'UDA collusion' masterspy in top Iraq role
Promotion for Scottish brigadier in Ulster murder probe rules out threat of prosecution
BRIGADIER Gordon Kerr, the Scottish military intelligence officer facing prosecution for allegedly colluding with loyalist paramilitaries in the murders of Catholics in Ulster, has been sent to the Gulf to head up British spying activities in the Middle East as part of preparations for action in Iraq.
The posting places Kerr, an Aberdonian army officer who began his career in the Gordon Highlanders, far beyond the reach of either Scotland Yard or the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). The move has been described as a "get out of jail free card" for Kerr.
The families of victims murdered through security force collusion with loyalist terror gangs have savaged the decision to relocate Kerr to the Gulf, saying that it proves he is protected by the state and will never face prosecution.
The move follows a decision on February 13 by Sir John Stevens, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, to forward papers on Kerr and some 20 other members of the security forces who served in Northern Ireland to the DPP. The DPP will make a decision on whether or not to seek prosecutions against Kerr and the other security force personnel.
For more than two years, the Sunday Herald has been investigating the role of Kerr in the "dirty war" in Northern Ireland. Kerr was the commanding officer of the Force Research Unit (FRU), an ultra-secret arm of the British Army's Intelligence Corps which ran some of the most highly placed agents within the IRA and loyalist paramilitary organisations.
The Sunday Herald investigations revealed how Kerr and the FRU used some agents as "proxy assassins" for the British state. Military handlers would pass information and documents - such as photographs and address details - on Sinn Fein activists, republican sympathisers, IRA men and sometimes ordinary Catholics, to agents inside the UDA. This information would then be handed on to UDA murder squads who would use it to plan assassinations.
Among those who died as a result of the alleged collusion was the acclaimed Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane who was gunned down by loyalist killers in front of his wife and children in 1989. Scotland Yard Commissioner Sir John Stevens has been investigating the Finucane murder and the activities of the FRU for more than a decade.
Pat Finucane's son Michael, who is a Dublin solicitor, said: "This latest development shows clearly that the government not only supports Kerr but will protect him should he need protection from possible prosecution.
"I have no confidence in Sir John Stevens's investigation ever producing a successful prosecution, certainly not against an army brigadier.
"The circumstances surrounding the murder of my father clearly show British army and British government collusion in the murder. It is clear that this policy of collusion continues even to this day, except that instead of colluding with loyalists, the army and the government are colluding with each other to ensure that the matter stays covered up."
Until recently Kerr was British military attache to Beijing - one of the most senior diplomatic roles that a serving soldier can fill. Kerr was questioned by the Stevens team earlier this year on his return from China. He then took two weeks' leave before his posting to the Gulf.
A senior military source told the Sunday Herald: "This posting makes Kerr untouchable. He is not going to be dragged away from essential war work in an operational theatre to talk to the police or prosecutors. Kerr has landed on his feet with this posting.
"It shows that the whole Stevens inquiry is nothing but a whitewash. He is never going to end up in a court of law. This posting keeps him safe and protects those in the army who are above him - and those politicians who were in power when the FRU was carrying on these activities in Ulster - from ever having to answer nasty questions that might arise through him being arrested or charged."
Other senior Ministry of Defence sources said that "it seemed increasingly unlikely that there would ever be a successful prosecution stemming from the Stevens inquiry". Kerr is the most senior serving officer in the Intelligence Corps and has been rewarded with both an OBE and the Queen's Gallantry Medal for his services to the Army.
The MoD's chief spokesman said: "As far as I'm concerned Brigadier Kerr is a senior serving officer and he will be deployed as we see fit. This will be the case until there are charges or arrests.
"We cannot release information on his posting and location due to the background of the work that Brigadier Kerr was involved in. I'd find it very unfair if the Sunday Herald said that we were keeping him out of trouble or away from the investigation.
"We do not see how his current posting is relevant to the Stevens inquiry. It would only be relevant if the police had said that Brigadier Kerr should remain in the country. That wasn't said."
Intelligence sources who know Kerr said: "It seems bizarre that he has been chosen for this role. He isn't an expert in Arab matters at all. It seems a very convenient way of getting him offside at a crucial time."
Kerr will also be involved in any post-war "de-Saddamisation" of Iraq, sources said. This would involve the prosecution of key members of the regime for crimes against humanity. "Wouldn't it be ironic if Kerr was in charge of gathering the information for the prosecution of war crimes?" a source added.