A number of Catholic families whose loved ones were murdered in the 1990s have asked the Police Ombudmsman’s office to investigate the role of self-confessed RUC/PSNI Special Branch agent Stephen ‘Inch’ McFerran in some twenty killings.
The 39-year-old member of the unionist paramilitary UDA was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment in February after pleading guilty to the manslaughter of fellow UDA man Roy Green in January 2003.
It was revealed during McFerran’s trial that he had been a Special Branch informer.
His guilty plea ensured that did not emerge at the trial was that McFerran had previously been implicated in a series of UDA atrocities in south Belfast, including the notorious murder of five Catholic men at Sean Graham’s bookmakers in February 1992.
The families of three murder victims -- Teresa Clinton, Peter Magee and John O’Hara -- now want Mrs O’Loan to investigate allegations that McFerran was one of a number of sectarian killers protected by Special Branch at that time.
Despite intensive efforts at a cover-up, more and more information about the past activities of the Special Branch and their collusion with paramilitary death squads has emerged over the years. Evidence is mounting that, in some areas, the majority of unionist paramilitary killings were approved or directed by police ‘handlers’, some of whom are still serving in the PSNI today.
A spokesman for Mrs O’Loan has confirmed that she is considering an investigation into what he described as “very serious allegations”.
South Belfast MP Alasdair McDonnell said the allegation that McFerran had been involved in multiple murders while working as a Special Branch agent took the “sorry saga of collusion to new depths”.
“The massacre at the bookmaker’s is etched in all our memories forever and now we learn that this man was involved in more than 20 murders over a 13-year period,” he said.
“It is clearly a case where the police ombudsman should investigate the role of Special Branch and particularly the question of whether they did anything to in-hibit and prevent his arrest and prosecution.
“The bottom line is that we need to know whether they could have prevented any of these murders.
“The full truth must come out for the sake of all his victims and ultimately for all our sakes.”
Sinn Féin assembly member Alex Maskey said McFerran’s role must be fully investigated.
“The UDA in south Belfast in the late 1980s and early 1990s were responsible for scores of murders,” he said.
“For many years ‘Inch’ McFerran has been named as a leading suspect in many of these.
“It has been widely believed for many years before the recent revelations in court that McFerran was a highly placed Special Branch agent.”
Mr Maskey said Mrs O’Loan must investigate claims that the fingerprints of at least one Special Branch officer had been found on guns used in UDA members.