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Knight allegations highly disturbing

(Editorial, Irish News)

The growing allegations over the links between the former RUC Special Branch and the convicted UDA mass murderer Torrens Knight are profoundly disturbing at every level.

Nuala O'Loan, the police ombudsman, is already investigating detailed claims that Knight was being protected as a Special Branch informer when he played a central role in two major sectarian atrocities in 1993.

It has now been strongly suggested that, when Knight gained early release from prison after his conviction on 12 murder charges, police officers arranged for him to be paid £50,000 per year through a bogus bank account.

The PSNI has so far declined to comment specifically on the case, saying only that any evidence of wrongdoing on the part of an individual officer should be forwarded to the ombudsman's office.

However, a preliminary statement, addressing at least some of the key issues, would be fully justified in the circumstances.

The SDLP assembly member John Dallat has gone public on his documented belief that police should have monitored the movements of Knight more closely before he became involved in the murder of four workmen at Castlerock, Co Derry, in March 1993.

Although Mr Dallat was assured after the Castlerock massacre that the notorious loyalist and his associates were facing arrest, the same gang were able to carry out the slaughter of a further eight people in a bar at Greysteel, Co Derry, in October 1993.

Knight was subsequently jailed for life but released early under Good Friday Agreement in July 2000. It was at this stage that he allegedly began to benefit from the bogus account, which was said to have been closed after the bank in question expressed concern.

These are matters of the utmost gravity and the relationship between Knight and the Special Branch, both in 1993 and 2000, requires urgent clarification.

February 20, 2006

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

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