- The Guardian, Friday 14 February 2003 01.26 GMT http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2003/feb/14/military.northernireland
Metropolitan police commissioner Sir John Stevens, the man in charge of the huge inquiry into the murder of the Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, said his team was preparing papers for the director of public prosecutions on Brigadier Gordon Kerr and several other former and current police and soldiers, whom he did not name. There is a possibility the brigadier could be accused of conspiracy to murder.
Brig Kerr, now the military attache in Beijing, was head of the army's secret Northern Ireland intelligence wing, the Force Research Unit (FRU), when the Ulster Defence Association shot dead the solicitor in front of his family at their north Belfast home on February 12 1989.
There have been persistent allegations of both army and RUC special branch collusion with paramilitaries in the Finucane case, and Sir John carried out two previous investigations before launching his latest inquiry in April 1999.
In Belfast yesterday, Sir John refused to disclose any further details of the papers regarding Brig Kerr, whom his detectives questioned in December, but he said they concerned collusion in general rather than the Finucane case specifically.
He hopes to hand over the papers on Brig Kerr and the others to the DPP by the end of March. It will be up to the DPP and the attorney general to decide whether to charge Brig Kerr and the others.
At the FRU, Brig Kerr recruited former soldier Brian Nelson to infiltrate the UDA. Nelson allegedly scouted Finucane's house before the murder and passed on a photograph of the lawyer to his killers.
Brig Kerr gave evidence on Nelson's behalf, claiming he had saved many lives, at his 1992 trial for conspiracy to murder. The case was unrelated to Finucane.
Sir John had expected to finish his report last year but yesterday, in Belfast, he said the discovery of hundreds of undisclosed documents in November had opened up fresh lines of inquiry.
He will now deliver an interim report in April to the policing board and the Northern Ireland chief constable, Hugh Orde.
Sir John said this would allow Mr Orde to take his findings into account but he could not say when he would finally complete his inquiry.
However, he said: "I have given 14 years of my life to this and I do not intend to leave any stone unturned."
Since 1989 Sir John's detectives have interviewed 15,000 people, catalogued 4,000 exhibits, taken 5,640 statements and seized 6,000 documents.
Sir John took the opportunity yesterday to try to capitalise on splits in the UDA by appealing to any former or current members who knew anything about the Finucane murder to come forward.
He also firmly refuted suggestions that Finucane, who represented loyalists and republicans, including the IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands, was a senior member of the Provisionals.
He said: "I can categorically say that Patrick Finucane was a highly efficient and effective solicitor and was not connected with any terrorist organisation whatsoever."
But Mr Finucane's widow, Geraldine, who met the Irish prime minister, Bertie Ahern, yesterday, dismissed the Stevens inquiry as a delaying tactic and the latest developments as a "headline that will detract from the truth".
She has always believed her husband's murder was part of a high-level conspiracy and that only an independent public inquiry can get to the truth.
Only one man, the self-confessed UDA quartermaster and RUC special branch informer William Stobie, who admitted supplying the guns, has ever been charged in connection with the killing.
But the case against him collapsed in November when the chief prosecution witness was ruled unfit to testify, and a few weeks later Stobie was shot dead by the Red Hand Defenders, a cover name for the UDA.