Northern Ireland

Stakeknife: Detectives from other UK forces to investigate Scappaticci activities

Freddie Scappaticci Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption West Belfast man Fred Scappaticci denies he was a British agent

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) is to bring in detectives from other UK police forces to investigate the activities of a man alleged to have been the Army's most high ranking agent in the IRA.

The agent, codenamed Stakeknife, has been named by the media as west Belfast man Freddie Scappaticci.

He has denied he was an Army agent.

Scappaticci has been accused of involvement in up to 50 murders during Northern Ireland's Troubles.

BBC News NI reported last year that detectives from outside Northern Ireland would conduct the investigation.

The PSNI's chief constable has confirmed the decision with the Northern Ireland Policing Board.

Cost

The families of a number of Stakeknife's alleged victims said they did not trust the PSNI to carry out the investigation, and they took legal action in a bid to prevent it from doing so.

At a court hearing in Belfast on Friday, a barrister for the PSNI said Chief Constable George Hamilton has concluded that his preferred option is to employ external police officers for the task.

The investigation is expected to be the largest ever in Northern Ireland into the activities of a single individual.

The estimated cost of the inquiry is £5m a year, and it is likely to take at least five years.

Some of the relatives who took the legal action were in court.

They included the daughter of 34-year-old mother-of-three Caroline Moreland, who the IRA shot dead in 1994, claiming was an informer.

Independent

Her daughter, Shauna, welcomed the PSNI's move, but said the families wanted assurances that the investigating team will not report to the chief constable.

"This is an important first step, but we don't have any details about who exactly will carry out this investigation, or if they will report to the PSNI," she said.

"We don't think the PSNI should have any role."

Liam Diver, the families' legal representative, said: "We don't know the actual structure of the investigation team they are going to put in place, and the oversight of that team.

"If there is to be an element of involvement from the PSNI in an oversight role, we would not see that as wholly independent."

Questions remain over who will pay for the investigation if the PSNI requires additional funding.

The chief constable has had talks with the Department of Justice and the Northern Ireland Office, but so far neither has given a commitment to foot the bill.

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