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8 August 2002 Edition

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Loyalists planned to assassinate two other lawyers

Leaked details contained in a draft of the forthcoming Stevens report have revealed that, in addition to murdering Pat Finucane, loyalists planned to assassinate two more lawyers identified by British army intelligence as being 'sympathetic' to the IRA. They are believed to have been assisted in the enterprise by the British agent Brian Nelson. The report is also expected to say that the murder of Pat Finucane was 'wholly preventable'.

Details of the plot to murder Oliver Kelly and the late Patrick McGrory, revealed by Panorama journalist John Ware in last Friday's Guardian, are to be passed to Peter Cory, the Canadian judge who is due to launch an inquiry into a number of collusion cases, including that of Pat Finucane.

In his article, Ware says that although Special Branch was aware of the plan to murder McGrory and Kelly, neither was warned, something which sources 'close to the Stevens inquiry' suspect was not accidental. According to Ware, one officer on the inquiry describes this failure to warn the two men that their lives were in danger as "collusion by omission". The draft report says that the failure represented "another Finucane tragedy in the making" and that "the fault was clearly on the side of the handlers because they had done nothing to save the life of that solicitor if the chain of events had continued".

Barra McGrory, Patrick McGrory's son and also a lawyer, said: "The inescapable conclusion is that military intelligence wanted the targeting to occur. Uninterrupted. They didn't want anything to stand in its way."

Ware claims that three days after Pat Finucane was shot dead, Special Branch received a report from an agent within the UFF gang which carried out the killing who said that "Oliver Kelly and PJ McGrory will be next". But, although the threat had come directly from the two UFF leaders who had organised Finucane's killing, neither Kelly nor McGrory was ever warned.

Oliver Kelly said: "It just didn't happen. But I was hearing from other sources what the cops were saying about us to loyalist type persons - that we were up to our eyes in the Provos, we were worse than the worst, we were orchestrating things and all that nonsense."

The article continues that that the two were targeted because "like Finucane, Mr McGrory and Mr Kelly often represented clients on IRA charges - some high-profile - and some RUC officers also believed they were IRA sympathisers".

Before his death in 1994, Patrick McGrory acted for, amongst others, the families of Mairead Farrell, Sean Savage and Dan McCann, who were executed by the SAS in Gibraltar in 1988.

Oliver Kelly told Ware: "This is what the cops were feeding out to loyalists: if you defended someone in court you were acting against the state. They felt that you should throw in the towel; you shouldn't defend someone to the best of your ability. They were telling the loyalists to wipe us out - to take us out of the road."

As in the case of Pat Finucane, details of Patrick McGrory's movements were collected by Brian Nelson. According to Ware: "In July 1989, five months after Finucane was shot, Mr Nelson received a sheet of paper from a regular UFF informant supplying details about a suitable place to shoot Mr McGrory.

"The Stevens inquiry has recovered this targeting document. It records that Mr McGrory spent 'a lot of time' in the Chester bar on Belfast's Antrim Road; that he went there 'in the late afternoon' and that every Sunday he visited the Kitchen bar to which he drove in his Mercedes, which was parked 'unprotected' nearby."

Barra McGrory said the information was "substantially accurate, which is what I find so deeply shocking".

The Stevens inquiry draft says that such an "explicit targeting document" supplied by Nelson should have rung "all the alarm bells, for this could clearly be solicitor number two" and that these details "should have received major prominence".

However, "all reference to Mr McGrory and the targeting information is missing from the FRU contact forms". According to Ware, one former handler "is said to have admitted to Stevens that contact forms were sometimes 'doctored' to leave out compromising details."

"Because none of the targeting details of Mr McGrory were written down, the Stevens inquiry suspects Mr Nelson's handlers were concerned to leave no trace that they had known of - but did nothing to prevent - another Finucane tragedy."

Referring specifically to the assassination of Pat Finucane, Ware claims that the draft Stevens report will name the leader of the UFF team who targeted him as "one Eric McKee". McKee is quoted in the article as having said some six weeks before the mkilling, "I have been told by someone - Get Finucane. He is the brains behind the IRA. Forget about Adams."

Ware goes on to suggest that the 'someone' who suggested that the targeting of Finucane was Jim Spence, a well-known member of the UDA, who had himself been 'primed' by Special Branch. This information came from Ken Barrett, whom Ware named in a recent BBC Panorama programme as one of the two gunmen who shot Finucane. Barrett told Ware that he and Jim Spence had been told by a Special Branch officer that "Pat was ... an IRA man like, he was dealing with finances and stuff for them ... and if he was out like, they would have a lot of trouble replacing him ... He says: 'He'll have to go. He'll have to go. He's a thorn in everybody's side'."

The article says that, according to secret FRU intelligence files, RUC officers "congratulated" four loyalists who were being questioned, "albeit in a friendly manner", about the murder. The officers are said to have "congratulated them on a fine job but said it should not have been done in such a fashion, ie. in front of Finucane's wife and children".

The Stevens inquiry has yet to hear from then head of the FRU, Brigadier Gordon Kerr, now military attaché in Beijing, who is due to be questioned next month. Kerr, who has expressed outrage at being expected to answer any questions about the activities of the FRU, has denied any knowledge of the targeting of Pat Finucane. Says Ware: "Mr Nelson, however, has claimed to the Stevens inquiry that not only did he know Finucane was being targeted for assassination, he also told his handlers this on at least two occasions. Sources close to the Stevens inquiry suspect that his handlers did know Finucane was being targeted and took care never to write this down."

Kerr claims that he believed that the UFF was actually targeting one of Pat Finucane's clients, republican Pat McGeown. Nelson had a photograph of the two men leaving court and this was the photograph he handed to the gunmen Ken Barrett a few days before the assassination.

However, Ware says that the draft report will say that Kerr's claims cannot be true because the photo Nelson gave to Barrett "was drawn from his files stored in his so-called 'intelligence dump' which the FRU had helped him set up. It was Mr Nelson's only photograph of Finucane, whereas the dump contained 36 much better photographs of Mr McGeown. Detectives argue that had Mr Nelson genuinely believed the target was Mr McGeown - and not Finucane - he would have handed over any one of those 36 pictures. They also say that the FRU must have known this because they had a precise inventory of Mr Nelson's intelligence dump."

The Stevens report, which has been delayed, is now due for publication in the autumn.

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