The man alleged to have been the British Army’s most high-ranking agent in the Provisional IRA has been arrested and is being questioned about allegations that he murdered dozens of people while working undercover in the IRA’s feared internal security unit.
The agent known as Stakeknife has been named as Freddie Scappaticci from west Belfast. The BBC reported that he was arrested in England but said the investigation team would not release details of the arrest nor where he is being held “due to security reasons.”
In 1993, Mr Scappaticci was allegedly recorded providing details on the late Martin McGuinness and the IRA to investigative journalist Roger Cook, after a ‘Cook Report’ documentary on Mr McGuinness was broadcas.
The tapes covertly recorded by Mr Cook were passed ten years later to the Panorama documentary team. Mr Scappaticci was subsequently accused of being ‘Stakeknife’, and receiving a six figure sum every year by the British government while serving as head of the IRA’s so-called ‘nutting squad’. The unit has been linked to more than 40 killings, many of which are now feared to have been carried out at the behest of Stakeknife’s MI5 handlers.
Scappaticci subsequently left Ireland but always denied that he was an IRA informer. He is said to have appeared briefly at his 98-year-old father’s funeral in west Belfast last year.
Operation Kenova, a police investigation, was launched in 2016 after victims demanded to know the truth of his alleged activities. A statement by Operation Kenova claimed it had spoken to more than 40 families and generated 1,500 lines of enquiry. The investigation into Scappaticci is expected to take several more years before the case comes to trial, if at all.
The 72-year-old’s arrest comes 24 hours after the sentencing of notorious loyalist ‘supergrass’ Gary Haggarty for several murders in another highly controversial case of collusion. It ended in shock for victims and relatives as the double agent received a sentence which will likely see him released within weeks. There was a sense of cover-up following the sentencing, which was exacerbated by the decision in October that no prosecutions would be brought against his handlers in RUC police Special Branch.
In another development today, a large number of disparate groups of victims of the conflict announced plans for a mass march to demand action on stalled efforts to deal with the legacy of the conflict. The march will take place under the banner “Time for Truth” in Belfast on February 25.
Announcing the march, Emma Rogan, whose father Adrian was shot dead in the UVF Loughinisland massacre in County Down in 1994, said the truth cost nothing.
“I am calling on everyone to come out, put your feet on the streets and march with us,” she said. “Solidarity, everybody together sending a strong clear message that we deserve and we need the truth. It’s human decency that people would get the truth and know what happened to their loved ones and know why.”
A full report on each of these developments will be carried in our weekend edition.