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British official main witness against RUC informer

(by Ed Moloney, Sunday Tribune)

The North's legal authorities were forced nine years ago to abandon the trial on arms charges of a UDA quarter-master when he threatened to publicly reveal that he had twice informed the RUC of Loyalist plans to assassinate the Belfast criminal lawyer Pat Finucane.

Billy Stobie (48), a former soldier in the Ulster Defence Regiment was arrested by members of the English police team led by John Stevens and appeared in court last week charged with the Finucane murder. Stobie revealed in court that he had been working as an agent for the RUC Special Branch at the time of the Finucane killing in February 1989.

The principal evidence against him has come from a British official in the Northern Ireland Office. Neil Mulholland a press office in the NIO's information department has given the Stevens team a 28 page statement implicating Stobie as the man who supplied the weapons used to kill Finucane. Mulholland has agreed to give testimony against Stobie when the case comes to trial.

Mulholland learned of Stobie's role while working as a reporter for a Belfast newspaper in 1990. It is understood that at that time he gave the RUC the same information now in the hands of the Stevens team but the RUC chose to take no action.

This reporter has also been fully aware of the Billy Stobie story since late 1990 but under the terms of an agreement with the former Special Branch informer agreed never to publish the details without his permission. Last week, from his interrogation room in Gough RUC barracks, Armagh, Stobie gave the Sunday Tribune written permission to tell the full story.

Stobie's allegations are:

Neither the DPP's office nor the NIO would make any comment, saying the case was sub judice. Mulholland failed to return phone calls.

Frightened informer claimed RUC forced his silence