23 November 2000 Edition
Colonel `J' exposed
This is the British Army officer at the centre of the collusion controversy in the North of Ireland. It was under the command of Brigadier Gordon Kerr, formally known only as Colonel `J', that one of the British Army's most covert units, the Force Reaction Unit, colluded with loyalist death squads in the killing of Irish nationalists and republicans.
Gordon Kerr, from Aberdeen and a former Gordon Highlander, was in charge of the FRU from 1987 to 1991. Now in his early 50s, Kerr was a graduate and career officer who moved into the Intelligence Corps. As a member of the SAS-run 14th Intelligence, a unit created by the FRU, Kerr first honed his trade in counter insurgency. Between 1985 to 1986, Kerr was a senior instructor with the Special Intelligence wing.
As commander of the FRU, Kerr not only knew men under his command were actively colluding with loyalist gunmen in the killing of Six County citizens, he also sanctioned FRU operatives crossing the border on illegal reconnassance missions in the south of Ireland.
Kerr's FRU is at the centre of an inquiry by the Stevens team investigating whether the FRU were colluding with loyalists as part of a state-sanctioned murder campaign. A covert unit specialising in breaking and entering attempted to destroy an earlier investigation by the Stevens team. Offices used during the investigation were set on fire and vital evidence destroyed in a desperate attempt to protect one the FRU's key agents, Brian Nelson.
The killing of Belfast human rights lawyer Pat Finucane was planned by Brian Nelson who, in his role as UDA intelligence officer, selected targets and provided key information to aid loyalist gunmen carry out murderous attacks. At least two other Scots FRU soldiers and a Scottish RUC officer were involved in running Brian Nelson.
Nelson is currently living in Germany in hiding.
The FRU's activities were run under Kerr's immediate charge but there was also an unbroken chain of command running from handlers through to the British Army's top brass in the Six Counties, to MoD Chiefs of Staff, the NIO Secretary of State to the British Prime Minister.
At the height of the FRU-inspired campaign of killings, General John Waters was the GOC in the North of Ireland, George Younger was the British Secretary for Defence, Tom King was Under Secretary for Defence and Margaret Thatcher was the British Prime Minister.
Information about Kerr and the FRU appeared in Scottish newspapers last weekend. The details emerged just days after a former FRU soldier, Philip Campbell Smith, was charged in connection with intimidating another former FRU operative, known as Martin Ingram, who is currently co operating with the Stevens inquiry.
FRU soldier arrested
A former member of the covert British Army unit, the Force Research Unit, has been arrested by the Stevens team and charged with intimidating a key witness in the investigation into the killing of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane.
The former FRU soldier, now a security consultant, was arrested in England after police officers from London's Metropolitan carried out a dawn raid of his home last Monday. He was charged in connection with an e-mail sent to a British newspaper giving personal details of another former FRU soldier whom he suspected of being the whistle blower ``Martin Ingram''.
The e-mail gave the name and whereabouts of ``Ingram'' and described him as ``a little squealer'' for revealing details of British Army wrongdoing to a newspaper and the Stevens team. A computer, photographs and documents were seized from the former FRU man's house.
The 41-year-old, who recently published a book on the activities of the FRU titled ``Fishers of Men'' under the pseudonym ``Rob Lewis'', was charged under the Criminal Justice Act. The identity of the FRU man charged was revealed in a Scotland Yard press statement as Welsh man Philip Campbell Smith.
The detectives are examining the material to ascertain whether a ring of former FRU operatives are attempting to intimidate their former colleague into silence. Smith, who was a member of the FRU for 12 years, worked with ``Ingram'' in the FRU's ``West Detachment'' based at St Angelo airport near Enniskillen from 1988 to 1991.
One of the most secret units within the British Army, the existence of the FRU was unknown to the vast majority of personnel. Its chain of command ran from Colonel Gordon Kerr, formally only known by his appearance at Brian Nelson's trial as Colonel ``J'', through the NIO Secretary of State directly to the then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Smith is the first former FRU member to be charged in connection with the current investigation into the shooting of Pat Finucane. In 1990 charges against FRU agent Brian Nelson connected to the killing of the Belfast solicitor were dropped during a last minute plea bargain deal.
Three serving members of the British Army, including a woman, were questioned by the Stevens team about their former activities as members of the FRU. The three soldiers are expected to be arrested and formally questioned in the next few weeks.
Meanwhile it has been revealed that the Old Midland Hotel in Belfast was used by the RUC Special Branch and a unit of the FRU to meet, pay and pass information onto their agents. According to a Sunday tabloid newspaper, which claims to have been sent copies of documentation taken from offices in the hotel, the files show that UDA killer Johnny Adair was a frequent visitor. The file also suggest that Billy Wright, a former UVF gunmen who later set up the breakaway LVF in mid Ulster, had access to intelligence documents.
Claims that the FRU were passing files containing the personal details of nationalists and republicans to Billy Wright, whose death squads were responsible for over 40 killings, has been contested by `security sources'.
Described as a senior security source, the spokesperson confirmed that Johnny Adair did have access to FRU files but claimed Wright was supplied information by members of the UDR. In the past Wright has been linked to the RUC Special Branch.
``There was widespread institutionalised collusion between members of the security forces and members of various loyalist paramilitary groupings,'' says the source, ``In Wright's case we suspect that he and his followers in Mid Ulster received most of the information on their targets from the UDR.
``Adair did have access to FRU documents, as we all now know. But he too had other sources, including UDR members and soldiers from mainland regiments.''