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10 May 2001 Edition

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Destroyed Finucane tape linked to Stobie handler

BY LAURA FRIEL

The RUC Special Branch officer at the centre of last week's revelation that a taped confession to the Finucane killing had been deliberately replaced and probably destroyed has been identified as one of William Stobie's handlers.

The handler, known only as Ian, is already under threat of being charged in connection with the Finucane murder. As an agent working for RUC Special Branch within the UDA, William Stobie supplied and disposed of the weapons used in the Finucane killing.

Two of three RUC handlers involved with Stobie have been questioned in connection with the allegation that the loyalist gang who carried out the fatal shooting were given a free run by the RUC on the night of the killing. Files relating to the two handlers are currently in the hands of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

And now one of the same RUC officers has been implicated in a cover up after the killing. Last week, during a televised interview, an RUC Detective Sergeant described how a taped confession by a UDA gunman to the Finucane murder had been deliberately substituted by a second recording which did not mention the killing.

The second tape had been made at the behest of RUC Special Branch and an RUC Special Branch officer had accompanied the detective during the second recorded interview. This Special Branch officer has now been identified as one of Stobie's handlers.

In other words, an RUC officer suspected of colluding in the murder was also involved in a subsequent cover up. And this is not the first piece of vital evidence involving Stobie's handlers to have conveniently gone ``missing''.

According to a Stevens' source, evidence which could have confirmed Stobie's claim that he made two telephone calls to his handlers at Castlereagh RUC station has been ``lost'', with RUC chiefs claiming that no records can be found. Threats by RUC Special Branch against Pat Finucane's life first surfaced during interrogations in Castlereagh.

And now it has emerged that after the killing the RUC Special Branch officer at the centre of the collusion controversy was later promoted to a top job with the British Ministry of Defence.

A recent television documentary ``A force within a force'', which focused on the role of RUC Special Branch, also exposed the role of British Military Intelligence within the force. According to the UTV Insight team MI5 persuaded the then RUC Chief Constable John Hermon into allowing them use the RUC Special Branch to pursue a counter insurgency agenda within the RUC.

MI5 drew up the guidelines that gave RUC Special Branch primacy in all RUC investigations which they could halt at will. As part of this cosy arrangement, British Military Intelligence operatives were often Ôtrained' within the RUC Special Branch while the RUC Special Branch were Ôtrained' by British Military Intelligence. This revelation finally gives lie to the claim of Ôrivalry' between the FRU and RUC Special Branch.

This has particular significance in the Finucane killing. If the FRU, through Brian Nelson, knew Finucane was being targeted and the RUC Special Branch, through William Stobie, knew a killing was imminent, then it becomes increasingly unlikely that one hand didn't know what the other hand was doing. Collusion and cover up lie at the heart of Britain's counter insurgency strategy in the North of Ireland.
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