17 January 2002 Edition

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RUC agent killed Finucane


A loyalist who acted as an agent for the RUC Special Branch has claimed that he shot Belfast defence lawyer Pat Finucane. Ken Barrett confessed to the killing during an arranged meeting with RUC CID officers and a member of the Special Branch two years after the killing.

In 1991, Barrett approached CID officer Johnston Brown and offered to act as an informer. Subsequently, Barrett met Brown, who was accompanied by another CID officer Trevor McIlwrath and a member of the RUC Special Branch.

The Special Branch officer is believed to have been one of William Stobie's handlers. Stobie, a UDA quartermaster and RUC agent, supplied the weapons used in the Finucane killing. Stobie was shot dead last month after a case against him collapsed.

Following the Stobie killing, Barrett fled from his Belfast home after graffiti identifying him as an informer appeared in the city. Barrett is now living in hiding and under an assumed name.

Brown and McIlwrath have claimed that they wanted to pursue Barrett's admission, which was secretly taped during a conversation in a police car, but were prevented by RUC Special Branch. Johnston recently claimed members of the Special Branch, determined to keep Barrett's role under wraps, threatened him.

The confession came to light when the Stevens' team investigating the Finucane murder interviewed Johnston. Johnston faced serious charges when notes of the Barrett conversation failed to match a tape which Special Branch claimed was of the 3 October interview.

The tape was subsequently exposed as a replacement, recorded on 10 October. According to Johnston, he was present when the second tape was recorded during a conversation that almost exactly mirrored the first but with one fundamental difference. The RUC officers involved had been instructed to steer the conversation away from the Finucane killing. There was no admission on the second tape.

Clearly, the second tape was always intended to replace the first. The Stevens' team has been informed that the original 3 October tape has been 'lost'. Despite Barrett's confession, he was recruited as an agent working with RUC Special Branch in 1991.

This latest disclosures is further evidence of official collusion and cover up and adds weight to the call for an immediate independent judicial inquiry into the Finucane killing.

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