Freddie Scappaticci, the high-ranking IRA informer known as Steak-Knife or Stakeknife, died in England earlier this month, it has been reported.
Scappaticci had been living under Crown protection since he fled Belfast in 2003, when he was outed as a double agent.
He has been described as the ‘jewel in the crown’ of British military intelligence, providing information to Britain on the IRA from 1978. The former British Army commander in the North of Ireland, General John Wilsey, called him their “golden egg”.
The funeral of the 77-year-old, who was originally from the Market area of Belfast, is understood to have taken place in secret last week.
Scappaticci was the former head of the Provisional IRA’s Internal Security Unit (ISU), which was tasked with investigating and interrogating informers. He used his position to carry out killings in collusion with his handlers in MI5 and RUC Special Branch, targeting genuine republicans who he falsely identified as informers. Others, including innocent civilians, were killed to provide cover for his activities.
It was only in 2003 Scappaticci came under suspicion as an informer after it emerged he had taken part in a revealing ITV documentary ten years earlier called ‘The Cook Report’.
Despite conducting press interviews and receiving some support from within Sinn Fein, he was forced to flee Belfast. It is believed he then entered a British state protection programme and it was rumoured he had received cosmetic surgery to conceal his identity.
He was also supposedly the subject of a seven-year investigation by an English police unit known as ‘Operation Kenova’, which has so far failed to produce a report.
His death will assist in the continuing cover-up of one of the murkiest chapters of the conflict. The timing of the release of the news has also raised suspicions it was timed to coincide with the wave of coverage of the visit to Ireland of US President Joe Biden.
The death of ‘Scap’ also follows the unheralded death in February of another of the highest British informers in the Provisional movement, Willie Carlin, who was tasked with monitoring the actions of Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness.
The convenient death of Scappaticci before he could provide information on his actions is certain to cause outrage among the families of his victims. It will also raise fresh questions over the machinations of the British state to maintain their cover-up of the ‘Dirty War’ in the north of Ireland.