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7 October 1999 Edition

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Stobie was working for RUC Special Branch

by Laura Friel

It is now a matter of public record. William Stobie, the UDA quartermaster who supplied the weapons to the loyalist gang who murdered Belfast human rights lawyer Pat Finucane, was working for RUC Special Branch at the time of the killing.

Confirmation of Stobie's role within the RUC came during a bail hearing at Belfast high court this week. Taking the unusual step in granting bail to a murder suspect, particularly in such a high profile case, presiding Judge Shiel referred to the ``murky and secret world of informers''.

In a further twist in the case during the hearing, the crown prosecution claimed that in 1990, the self-confessed UDA quartermaster could not be charged with the 1989 murder of Pat Finucane in 1990 because of ``a lack of evidence''.

Stobie has been brought to trial now, said Prosecution Council Gordon Kerr, because a former journalist who is now working for the NIO, Neil Mulholland, came forward earlier this year to make a statement about admissions Stobie had made to him in 1990.

Curiously, 122 pages of RUC notes taken during Stobie's 1990 arrest in connection with the Finucane killing, in which Stobie claims he outlined his role in supplying the murder weapons, was considered insufficient to secure a conviction - in contrast to the vast majority of convictions in Diplock courts during the last 25 years, which have hung on uncorroborated RUC confession evidence. But then those cases were largely against republicans. Apparently if you're a loyalist working for the RUC you can get away with murder, that is unless you say too much over a cup of tea with a journalist.

Once again, the role of the Director of Public Prosecutions was questioned. During the hearing, Stobie's lawyer, Arthur Harvey, accused the DPP of being less than helpful, ``indeed mischievous'' in not revealing at Stobie's first bail application hearing the existence of his admissions.

Harvey told the court that Stobie had been told by RUC Special Branch that the RUC could not intervene to stop the killing because he was unable to name the intended victim. The lawyer questioned the RUC's inaction. RUC Special Branch observed the weapons being collected by loyalists on their way to kill ``a top Provo'' but did nothing to apprehend the gang.

Stobie was freed this week on his own bail of £1,000 with four sureties of £500 each.

Meanwhile, a loyalist who admitted making pipe bombs in a relative's house in Antrim walked free from court after his four-year jail sentence was suspended. George Nicholl of Ballymena pleaded guilty to possessing component parts of pipe bombs and possession of a shot gun and ammunition. Judge Anthony Hart accepted the RUC's assessment of Nicholl (24) as immature and vulnerable.
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