[back] Northern Ireland
The Sunday Herald
By Neil Mackay Home Affairs Editor
THE £100million Stevens Inquiry into the conspiracy by a British Army undercover unit to commit multiple murders in Northern Ireland has collapsed.
The investigation, headed by Scotland Yard commissioner Sir John Stevens, is in total disarray following the decision by the inquiry's chief witness to cease all co-operation with detectives because of intimidation.
According to security sources, the witness, a former member of the Army's Force Research Unit who goes by the cover-name Martin Ingram, has withdrawn statements about the activities of the covert army operation after the Crown Prosecution Service in England refused to press charges against another ex-FRU member for intimidating him.
The fatal blow to the inquiry, which has lasted 10 years and cost up to £100m, comes as FRU sources revealed to the Sunday Herald how military intelligence officers allowed IRA double agents to plant bombs which killed police and army personnel as well as civilians.
The explosions were allowed to go ahead to protect republican agents from suspicion that they were army informers. At least six army and police personnel, and a further four civilians, died as a result.
The Stevens Inquiry centres on the activities of the FRU, which was headed in the late 1980s by Brigadier Gordon Kerr, a former Gordon Highlander from Aberdeen. FRU members colluded, allegedly with Kerr's knowledge, with loyalist murder squads in the deaths of at least 14 Catholics in Ulster between 1987 and 1991.
A former FRU officer, Phil Smith, sent out more than 100 e-mails revealing Ingram's real name and location last month following statements made by Ingram to the police.
Smith was initially charged with intimidating witnesses. However, early last week charges against him were dropped on the grounds of insufficient evidence.
The Sunday Herald has been told that Ingram believes dropping the charges is a clear message to anyone who opposes his co-operation with the Stevens Inquiry and wants to silence him, that they can threaten to reveal his true identity and location without fear of criminal proceedings.
The e-mail, a copy of which has been seen by the Sunday Herald, also makes reference to Ingram's wife and her family. Ingram is currently in hiding, but would be targeted for assassination by both loyalists and the IRA because of his previous life as an undercover soldier.
Sources close to the Stevens Inquiry said: ''The outcome has been that the e-mail worked. It was intended to bully Ingram into silence and that is what has happened with his withdrawal from the inquiry.
''He felt he could no longer continue as he would be putting his life at risk. I think he felt, 'Why should I co-operate with them, if they aren't prepared to protect me?'''