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Flanagan challenged on killer's 'agent payment'

(Barry McCaffrey, Irish News)

Former chief constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan was last night (Thursday) challenged to publicly state if he knew that convicted mass murderer Torrens Knight was a Special Branch agent.

SDLP assembly member John Dallat was responding to claims that Knight – who was sentenced to life imprisonment for 12 UDA murders at Castlerock and Greysteel in Co Derry in 1993 – received £50,000 a year through a bogus Special Branch bank account following his release in 2000.

It is claimed staff at the bank became suspicious when the notorious killer withdrew two sums of cash in 2000, claiming to be working for an engineering firm in Scotland.

Officials are believed to have voiced concerns to police but were informed there was nothing unusual about the transaction.

However, it understood the bogus account was closed soon after the concerns were raised.

Mr Dallat last night called on Sir Ronnie to publicly reveal if he knew Knight was being paid as a Special Branch agent.

"As chief constable at the time it is inconceivable that Mr Flanagan could not have known that one of the Troubles' most notorious mass murderers was receiving thousands of pounds from Special Branch," he said.

Mr Dallat further called on Sir Ronnie to state if he was aware of allegations that Special Branch officers removed weapons from a mill at Aghadowey, Co Derry, in mid-1993 after their location was reported to police by anglers.

It is alleged that the weapons, which are believed to have been used in the Greysteel massacre later that year, were removed to protect Knight's identity.

"Sir Ronnie became head of Special Branch in 1994 shortly after the Greysteel massacre," said Mr Dallat.

"Did he have knowledge of the allegations that one of the weapons used in the murders had been protected by Special Branch?

"If so, what actions did he take against these officers?"

Mr Dallat will now ask the Policing Board to investigate the allegations about payments.

"I will be asking for an investigation into this matter and demanding to know if the money Knight received is going to be recovered," he said.

"This is a very serious matter which demands proper answers from all those involved."

A spokeswoman for Sir Ronnie declined to comment on Mr Dallat's concerns when contacted by The Irish News yesterday.

Sinn Féin councillor Billy Leonard also said Knight's alleged activities as a Special Branch agent now needed to be investigated.

"There are many more questions to be asked about not only Knight but also his accomplices and their police handlers," he said.

"There are other key figures that have roamed free but played key roles in directing loyalist killer activities."

Mr Leonard highlighted the killings of Sinn Féin workers Thomas Donaghy and Danny Cassidy at Kilrea in 1991/1992, when Knight was working in the village.

"Sinn Féin has always asked how Torrens Knight gained employment in the Kilrea area, through which he worked in the homes of many nationalists and republicans and in the chapel and the graveyard which was vandalised around that period," he said.

"Many republicans in the east Derry and north Antrim area are very aware of key loyalist figures, important incidents and the whole spectre of collusion in the area.

"Relationships of notorious loyalist paramilitaries with policemen, evidence that was taken from a home after the Greysteel murders but which did not lead to any action, are all known to republicans."

February 18, 2006

This article appeared first in the February 17, 2006 edition of the Irish News.

This article appears thanks to the Irish News. Subscribe to the Irish News