Members of the unionist paramilitary UVF who shot double-agent Mark Haddock last week may themselves have been working for the murderous Special Branch division of the PSNI police, according to reports.
The 36-year-old former UVF leader is still fighting for life in Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital after being shot six times in the body in Newtownabbey on the outskirts of north Belfast.
Despite serious injuries he stumbled to a nearby house where he asked for an ambulance to be called.
The top Special Branch informer, who has been linked to over 20 killings, had been lured to a meeting with his former associates.
At least one of the gunmen is himself believed to be a ‘tout’, working to a sinister agenda set by the Special Branch.
A series of informers with key knowledge of collusion and state killings in the North of Ireland have died in controversial circumtances in recent years. If he lives, Haddock will be the first to survive such an attack.
Haddock had been living under a UVF death threat from November 2005 when it was declared that he had been an informer for 16 years.
He was the UVF leader in Mount Vernon in north Belfast. Up to a dozen murders by the unit between 1993 and 2000 are currently the focus of a major Police Ombudsman investigation into allegations of RUC collusion. It is understood to be one of the most serious cases of collusion ever uncovered during the conflict.
Gareth McCord, whose brother Raymond was murdered by Haddock’s UVF unit in August 1997, said he had no doubt Haddock had been shot by his former associates.
“He had no friends in the UVF once he was exposed as an informer,” he said.
“If he dies he will take the secrets of his Special Branch involvement to the grave.
“We would have preferred to have seen him convicted in a court of law and sent to jail for life. Now it may never be known how many innocent people were allowed to die at his hands.”
Former RUC detective Johnston Brown, who first recruited Haddock as a police agent when he was a teenager, said he had no doubt that the loyalist would have known the gunmen.
“It is inconceivable that this man would have gone to a meeting with someone he did not know and trust,” he said.
“Haddock knew the risks. He had done exactly the same to one of his associates [Thomas Sheppard].
“They lured him to a bar and then Haddock and an accomplice walked in and shot him dead. He boasted about it later.”
However, Mr Brown said that corrupt elements within Special Branch would be the biggest beneficiaries if Haddock died.
“They wanted Haddock out of the way.
“He had become too much of an embarrassment and was drawing too much attention on to the activities of his handlers.
“This type of shooting, getting rid of an informer, is often described as using a rat to kill a rat.
“You may not even know who is actually going to kill him but you don’t go out of your way to stop it happening. That way the problem is dealt with without them having to get their hands dirty.
“Look at all the guys who have been exposed as informers and have ended up dead in recent years - Brian Nelson, Billy Stobie, Jim Craig, Denis Donaldson - and now Haddock is fighting for his life.”