: …. shot dead in the Falls River area of North Belfast early this morning.

WARE: One weak link down and one to go. Spence suspected Ken Barrett was talking to us. Graffiti appeared mocking him as a one time police informer. Barrett knew his days were numbered. Barrett went on the run. He flew to Birmingham where we met him and again secretly filmed him.

Secret filming

Clutching his belongings in just a plastic bag, Barrett explained why he thought he and Stobie had become scapegoats for Spence and his police friends.

Voice of Ken Barrett Secret recording: The killing of Pat Finucane was organised by the police. The dogs in the street know that. Everybody knows that. He set the murder up. They wanted Finucane dead.

WARE: Barrett again spoke of the police officer he says Spence introduced him to, how the police had urged Loyalists to shoot the solicitor and how this officer had appealed to him in person to do it.

Voice of Ken Barrett Secret recording: They know who killed Pat Finucane. They orchestrated it from the start.

WARE: Barrett says he never knew the real name of this police officer, but we do, and we have established that he was a member of Special Branch based in Belfast here at Castlereagh. We also know a bit about his past. Reliable police sources have provided us with evidence that this officer urged a Loyalist gunman to shoot a suspected IRA man in 1990…

Secret filming

… which is what Barrett said the officer urged him to do a year earlier to Pat Finucane. But now the man who'd killed him was in fear of his own life, in fear of the very people who'd set up the murder in the first place. Barrett had nowhere left to run.

Voice of Ken Barrett Secret recording: There's no heroes at this fucking game. You're buried on the Monday, you're talked about on till Wednesday and the drinking stops on the Friday. What would you do, John, honestly?

WARE: What Barrett wasn't going to do was hand himself over to the Stevens Enquiry.

BARRETT: You know what they'll do to me?

WARE: What, what?

BARRETT: They'll charge me. They'll charge me and they'll stand by them ones, believe me, John.

WARE: So Barrett took his chances and flew back to Northern Ireland lying low at this hotel in Ballymena. One day he found it surrounded by armed police.

Voice of Ken Barrett Secret recording: And this peeler, Detective Chief Inspector somebody, phoned the hotel room and says: "I need to speak to you." I says: "What's it regarding?" He says: "Your personal safety." He says: "How long do you intend staying in Ballymena?" I says: "I don't know." He says: "Well I don't advise you to stay here too long."

WARE: Ken Barrett thought the threat was from his own side, from Jim Spence and the murder gangs he once worked with, and so it was. What Barrett didn't know was that they'd learnt the location of the hotel he was hiding at from a police officer. I understand that Barrett had telephoned the officer seeking his advice about what to do next. It's alleged that the officer then tipped off Barrett's former friends who wanted him dead.

Secret filming

WARE: Barrett was being burned by both sides, his own and a renegade officer from a force that had protected him from prosecution for so long. There was only one place left to run – England and the Stevens Enquiry who were investigating the darker forces of the state.

Can I ask you about the Special Branch. Are they a significant part of your enquiry, are they indeed at the heart of your enquiry?

Sir JOHN STEVENS Commissioner, Metropolitan Police: The Special Branch, the army FRU organisation, or parts of the security apparatus, are at the very heart of our investigation.

WARE: The heart of that security apparatus is MI5, supposedly the eyes and ears of Whitehall.

(Replay – a woman's screams as killers break in)

WARE: MI5 is operated extensively in Northern Ireland. Twelve years ago when John Stevens set foot there MI5 signed statements to say they knew virtually nothing about collusion. That was quite simply untrue. We understand that almost everything we've disclosed in our two programmes about army and police complicity with Loyalist murder gangs was known to MI5 at the time. Why? Because MI5 had direct access to all the army's damning secret files on a daily basis.

What's more, we understand that MI5 has a crucial piece of intelligence that does suggest the police were involved in the murder of Pat Finucane. I'm told that this intelligence is consistent with Ken Barrett's account to us of police assistance in the murder, and yet it's only recently that this vital information was handed over to the Stevens Enquiry. In other words, it's taken 12 years and 3 major police enquiries to get it out of MI5.

Just one question, if I may, about the security service. I understand that MI5 were aware of Nelson's illegal activities and that they also knew about the role of the police in the Pat Finucane murder. What's your response to that?

STEVENS: I've got no comment on that. We're still pursuing the enquiry. We've still got people to interview, we've still got people to reinterview on the enquiry, and we'll continue to do that until I'm satisfied we've got to the bottom of what took place.

WARE: So have you got questions for the security service?

STEVENS: We've got questions for everybody in relation to that.

MICHAEL FINUCANE: I don't think my family should have been made to wait 13 years. I don't think all of the other families, the exact number of whom is yet to be determined, should be made to wait this length of time for proper answers.

WARE: But many of the answers are still buried in the darkest recesses of the state. Like the names of those who used and protected the men who pulled the trigger.

FINUCANE: I don't think about them terribly much. I think about the people behind them, and they have no face and they have no persona and they exist only perhaps in the shape of a bureaucratic suit, but they're there and I'm determined to make them accountable.


Reporter: John Ware
Film Camera: Steve Organ; Simon Niblett
Sound Recordists: Ronan Hill; Sean Poe; Sean Taylor
Additional Cameramen: Eugene McVeigh; Garry Keane; Mark Sewell
VT Editor: Rod Hutson
Dubbing Mixer: Mike Wood
Colourists: Geoff Hockney
Original Research (1989-94): Geoff Seed; John Ware
Film Research: Kate Redman; Tim Shields
Production Team: Paul Caulfield; Mark Dowd; June Gamble; Liz Mace; Kathlyn Posner; Bessie Wedgwood
Production Co-ordinator: Rosa Rudnicka
Graphic Design: Kaye Huddy; Julie Tritton
Original Music: David Sinclair
Production Manager: Martha Estcourt
Unit Managers: Maria Ellis; Laura Govett
Film Editors: Simon Thorne; William Grayburn
Assistant Producers: Sarah Mole; Fiona Crack
Produced and Directed by: Eamon Hardy
Deputy Editor: Andrew Bell
Editor: Mike Robinson

Transcribed by 1-Stop Express Services, London W2 1JG Tel: 0207 724 7953 E-mail

CAIN contains information and source material on the conflict and politics in Northern Ireland.
CAIN is based within Ulster University.

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