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27 January 2000 Edition

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New evidence of RUC collusion in Finucane killing

BY LAURA FRIEL

Evidence supporting charges of RUC collusion in the assassination of Belfast defence lawyer Pat Finucane has been found by the Stevens' Inquiry team. According to British media reports, the 17-strong team, which includes British detectives and is headed by police chief John Stevens, has uncovered material to support the claim by two informers that the RUC had prior knowledge of the murder plot against Finucane but did nothing to stop the killing.

Last July, William Stobie, the UDA quartermaster who supplied the weapons used in the Finucane shooting and who disposed of the weapons after the killing, claimed he was an informer for RUC Special Branch at the time. This was later confirmed by the prosecution during a bail hearing. Stobie also claimed he had telephoned his handlers twice prior to the Finucane shooting to warn of an imminent loyalist attack.

It is unclear whether or not Stobie informed his handlers that Pat Finucane was the intended target. In an interview with Sunday Tribune journalist Ed Moloney, Stobie claimed he did not know the name of the intended target. However, during an earlier interview with another journalist, it is alleged that Stobie admitted knowing the plot was against the Belfast solicitor.

The Stevens' team is believed to have uncovered evidence to support Stobie's claim that he did inform his handlers of an imminent attack. The evidence is said to include statements from previous informers and former RUC officers and at least one tape recording from the time which is said to back Stobie's claims.

The London Independent quotes from a ``senior security source'' who claims ``there were a significant number of informants giving information to the RUC about Finucane. I don't doubt that what Stobie is telling us is right. He has been giving us information and some of the things we can corroborate.''

This is not the first time William Stobie has been charged with serious offences. In 1990, Stobie appeared in court charged with possession of weapons with intent. Despite being still on a suspended sentence for a gun conviction in 1987, he was granted bail. The trial began in October but quickly ran into confusion and ended in mistrial.

Another trial was scheduled twice but adjourned until January 1991 when the Crown announced there would be no evidence against Stobie and a finding of not guilty was recorded. Stobie later implied the charges against him had been dropped as part of a deal he had struck with the authorities to keep his mouth shut.

In June last year, Stobie once again appeared in court, charged this time in connection with the killing of Pat Finucane. Stobie was remanded in custody but following the revelation that at the time of the killing he was an RUC Special Branch informer, he was once again granted bail.

The ability of Stobie to extricate himself from tight corners must surely rival the Great Houdini. This week's security source leak exonerating Stobie at the expense of his handlers can only be described as timely. There is little doubt amongst northern nationalists that British Crown forces, including the RUC, colluded in the shooting of Pat Finucane. They also suspect that collusion in the killing amounted to more than simply ignoring a `tip off'.

The 17-strong team, which includes British detectives and is headed by police chief John Stevens, is also rumoured to have sent case details against six named loyalists to the Director of Public Prosecutions. The six identified by the Stevens' team are believed to be two gunmen who carried out the fatal attack, a getaway driver and their back up team.
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