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20 December 2001 Edition

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UN spotlight on collusion

Those who killed RUC agent and UDA quartermaster William Stobie last week may be the same people who killed defence lawyer Pat Finucane in 1989. The investigation into the killing should be carried out independently of the RUC/PSNI and Special Branch, the United Nations Special Rapporteur, Dato Param Cumaraswamy, has said.

Cumaraswamy's comments came as it was revealed that another leading loyalist, Ken Barrett, also questioned by the Stevens Inquiry team investigating the Finucane case, has dissappeared from his North Belfast home.


KEY WITNESS GONE



Barrett allegedly disappeared at the weekend, but news of this only emerged on Tuesday. There are also reports that he has not sought protection from the RUC/PSNI, despite believing that his life is in danger.

Barrett may have intimate knowledge of the Finucane murder that could profoundly compromise the Special Branch.

William Stobie was shot dead last Wednesday, days after a court case against him collapsed. The Red Hand Defenders, a cover name for the UDA, claimed responsibility. Barrett may have feared a similar attack on himself was imminent.


SPECIAL BRANCH COLLUSION



Earlier this year, a retired RUC CID detective, Jonty Brown, told the UTV Insight programme that a leading loyalist had described, in intimate detail, the shooting of Pat Finucane. An RUC Special Branch officer was present when these admissions were made, but Special Branch witheld the audio tape of the admissions from the Stevens team. Graffitti reading 'Ken Barrett loves Jonty Brown' has been painted on the wall of the former Crumlin Road jail in Belfast.

If the reports prove accurate - that Barrett has disappeared, and is not under RUC/PSNI protection - this will feed speculation that some loyalists believe that Special Branch is working hand-in-hand with the present UDA leadership to assassinate former agents, who have incriminating evidence regarding the murders of Pat Finucane and other killings involving collusion by official state forces.

Following Stobie's murder, it emerged that he had received a warning from the RUC/PSNI that his life was in danger from former associates. One looming question is that if Special Branch had insider information that Stobie's life was in danger, were they not aware of more accurate details that could have saved his life?

Writing in the Sunday Tribune Ed Moloney revealed that Stobie had recently applied twice to be put on the Key Persons Protection Scheme, but the NIO had not bothered to even reply.

Stobie supplied and disposed of the weapons used to kill Pat Finucane 12 years ago. The trial collapsed after the DPP accepted the chief prosecution witness's claim that he could not appear in court on grounds of ill health.

Stobie's death removed a potential key witness into any subsequent inquiry into the Finucane killing and the allegation of Crown force collusion in the murder.


UN TURN UP HEAT


Cumaraswamy, the UN Special Rapporteur, said that Stobie may have been deliberately killed by the same people who murdered Pat Finucane.

"Since 1991 Mr Stobie was charged twice before the court in Belfast for offences related to Patrick Finucane's murder," he said. "On both occasions he was found not guilty, as the Director of Public Prosecutions did not proceed with the prosecutions.

"It now appears that those responsible for the murder of William Stobie may have connections with the Patrick Finucane murder and the motive for the present murder may be to prevent him from assisting any eventual independent inquiry."

The UN official reiterated his call for an independent international inquiry into the Finucane killing.

Sinn Féin's spokesperson on Human Rights, Pat McNamee, described the Special Rapporteur's comments, about the motive behind Stobie's killing, as "particularly damning".

"This would not be the first time that British military and paramilitary agencies have acted illegally in order to hide their involvement in the war in this country," he said.

Meanwhile, the Finucane family have made a formal complaint to the Irish Times, accusing it of "spreading blatant lies". The family's solicitors have demanded an apology and retraction of allegations made by the paper's security editor, Jim Cusack.

In an article published 13 December, Cusack claimed that, prior to his death, Pat Finucane had been questioned by the RUC in connection with a prison breakout by eight republican prisoners for Crumlin Road jail in 1981.

"Pat Finucane was never questioned by the RUC about any criminal offence in his career," his brother Martin said. "He was certainly not questioned about the prison escape referred to.

"The family are very hurt and distressed by this lie. At a time when the family are pressing for a full public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Pat's murder, such slurs will undoubtedly minimise any support for the family in their quest."
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