Prosecutors continue to consider ‘Stakeknife’ files for charges against other suspects

Freddie Scappaticci, alleged to have been British Army’s top mole in the Provisional IRA, died recently

Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service (PPS) is continuing to consider charges against suspects linked to an investigation into the British government’s top IRA spy, codenamed Stakeknife.

Prosecutors confirmed the development on Thursday following the death in England last week of Freddie Scappaticci, the Belfast man widely regarded to be Stakeknife. The 77-year-old always denied he was the mole.

Once described by a British Army general as the “golden egg” of British military intelligence during the Troubles, Scappaticci headed up the Provisional IRA’s notorious internal security unit or ‘nutting squad”, identifying, kidnapping and killing informers.

In a statement, the PPS confirmed those suspects “under consideration” include former police officers as well as former British Army and intelligence officers, including MI5, and ex-paramilitaries. Murder, false imprisonment, serious assaults and misconduct in public office are among the offences being examined in the “complex and extensive case”, it said.


“Where the PPS is made aware of the death of a suspect under consideration in any case, no decision will issue and that is the end of any potential prosecution in relation to that individual,” said Martin Hardy, PPS assistant director.

“The test for prosecution is applied only to living individuals. Where there are other suspects reported in relation to such a case, those suspects remain under consideration.”

The alleged offences are contained in files submitted to prosecutors as part of Operation Kenova, the £37 million independent investigation into Stakeknife led by former Bedfordshire chief constable Jon Boutcher.

Mr Hardy described the volume of material gathered by the Kenova team as “vast”,  running to more than a million pages and more than 1,000 witness statements. The inquiry is examining the role of the British state in multiple murders linked to Stakeknife..

“Significant progress” has been made on 26 files received in phases between October 2019 and February of last year, according to the PPS.

“The complex and extensive work involved is being progressed as quickly as possible in light of the limited resources available to the PPS for dealing with legacy casework,” Mr Hardy said.

He added that “bespoke handling arrangements” of the sensitive material had impacted on the “pace at which decisions can be progressed”.

Mr Hardy acknowledged the “long and difficult process for the families and victims who await decisions in these cases”:

“The PPS will continue to work closely with the Operation Kenova team as our consideration of these files continues.

“We will also continue to keep families and victims updated as we move closer to the time when the outstanding decisions can issue.”

Mr Boutcher on Tuesday confirmed Scappaticci’s death had taken place last week and his funeral had been held in England.

The west Belfast man fled to England in 2003 when the media identified him as Stakeknife. After being named publicly, he gave a press conference denying he was a double agent but left his west Belfast home weeks later. He lived under an assumed identity until his death.

Victims’ families have said Scappaticci often showed up at their doors and played recordings of their loved ones’ final words after being tortured.

Some families have expressed concern that his death could lead to delays in the release of the Kenova report and impact on prosecutions.

Earlier this week, Mr Boutcher confirmed the team will publish an interim report on their findings this year.

“We remain committed to providing families with the truth of what happened to their loved ones and continue to actively pursue criminal charges against several individuals,” he said.

“We also recognise that people may now feel more able to talk to the Kenova team following the death of Mr Scappaticci, who had long been accused by many of being involved in the kidnap, murder and torture of potential PIRA informants during The Troubles.

“I appeal to anyone with information that might help those impacted by the events we are investigating to contact us in confidence to help families understand what happened during these difficult times.”

Seanín Graham

Seanín Graham

Seanín Graham is Northern Correspondent of The Irish Times