Irish Republican News · December 22, 2005
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Chef fears Donaldson link in ‘scapegoat’ bid

An American chef linked to an alleged “break-in” at the PSNI police headquarters in Belfast has said it is very possible he has been set up by British agent Denis Donaldson and PSNI Special Branch detectives.

Larry Zaitschek, who worked at the Castlereagh police complex, denies any involvement in the 2002 incident in which classified documents were removed from an office at the heart of the base in controversial and unexplained circumstances.

While British insiders were initially suspected, the PSNI subsequently blamed the Provisional IRA .

Zaitschek, who described himself as a scapegoat, has been repeatedly cited in press reports as having been involved in the incident.

Now he believes his acquaintance with British agent Denis Donaldson could have been his downfall.

“I have not spoken to Denis Donaldson in many years - and even then I only knew him for a brief period of time,” he said.

“Personally, I liked him very much, but really have no feelings at this time about what has happened to him recently. It’s irrelevant to me.”

Zaitschek, who has lived in New York since returning to the US three days after the Castlereagh incident, said that he never understood why his casual acquaintance with Donaldson was initially exposed in the media, “and I still don’t understand it today in 2005”.

The former Castlereagh chef said that one unseen victim in the whole break-in saga has been his seven-year-old son Pearse, whom he hasn’t seen since Zaitschek’s estranged wife entered a police witness protection programme in the summer of 2002.

“He is being used as a political pawn by people whose credibility is both none- existent and laughable,” said Zaitschek.

“I wonder why the life and development of my beautiful young son, and the denial of his human right to family life, is not a bigger consideration to the general media than these bogus claims that have been made against me - claims that four years on now remain totally unsubstantiated.”

Zaitschek has said that he met Denis Donaldson originally in the US, and socially on a few occasions in Belfast. He said that when he and the Irishwoman he was seeing decided to get married, he sent Donaldson a wedding invitation. Donaldson never replied.

“He didn’t go to the wedding. He didn’t even respond to the invitation. That was the end of it,” said Zaitschek.

At no point after he took the Castlereagh job did he ever see or have contact with Denis Donaldson.

Media reports had greatly exaggerated his knowledge of Donaldson, and even claimed that he’d called several top IRA members as he drove to Dublin to fly home to the US.

“There’s not even an ounce of truth in any of that,” he said.

Zaitschek said that, contrary to press reports at the time, he didn’t flee the North in a panic, but had a pre-paid airplane ticket. He said he’d informed his Castlereagh employers a month beforehand that he was moving back to the US, and that “there were even nights out drinking, everyone saying goodbye to me. I was moving back to America. It’s not exactly something you do on a whim.”

He said during the two days after the break-in, he was interviewed twice by police in Belfast, “and with a handshake and almost a hug, I was told: ‘We’re done with you in our inquiries. Good luck in America. Thanks for all your great food.’

There is a growing theory that Donaldson and Special Branch set him up as a fall-guy.

Zaitschek said: “Denis didn’t know I was working in (Castlereagh) unless Special Branch told him I was working in there. “But I didn’t do the break-in. So it’s very possible that members of the security services did it, and then they did set me up. But I had nothing to do with it, and I don’t know who did.

“I only know that I’ve been framed by it and my life has been turned upside down as a result of it.”

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© 2005 Irish Republican News