Finucane murder report hit by new delay

Agency report

The publication of the report into the murder of Belfast attorney Pat Finucane has been delayed for a second time.

Mr Finucane, a high-profile Catholic solicitor, was shot dead by the loyalist paramilitary Ulster Defence Association in front of his family at his home in 1989. Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens said towards the end of October that he hoped the report would be finalised and delivered before the spring.

A report in the Observer newspaper in mid-October suggested that Stevens will blame two Special Branch officers in Northern Ireland for deliberately failing to stop the murder of Mr. Finucane.

It is also expected that brigadier Gordon Kerr, currently Britain’s military attache in Beijing, will come in for heavy criticism for failing to co-operate with the investigation for two years.

Brigadier Kerr ran the Force Research Unit (FRU), which had recruited Brian Nelson, a UDA double agent, who provided intelligence on Pat Finucane.

The Observer report suggested that Tony Blair had already informed the Irish government about the ‘broad outline’ of the Stevens report during talks between the prime minister and Irish taoiseach Bertie Ahern at Downing Street earlier in October.

Apart from concern at yet another delay in the publication of the report, there is widespread concern that it will not recommend that the Special Branch officers or British soldiers involved with the UDA in west and north Belfast be charged with criminal offences.

It is understood the report will be presented to the Director of Public Prosecutions in Northern Ireland. It could take up to six months for the DPP to decide if the officers and soldiers should be charged in connection to the Finucane murder.

The Stevens Inquiry was to have been completed in the summer but was initially postponed until the beginning of November.

Sir John Stevens said: “It is important that these matters are pursued and I’m determined that this report will be absolutely thorough. It would be wrong to deliver the findings of this lengthy and complex investigation prematurely.”

It is understood a former army intelligence officer once based in Northern Ireland has yet to be interviewed by the Stevens team.

Since 1989, Sir John Stevens, who is now commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, has been investigating the allegation that elements within military intelligence and the old RUC Special Branch were colluding with loyalist assassination squads. Only one person has faced charges in connection with Mr Finucane’s murder, but the case against William Stobie was dismissed last November through lack of evidence.

Stobie, a self-confessed former Ulster Defence Association (UDA) quartermaster, was murdered by loyalists outside his home in the Glencairn area of Belfast a month later. The Red Hand Defenders, a cover name used in the past by the UDA/UFF and the Loyalist Volunteer Force, admitted the killing.

The Finucane’s family is continuuing its campaign for an independent public inquiry into the solicitor’s killing. It has been highly critical of the British government’s decision to appoint an international judge to decide if such an inquiry into this and a number of other controversial cases is justified which they believe will only slow down the process of finding out what really happened. (IAIS)

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This document was last modified by David Granville on 2002-12-28 16:25:58.
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