The case against a former chef sought in connection with a break-in at a top British Crown force base in the North of Ireland collapsed today after seven years when prosecutors said he could not receive a fair trial.
The Crown Prosecution Service announced that American Larry Zaitschek could no longer be prosecuted because of the “emergence” of secret “new evidence” concerning the 2002 break-in at the top security Castlereagh base in east Belfast.
Mr Zaitschek worked in the base’s canteen at the time of the dramatic ‘Castlereagh-gate’ events, which severely undermined the peace process during a difficult time.
Three intruders -- one said to have an English accent and displaying military training -- were reported to have simply walked into the high-security base and escaped with top secret files containing accounts of Crown force collusion with unionist paramilitaries.
The then RUC police chief Ronnie Flanagan originally described the raid as an “inside job” before accusing the Provisional IRA.
In the aftermath of the Castlereagh break-in, Mr Zaitschek returned to the US but quickly became an international scapegoat when it emerged that he had known senior Sinn Féin figure Denis Donaldson.
Events took another twist when Donaldson was later exposed as a British agent.
The circumstances of the Castlereagh raid went to the heart of Britain’s ‘Dirty War’.
However, the man who became known as “Larry the Chef” endured years of harassment in the period that followed, with repeated British threats to extradite him.
His estranged wife was inducted into a witness protection programme in the North and Mr Zaitschek was kept apart from their young son, Pearse.
A statement issued today by the PSNI police claimed it had properly pursued an investigation.
“Recently, other material, which did not originate from the PSNI or the security and intelligence agencies, was drawn to the attention of the PSNI.
“This was relevant to the facts at issue and the PSNI agreed was such that its disclosure would be necessary in order for Mr Zaitschek to receive a fair trial.
“Despite the efforts of the PSNI, we are not in a position to make available all the relevant material to [prosecutors] for the purposes of disclosure.”
Zaitschek, who lives in New York, has said he believes he was set up by Denis Donaldson and PSNI Special Branch detectives.
He also said that he never understood why his casual acquaintance with Donaldson was exposed in the media.
But his primary concern always rested with his son, now aged ten.
“He is being used as a political pawn by people whose credibility is both non-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.”