(by Ed Moloney, Sunday Tribune)
The senior English police officer John Stevens, who is currently re-investigating the murder ten years ago of Belfast lawyer Pat Finucane, told a senior group of British lawyers five years ago that he knew "beyond a shadow of doubt" who was responsible for killing the defence solicitor.
His admission raises serious questions about the motives behind the serving of a court order on the Sunday Tribune demanding that material dealing with the Finucane murder should be handed over to police in order to assist their investigations. Failure to comply with the order could result in a fine or imprisonment.
The admission is published in a report compiled for the Law Society of England and Wales in 1995. Despite this apparent acknowledgement that he already knows the names of the UDA gunmen who shot Finucane in 1989, detectives working for John Stevens are pursuing the Sunday Tribune in the Northern courts to obtain notes of interviews with a former Loyalist paramilitary charged with Finucane's murder.
The detectives working for Stevens, who was recently named as the next Commissioner of the London Metropolitan police, maintain they need the notes to help identify those responsible for killing Pat Finucane.
However if Stevens' remarks to the England and Wales Law Society are accurately reported it would appear that since the names of the killers are already well known to the Stevens team then the legal pursuit of the Sunday Tribune may be an entirely unnecessary and possibly spurious exercise.
The Sunday Tribune is currently attempting by way of judicial review to overthrow the court order which demands the surrender of notes of conversations with William Stobie, a former UDA quarter-master who has admitted supplying the Finucane murder weapon but who also claims he was an RUC Special Branch agent who tipped off his handlers about the UDA operation which led to Finucane's death.
The authors of the Law Society report, who were led by the well known solicitor Geoffrey Bindman, were on vacation last week and could not be contacted. John Stevens, then Chief Constable of Northumbria, is listed as one of ten prominent individuals and organisations interviewed by the group during their investigation in June 1995.
The inquiry, which was into the operation of emergency law in the post-ceasefire situation, devoted one of four chapters to the murder of Pat Finucane. The report recommended a judicial enquiry with full sub poena powers to be "established urgently" with terms of reference that included allegations of security force collusion.
On Stevens admission, the report noted that while he had previously investigated aspects of the Finucane killing without success, "This does not mean that there are no suspects. On the contrary we believe the police have, at the very least, strong suspicions as to the identity of the killers. John Stevens told us he knew 'beyond a shadow of doubt' who was responsible for the murder."
Meanwhile it has emerged that the British Security Service, MI5 was almost certainly intimately involved in the events which led up to the killing of Pat Finucane. According to sources with a close knowledge of the workings of British intelligence, MI5 - known as Box 500 in the trade - had a representative permanently stationed in the office of a secret British Army unit which is now accused of colluding in the murder of Finucane.
The military unit, known as Force Research Unit (FRU), ran a secret agent in the UDA, Brian Nelson, the organisation's intelligence chief who supplied the UDA gunmen with a photograph, the address and details of the movements of Pat Finucane. He is also reported to have kept his FRU handlers fully informed of the UDA plans, an aspect of the case which has fuelled suspicions that at the very least the security forces allowed the murder to go ahead or at the very worst actually encouraged it.
According to the sources, MI5 "are privileged to all information and are instrumental in the decisions that are taken especially when contemplating the strategies of exploitation. A copy of all paper work is lodged with MI5 and in the real world they would have an input into the direction taken (by FRU)."
Details of FRU's work are routinely passed along to the very highest levels of the British government up to and including the present British prime minister Tony Blair. Every week the FRU submits a report of its activities to the Joint Intelligence Committee which reports directly to Ten Downing Street.
During the period when Brian Nelson worked as an FRU agent and Pat Finucane was killed, the British politician who showed the keenest interest in FRU's activities was the then prime minister Margaret Thatcher. Described as "an intelligence animal" by those who saw her in action in those days, Thatcher was a frequent visitor to Army headquarters in Northern Ireland and soaked up intelligence matters "like a sponge".
"If Margaret Thatcher was sitting down at HQNI and asked questions she would get all the answers she wanted. There were times when she would even ask the identities of sources and even though it was against the rules she would be told. That's how interested she was", said the source.