Category Archives: MI5

Agents given “free reign to murder”

Journalist Stephen Breen reports on ex-RUC officer Laurence Templeton coming forward to support allegations of collusion between Special Branch and paramilitary informers in today’s Sunday Life:

This is the ex-RUC man who last night claimed Special Branch officers ignored the murderous exploits of their agents – to gain favour and promotion.

Former officer Laurence Templeton – who received praise from Sir Hugh Orde for his “exemplary” service over three decades – broke his silence to allege that a small minority of officers brought shame to the force by allowing terrorist killers a free reign.

The 50-year-old – whose career included three years in Special Branch – spoke exclusively to Sunday Life in a bid to help the relatives of loved ones murdered by loyalist and republican informers.

In an explosive interview, the ex-officer claimed that:

  • Special Branch officers competed against each other to see who ran the best agent;
  • Some officers were “seduced” by power;
  • High-level informants were known as the “protected species”, and;
  • Policemen were sacrificed to protect republican spies.

Said the ex-cop: “The vast majority of handlers ran their agents both professionally and morally – but there were officers who were only concerned about which agent was perceived as the best.

“Their careers were more important to them than arresting people for murder. Promotion was paramount.

“They sat on intelligence about certain murders in order to move up the ladder – they were seduced by power. As a result of my experience in the force and of what I have seen and heard, I have no doubt there were officers who were complicit in murder.

“There is a tendency for this society to bury its head in the sand and pretend it never happened – but I, along with many other officers, know that it did happen. I was fully aware of a mass of intelligence on a wide range of individuals but couldn’t understand why this information was never acted upon.

“I also firmly believe that decent policemen were allowed to die to protect certain informants.”

He added: “The public are not shocked at terrorists killing people, but they should be appalled when the state colludes with those very same people.

“If police officers had been told during their training they would only be investigating certain murders then I’m sure, like me, they would’ve walked out. I personally would like to know why certain murders were not selected for investigation and who made these decisions.

“It’s only when those questions are answered will we get to a clear picture of who was actually running things in Northern Ireland at that time.

“Senior officers in Special Branch and CID, in my opinion, became nodding dogs and lost touch with the reality of day to day policing. These people were controlled by top police and MI5.

“I personally knew of one senior officer who knew he wouldn’t get a result over the McCord murder because Haddock was untouchable. I believe, in the end, it was Haddock who was actually running his handlers.”

The former police officer also believes that Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan’s investigation into the murder of Raymond McCord Jnr could have gone further, adding: “I believe it could have been even stronger.

“But I was appalled by the significant number of high-ranking ex-officers who refused to assist O’Loan even as witnesses.

“I am not tarnishing all officers and I can’t understand how certain people are still in denial about what went on. I realise it may be difficult for some people to come forward at this stage of their lives, but it’s never too late.

“The real heroes of the conflict are the vast majority of officers who helped save people’s lives on a daily basis and those who continue to serve, both uniform and CID.”

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Filed under belfast, collusion, human rights, ireland, MI5, Nuala O'Loan, policing, Raymond McCord, RUC, Special Branch

Shoot to kill inquiry to be reopened

From the 20 July article by Owen Bowcott in the Guardian:

One of the most controversial inquiries of the Troubles, involving claims that police officers in Northern Ireland secretly adopted a “shoot to kill” policy, has been reopened, the Guardian has learned.

The allegations that republican terrorist suspects were deliberately killed rather than being arrested led to an investigation by John Stalker, then deputy chief constable of Manchester, in the mid 1980s. But his report was never published, and there was political uproar after he was removed from his post just at the point where he believed he was about to obtain an MI5 tape of one of the shootings.

Now the files he compiled are being re-examined by the police ombudsman for Northern Ireland, who will decide whether to launch a new investigation. In an interview with the Guardian, Nuala O’Loan revealed that she had been asked by the government to see whether there are legal grounds to reopen the inquiry, focusing on the killing in 1982 of Gervaise McKerr.

McKerr was shot dead alongside two other unarmed IRA men – Sean Burns and Eugene Toman – by Royal Ulster Constabulary officers following a chase through a checkpoint near Lurgan in 1982. Their car was riddled with 109 bullets.

The British government has always denied the security forces had a shoot to kill policy, and has resisted repeated calls from families to look again at what happened.

Three years ago, the House of Lords blocked an attempt to order a fresh investigation. But pressure to look into the matter has come from the Council of Europe, which has requested that the UK rectify previous investigative failures.

Any new investigation could focus on whether there was an explicit shoot to kill policy, and whether there was any attempt to tamper with evidence before Mr Stalker mounted his inquiry.

It would also provide encouragement to families who have been seeking compensation for what they have alleged were unlawful killings.

The government has referred the issue back to Mrs O’Loan. It has told the Council of Europe that the McKerr case “is now a matter for the police ombudsman who is responsible for investigating deaths as a result of actions of police officers. She will identify possible further evidentiary opportunities and will look into the original police investigation … the ombudsman has given an assurance to expedite the case as best she can”. There is no time limit on inquiries into the past.

Any reinvestigation would be complex because three police officers were acquitted of the killings more than 20 years ago. But at her office in Belfast, Mrs O’Loan confirmed the files were now with her. “The government has asked us to look at McKerr. It’s quite complex whether we have the legal power to investigate or not. Police officers were charged with murder and acquitted.

“The law says you can’t reinvestigate if there’s been a previous hearing. But it may be there are other issues that need to be investigated.”

Mrs O’Loan is not yet sure whether she will have the resources or legal authority to do so. But she recognises that the inquiry might finally put to rest one of the most poisonous controversies of the Troubles.

The series of alleged shoot to kill incidents in question all involved RUC headquarters mobile support units in Co Armagh during November and December 1982. The first resulted in the deaths of McKerr, Burns and Toman; the second led to the death of Michael Tighe, shot on a farm near an IRA arms cache; and the third involved the killing of two INLA members, Seamus Grew and Roddy Carroll, at another checkpoint.

Mr Stalker was brought in to investigate the shootings. He was removed from the inquiry shortly before it was due to report in 1986 – taken off the case at the moment he believed he was about to obtain an MI5 tape of one of the shootings.

He was suspended over allegations of associating with criminals in Manchester, but was later cleared. The move generated public suspicion about the motives for his departure and a political furore in parliament. His report has never been published.

Jane Winter, of British Irish Rights Watch, who has been closely involved with the case, said: “We welcome the fact that the ombudsman is looking at the police misconduct allegation, but we think the McKerr family should have got a proper international judicial inquiry. She cannot reinvestigate the murders from the top down or whether politicians sanctioned this operation.”

The McKerr family has pursued legal actions through the European courts, claiming that Gervaise was deprived of his life intentionally in breach of his human rights.

In his book, Stalker, published in 1988, the former deputy chief constable revealed that when he examined the McKerr car 21 months after the shooting, he found fragments of a bullet still embedded in the vehicle, suggesting vital evidence had been ignored. Cartridge cases, he alleged, had also disappeared from the scene.

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