9 August 1999. Thanks to Sean McPhilemy and Roberts Rinehart.
Source: Hardcopy of The Committee.
See related New York Times report, August 9, 1999: http://www.nytimes.com/library/tech/99/08/biztech/articles/09libel.html
The Committee Political Assassination In
Roberts Rinehart Publishers
It is now exactly eight years since I uncovered the scandal reported in this book. In 1991, I obtained evidence that the Royal Ulster Constabulary [RUC], the British Government's police force in Northern Ireland, was secretly running "death squads." Senior RUC officers were helping a then unknown terrorist organisation -- "the Committee" -- to assassinate Republicans, Nationalists and innocent Catholics in an effort to block any moves towards a united Ireland.
These revelations were contained in a documentary, shown on British television, in which an anonymous member of this Committee testified publicly about the murder conspiracy. He admitted that his Committee, which was composed of fifty to sixty people drawn exclusively from the Ulster Protestant community, was using two professional assassins, known as "The Jackal" and "King Rat," to kill those deemed to be "enemies of Ulster." The two assassins, he said, were routinely guided to their targets by the police. And that, he boasted, was the reason why these murders would forever remain officially "unsolved."
Immediately after the broadcast, the RUC scorned my revelations as a "hoax" -- a verdict later endorsed by The Sunday Times in London, which accused me of bribery and deception. Once it had become clear that these powerful forces, the RUC and The Sunday Times, had seriously damaged my journalistic reputation in Britain, I took legal action to restore my good name. A libel jury may now have to decide the truth about my supposed "hoax." The case will be heard in the High Court in London in January 2000, unless the newspaper settles the action before that date.
This libel trial may be immediately followed by a second libel trial in the United States. The original version of this book, published in the U.S. in May 1998, contained the names of nineteen alleged Committee members, all of whom had been identified by my anonymous source as his co-conspirators in murder. Two of the nineteen, brothers David and Albert Prentice, have denied the allegation and launched a $100 million libel suit against me and my publishers. This action is due to be heard in the Washington, D.C. District Court in March 2000, unless the judge strikes it out before that date.
Throughout the past year, I have continued my investigation into the Committee and I have acquired a considerable amount of new information about the RUC's role in many more "unsolved" murders. A former RUC officer, who helped his police colleagues to carry out bombings, shootings and acts of terrorism directed against the general Catholic population, has explained to me that the RUC was corrupted to the highest levels long before the emergence of the Committee. A serving RUC officer, who read my book, contacted me in England with useful information. These officers may hold a few surprises for the RUC if any of them can be persuaded to testify, under oath, in either or both of the libel trials. Other sources have corroborated their disclosures. As a result, this paperback edition contains, for the first time, the names of RUC officers and Loyalist terrorists who together committed many more murders between 1973 and 1997, nearly all of which still remain officially "unsolved." This edition contains new information on:
* the bomb attacks on Dublin and Monaghan on the same day in May 1974, when thirty-three people were killed and many others seriously injured. Loyalist terrorists had driven their bombs across the border from County Armagh into the Irish Republic. The Dublin bombs were detonated during the rush hour to cause maximum casualties. All the bombs had been assembled at the home of a serving RUC Reserve officer and the explosives had been supplied by a member of the Ulster Defence Regiment [UDR], who was also working closely with British Military Intelligence. The names of some of the culprits are listed in Chapter 13.
* bomb and machine-gun attacks on Catholics, carried out by RUC and UDR officers, with the assistance of Loyalist paramilitaries. These attacks caused several deaths and serious injuries to innocent civilians on both sides of the border. Some of those responsible for these "unsolved" crimes are identified in Chapter 13.
* the notorious Loyalist assassin Robin Jackson, "The Jackal," who was responsible for the murder of at least 100 people between 1973 and 1996. This assassin was protected and "handled" by RUC Special Branch throughout his career and, as a result, nearly all of the murders committed by Jackson remain offficially "unsolved." The names of many of his victims, along with names of those who helped him commit his crimes, are published here for the first time. [See Appendix 6.]
* some of the most notorious Loyalist atrocities and murders of Catholics in recent years. Although these crimes remain "unsolved" by the RUC, I have been able to identify the assassins. Their names are listed in Appendix 6. One of these Loyalist killers, Mark Fulton, is the nephew of David and Albert Prentice. Although the Prentices deny membership of the Committee or sponsorship of Loyalist terrorism, Albert Prentice has admitted under oath that he gave financial support to the Mark Fulton family. He claims the money went to feed Mark Fulton's children. [See Appendix 6.]
Life imprisonment is the mandatory sentence upon conviction for murder in the United Kingdom. So it was only to be expected that the nineteen alleged Committee members identified in this book would protest their innocence of the murders attributed to them. Nor was it a great surprise when the Committee's defender in the British media and in the House of Commons, David Trimble MP, wrote to the publishers, Roberts Rinehart, in an effort to prevent the book's publication. He wrote:
The alleged Committee is a myth. The persons named as members are what they are, namely respected members of the police, army and business community.... I must therefore call on you to drop immediately this publication.
Trimble's intervention was futile and it was also foolish, because it turns out that our key source, whose name became public in late 1992, was for years a prominent member of Trimble's Ulster Unionist Party in his own constituency, Upper Bann. When Trimble wrote to Roberts Rinehart, therefore, he would certainly have known that the information about the Committee's existence and murderous activities had been given to me, back in 1991, by one of his own political associates. Trimble's sensitivity on this issue became evident at the St. Patrick's Day celebrations in Washington, D.C. this year, when he exploded with rage at Roberts Rinehart's chief executive.
Trimble will soon be required to confront these issues in a more tranquil manner when my attorney takes his deposition, under oath, in the American libel case. After Trimble has answered our auestions we will, perhaps, learn for the first time the full extent of his knowledge of the murder conspiracy and of his involvement with the Committee.
It has become increasingly clear in recent months that the main allegation in this book -- the RUC's systematic collusion, over many years, with Loyalist terrorists in the murder of Republicans and politically uninvolved Catholics -- is absolutely true. Loyalist ex-terrorists have publicly admitted, in recent weeks, that RUC offcers secretly helped them to identify their targets and carry out their killings. One ex-terrorist, Bobby Philpott, when interviewed by BBC Television was even prepared to admit that RUC collusion had been indispensable to the success of the Loyalist assassination campaign. And I have learned that a Committee member, who discussed privately my book with one of my most trusted sources, unwittingly confirmed to this person that its contents are, in all essentials, true.
Despite these admissions and the mounting evidence of RUC collusion in murder, the British "New Labour" Government has -- so far -- done everything possible to prevent the truth about this scandal from becoming publicly known. For example, the United Nations Rapporteur's demand for an independent inquiry into the murder of human rights lawyer Pat Finucane was immediately refused; and the efforts by the family of murdered RUC Sergeant Joseph Campbell to discover the truth about their father's killing have been largely ignored. And even though over 30,000 copies of this book have been sold since May 1998, I have yet to receive a single letter or telephone call from any British Government official about the numerous "unsolved" murders documented therein.
One person who was, in sharp contrast, extremely interested in my revelations and determined to do something about them was a brave and brilliant lawyer, Rosemary Nelson. By the time I first met her in 1994, Rosemary had become the single most effective crusader for justice within the notorious "murder triangle," the area which surrounds her home town, Lurgan, County Armagh. Rosemary's search for the truth and her dedication to her clients had made her the obvious choice as legal representative for the families of many Catholic victims of the RUC/Loyalist death squads. She was, as I discovered, entirely trusted and relied upon by these families, including the families of some of those whose murders are discussed in this book -- Denis Carville, Sam Marshall, Rory and Gerard Cairns, Katrina Rennie, Eileen Duffy, and Brian Frizzell.
Rosemary was murdered on Monday, March 15th, 1999, when a bomb exploded under her car. This barbarous act ended the life of a loving and beloved wife, mother, daughter and sister. The solemn Requiem Mass in thanksgiving for her life, held on Thursday, March 18th, 1999, was an unforgettable occasion. The funeral service was an outpouring of affection and admiration by virtually the entire Catholic population of Lurgan, a sorrowful tribute to her achievements and a signal that the causes to which she had devoted her professional life -- exposing the truth about RUC collusion with the Loyalists and obtaining justice for the victims' families -- would be pursued with renewed vigour in the years ahead.
I hope that now, in recognition of her tireless work for justice, her admirers will support the campaign to force the British Government to set up a genuinely independent inquiry into her murder. The historic hatreds which poison the minds and hearts of so many will persist, on all sides, until everyone is forced to confront the terrible deeds they have done. Only after we have learned the truth about the crimes committed by Republicans, Loyalists, the RUC and other British security forces will there be a real prospect of forgiveness, reconciliation and peace.
Finally, readers may be interested to learn that I have sought to bring my discoveries about the Committee, the RUC and the Loyalist death squads to the attention of the British authorities. Chris Patten, who as Governor of Hong Kong had frequently condemned human rights abuses by the People's Republic of China, was appointed by the British Government, in 1998, to hold an official inquiry into the RUC, as part of the Good Friday Agreement. At the end of last year, I wrote to Mr. Patten offering him the evidence I have uncovered about serious human rights abuses much closer to home. If he had taken up my offer I would, for example, have given him the authentic video and audio tape-recordings of one self-confessed Committee member explaining, in great detail, how RUC officers had helped the Committee to run its "death squads."
But Mr. Patten did not reply to my letter. I think it unlikely, therefore, that his forthcoming report on the RUC will have much to say about police collusion in any of the numerous "unsolved" murders of Catholics between 1973 and the late 1990s. So it will be necessary, I suggest, to study his report in the light of the revelations contained in this book. Otherwise, there is a danger that the Patten Inquiry may succeed in burying the truth about these murders and in misleading the public about the RUC's role in political assassination in Northern Ireland.
I had no idea what I was stepping into when, early in 1991, I began to investigate the escalating Loyalist assassination campaign in Northern Ireland. It never occurred to me that I was embarking on a project which would, between then and now, turn my life upside down and virtually destroy the successful television production company I had formed in 1986. Back in 1991, I would certainly have refused to believe what I now know to be the truth -- namely, that most of the murders of Catholics and Republicans committed in 1989, 1990 and 1991, crimes which in 1998 remain offcially "unsolved," were in fact sanctioned and organised by senior police officers belonging to the Royal Ulster Constabulary.
My first debt is to Ben Hamilton who, as a young television researcher, suggested this topic for a television documentary. His magnificent work in 1991 resulted in The Committee, which revealed the existence of a then unknown Loyalist terrorist body. I also wish to thank everyone involved in making that film. I hope that, one day, the documentary will be shown again and that my colleagues will receive the recognition they deserve.
I was helped with my investigation into collusion between the Loyalists and the "security" forces by quite a few people in Northern Ireland -- friends, journalists, lawyers, librarians and, most especially, the relatives of the murder victims. I am advised that it would be unwise to identify any of them publicly. I hope they realise how grateful I am to them all.
During the past seven years, I have also relied heavily and constantly on my English friends for advice and support. When I assured them that I had been followed by MI5 or RUC agents during my research trips to Northern Ireland, that my telephone was tapped by the security services or that I was working on the biggest story of my professional life, they did not roll their eyes, shake their heads or avoid my company. They encouraged me to persevere. So I am pleased to be able publicly to thank John Plender, David Cox, Omar Hemeida, David Melvin, Sarah Brook and Ian Tomlin.
I am especially grateful to Tim Laxton who, since 1994, has helped me in countless ways to complete the investigation I began in 1991.
Tim's first career as a City accountant has left him with few illusions about what seemingly respectable people are capable of doing; so he found no difficulty in believing that the Loyalist assassination campaign was being run by affluent and well-connected individuals, including a banker, a lawyer, an accountant, a clergyman and the owners of some of the largest businesses in Northern Ireland.
During the lengthy legal proceedings which followed the broadcast of The Committee, I had some of the finest legal brains in England on my side. Publication of this book may, I suspect, lead me to call on their services again. I am deeply grateful to Jonathan Caplan QC, James Price QC, Matthew Nicklin, Lord Williams of Mostyn QC and to my solicitors at Bindman & Partners -- Geoffrey Bindman, Verity Danziger, Lynn Knowles, Anna Rowland, and Nick Braithwaite. They have all taught me that the law holds no terrors for anyone who has acted in the public interest and who has told the truth.
Finally and ironically, I wish to thank one of the murder conspirators whose elaborate attempt at deception, which lasted for almost eighteen months, served only to intensify my resolve to persevere until I had uncovered the full story. Committee member Ken Kerr appeared to be experiencing a death-bed conversion, his imminent demise from colon cancer being -- supposedly -- his reason for "helping" me. Sadly, his expressions of remorse proved to be bogus, his "revelations" to be false and his tape-recording of the Committee planning a murder to be a fake. His duplicity is significant only as an illustration of the lengths to which the "security" forces in Northern Ireland have been prepared to go in their efforts to sabotage this book.
I also wish to express my heartfelt thanks to my lawyer in the United States, Russell Smith. Russell defended me with great skill, some years ago, in a legal action in the USA, which had arisen over another television documentary I had made in Britain. Naturally, once I found myself under legal attack in the USA a second time, it was a great relief to find Russell on my doorstep with a generous offer of help. Throughout the past year, he has conducted the defence of the libel action brought against my publishers and me over this book and given us confidence that, in due course, he will again secure a legal victory.
When Ben Hamilton and I began our research, early in 1991, into collusion in Northern Ireland, we knew that we were embarking on a difficult assignment but neither of us envisaged that the resulting documentary The Committee -- would immerse us in years of litigation and controversy, which would blight our reputations and lead to the virtual destruction of our television production company, Box Productions. Although Ben has managed to survive the ordeal and to continue with his television career, working as a freelance researcher and director for other production companies, I felt I could not follow that course. As executive producer of the programme, the person ultimately responsible within the company for its editorial content, I felt a duty to persevere with the investigation until I had uncovered and published the full story about the Committee and its works. For the past six years, since October 1991, I have defended our journalism and pursued the story, confident that -- sooner or later -- I would uncover the truth about the murder conspiracy. Though I am aware that, even now, I have not fully realised that ambition, I have nevertheless made sufficient progress to allow me to reach firm conclusions about where responsibility rests for the deaths that resulted from the Loyaltst assassination campaign in 1989, 1990, 1991 and beyond.1
Before presenting those conclusions and examining the appropriate response to the revelations disclosed in this book, I believe it is appropriate to pause and reflect on a part of the commentary of The Committee, words which I remember writing in the summer of 1991, when the Loyalist assassination campaign was at its height. I wrote them to provide a context which was intended to explain the reasons why the Committee members had felt impelled to act as they did. For we must not forget that the Loyalist terrorism was, in large part, a reaction to the IRA's inhuman and inexcusable conduct over the previous twenty years. The following words were spoken in the film over footage of the funeral of a murdered RUC officer, which showed his weeping family and grieving friends as they prepared to bury yet another member of the Protestant community:
During the past twenty years the Provisional IRA's ruthless terror campaign has brought bloodshed and misery to the people of Northern Ireland.
Atrocity has followed atrocity -- a seemingly endless litany of violence and retaliation that has so far claimed almost three thousand lives, Protestant and Catholic.
The Royal Ulster Constabulary has been in the front line in the struggle against IRA terror. Over two hundred and sixty members of the force have been murdered -- shot by snipers, blown up by land mines or car bombs. Nearly seven thousand police officers have been injured.
The brutal murders of security force members have left a legacy of suffering and bitterness, not only within their ranks. Ninety per cent of the RUC, and almost all the locally recruited Ulster Defence Regiment are Protestants.
Those words were true in 1991 and they remain true in 1998. It was the prospect of further death and destruction, the certainty of more such RUC and UDR funerals, that led the once respectable, lawful and unremarkable citizens of Portadown, Belfast and elsewhere to volunteer their services in what became a secret Loyalist war against the IRA. Billy Abernethy's brother, for example, was murdered in a spectacularly cruel and cold-blooded manner in 1988; RUC Assistant Chief Constable Trevor Forbes OBE will have attended many funerals such as the one shown in The Committee; and I do not doubt that the Reverend Hugh Ross also officiated at the grave side of many IRA victims in County Tyrone. Yet, while I can understand the motivation of those who joined the Committee, it does not alter the fact that they freely and enthusiastically participated in murder conspiracy. In so doing, Reverend Ross became "Reverend" Ross and he, like his co-conspirators, descended to the same moral plain as those in the IRA who placed explosive devices under car bonnets, raised Armalite to end a British soldier's life or carried out any of the countless other atrocities which caused so much misery in Ireland and Britain for a generation. The fifty to sixty Committee members and their associates, some of whom are listed in Appendix One, turned themselves into terrorists and adopted exactly the same methods of those whom they so hate and despise, the Provisional IRA.
Evil deeds were committed on all sides during the thirty-year conflict in Northern Ireland. We must bear that in mind as we consider the conclusions which arise from my investigation into collusion between the Loyalists and the British security forces. One day, perhaps, those responsible for the Committee's murder campaign will plead that they would never have resorted to terrorist action, if the Provisional IRA had not tried to bomb the Ulster Protestants into a united Ireland. It will be for others, in due course, to listen to their pleas before passing judgement on their guilt and on their degree of culpability. And, after the law of men has taken its course, each and every one of them will have to answer, as we all will, to that higher authority who commands: "Thou shalt not kill." It has been my task to investigate the Committee's killings, to identify those responsible and to establish the facts about the overall murder conspiracy. Those facts can now be briefly summarised.
A secret terrorist organisation -- the Ulster Loyalist Central Co-ordinating Committee -- ran a campaign of political and sectarian assassination in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The Committee's fifty to sixty members were drawn from a wide cross-section of the Ulster Loyalist community, including the business and professional elite, the Loyalist paramilitary organisations and, most significantly, the upper echelons of the RUC and the UDR. Collusion between the Loyalists and the RUC/UDR Inner Force was formal, structured and systematic, involving an unknown but sizeable proportion of the locally recruited security services in Northern Ireland.
The Ulstermen in control of the RUC -- including two Assistant Chief Constables, one as yet unknown, the other well-known -- demonstrated that their primary loyalty was not to the British Crown but to Ulster Loyalism. The eighteen RUC Inner Force members on the Committee effectively placed the resources of both the RUC and the UDR at the disposal of that terrorist organisation. This Inner Force routinely supplied the personnel, equipment and expertise which was used with terrifying effect by the Loyalist death squads, operating under the Committee's control in 1989, 1990, 1991 and beyond. The Committee employed the services of two main assassins -- Robin Jackson [The Jackal] and Billy Wright [King Rat] -- who, guided by the RUC Inner Force and assisted by other Loyalists, carried out at least nine of the ten murders investigated for The Committee.2
Although the Committee was primarily dedicated to the murder of Irish Republicans -- Provisional IRA activists and Sinn Fein politicians -- the Loyalist conspirators were prepared, as and when they felt it necessary, either to murder or to justify the murder of entirely innocent Catholics. Denis Carville, the three "mobile sweet shop" victims -- Katrina Rennie, Eileen Duffy, Brian Frizzell -- were all murdered, as we have seen, not because they were Republican terrorists but because they were Catholics or were presumed to be so. Police officers belonging to the illegal RUC Inner Force participated in the planning and execution of each of these attacks, which is the principal reason why no-one has ever been arrested or charged with any of these crimes. At the date of writing, February 1998, all eighteen Committee murders discussed in this book remained, officially, "unsolved."
Unfortunately, the Committee's assassination campaign was not brought to a permanent end by the Channel 4 broadcast in October 1991. Thanks largely to the appointment of Chief Superintendent Jimmy Nesbitt and Inspector Chris Webster, the RUC managed to contain the scandal and to suppress the truth. The RUC's official, internal investigation exonerated all nineteen Committee members who had been identified by their self-confessed, co-conspirator, Jim Sands. As a result of this RUC coverup, all fifty to sixty murder conspirators were allowed to remain at liberty and, once they had recovered from the shock of the initial exposure, eventually to resume their murder campaign. Appendix Two lists the Committee's known murder victims, the eighteen Catholics assassinated before May 1991, together with a further thirty-one murdered by Loyalist paramilitaries between May 1991 and August 1996; the Committee's members must, in these circumstances, be regarded as the "prime suspects" for all the "unsolved" murders listed in Appendix Two. Although I have not, as yet, been able to establish the total number of assassinations for which the Committee was responsible, I am satisfied that the RUC's response to the Channel 4 broadcast resulted in the further loss of innocent Catholic lives.3
RUC Chief Constable Sir Hugh Annesley must carry responsibility for all Committee murders which occurred while he was in office, those carried out before the broadcast and, especially, those committed afterwards. For, once the RUC had received the Channel 4 dossier containing the names of nineteen Committee members, the killing ought to have been stopped immediately. Instead, as we have seen, the Chief Constable's hand-picked "investigators" -- Nesbitt and Webster-- proceeded to give their chief the verdict he had himself publicly announced before setting up their "Inquiry," a verdict he reiterated in 1992: "the [programme's] allegation of an Inner Circle/Inner Force within the RUC was an invention . . . there is no overall, organised Committee . . . the allegations . . . are without foundation."4 The Chief Constable's failure to hold a genuinely independent investigation, one which could have established the truth about the murder conspiracy, allowed the guilty to go unpunished and condemned the innocent -- the Committee's future victims -- to avoidable, violent deaths. The British Conservative Government is equally responsible because, as the ultimate legal authority in Northern Ireland, it could and ought also to have insisted on a thorough search for the truth.
The RUC's verdict that the programme had been a "hoax" -- or, in Nesbitt's indelicate phraseology, "a complete and utter lot of balls" -- was enthusiastically promoted, as we have seen, in a "dirty tricks" campaign by the Sunday Express and The Sunday Times. Virulent propaganda against the programme and the programme makers intimidated Channel 4 into a
The consequences for the RUC are, as I have already made clear, potentially devastating and terminal. Abernethy's Committee could not have conducted its campaign of political assassination\without the widespread and systematic collusion described by Sands and documented in this book. It is, perhaps, not surprising that the RUC death squads run by the Committee were supervised by the same police officer who brought the RUC into such disrepute in the early 1980s, Assistant Chief Constable Trevor "shoot-to-kill" Forbes OBE. Forbes's role on the Committee gives us an insight into the true character of the RUC during the long period he ran Special Branch in the 1980s. This insight is reinforced by my discovery of how RUC Chief Constable Sir John Hermon responded to the murder of one of the few Catholic sergeants in his force, Joseph Campbell; Hermon deceived the dead officer's widow over the fact that RUC Special Branch "hit man" Robin Jackson had committed the murder. The RUC shaped and stamped by Hermon and Forbes is the RUC which contained and still contains the Inner Force.
So who will arrest the murder conspirators? Will Abernethy and his friends continue to get away with murder? Will the RUC be able to ride out the storm? The answers will depend on how this book is received. The RUC will respond as before. Just as the programme was a "hoax," so my book will be a "fabrication." My motives, my sources and my revelations will all be challenged. Jim Sands and Ken Kerr will, no doubt, be "interviewed" by Liam Clarke and Barrie Penrose. There will be libel threats and, perhaps, worse. But my reply to the RUC will be simple and short. "Why are all eighteen murders still officially "unsolved"?"
Finally, this scandal has much to teach us about the proper role of the journalist in a democratic society and vividly demonstrates the necessity of having a legal framework which enables the journalist to expose corruption of the kind we found to exist within the RUC. Information about such corruption, especially within the sensitive area of State Security and Intelligence, is only ever likely to be disclosed to a journalist in confidence and, if the law prevents the journalist from giving a source an absolute guarantee of confidentiality, the corruption is likely to continue unchecked; if, in 1991, we had not promised Sands that we would keep his name secret, he would not have agreed to the interview -- and, as a result, the Committee's assassination campaign would have continued unhindered. So it was right to give Sands the undertaking he demanded and, having done so, it would have been wrong to betray him by disclosing his name after the broadcast -- even if a different police force had been appointed to hold a genuine inquiry.
It would, of course, have been doubly wrong to betray him to a bogus inquiry team. For, as we now know, there was never the remotest prospect that the Nesbitt Inquiry would publish the truth about the Committee or RUC/Loyalist collusion. The reader will recall Nesbitt's hypocritical performance in court as, under oath, he sought to persuade Judge Clarkson that the RUC was, despite the judge's express misgivings on the matter, genuinely investigating itself. The reader may recall his cross-examination by the Crown's barrister, Mr. David Calvert-Smith, who suggested to him that our defence of Source A was a scandalous obstruction of vigorous law enforcement.
Calvert-Smith: What about Source A and his importance or otherwise to the investigation?
Nesbitt: Source A is crucial to the investigation, your Honour.
Nesbitt: Because, your Honour, he alleges that he had knowledge of and took part in the planning of acts of murder and other terrorist crimes; that he had knowledge of other persons who had taken part in these crimes and of members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary who were also accomplices in these matters.
We can now see that, with those answers, Nesbitt was deceiving the court into believing that he was holding a genuine inquiry when, in fact, he was doing his utmost to help the conspirators, the "aristocrats" who had been. in his own words, "planning acts of murder and other terrorist crimes."5
My discoveries about the real nature of Nesbitt's "Inquiry" have reinforced my conviction that we were, in 1992, totally justified in refusing to betray Source A, as Lord Woolf, Mr. Justice Pill and the Crown Prosecution Service's Mr. (now Mr. Justice!) Andrew Collins had all urged us to do. How embarrassed these distinguished lawyers ought to be when they realise that they were urging us, indeed punishing us, for our failure to assist the RUC officer in charge of protecting the murder conspirators! We should recall their learned contributions in the High Court and remind ourselves that not one of them voiced any concern over the obviously unsatisfactory fact that the RUC was being allowed to "investigate" itself; all three condemned us for failing to participate in what was a fresh scandal, the RUC's own cover-up of the original murder conspiracy.
Mr. Andrew Collins:
The net result of what has happened is that there has been presented to the British public as fact, "conclusive evidence" were the words used, very grave allegations against the integrity of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Those allegations may be complete rubbish and probably are, but nonetheless it is essential that they be investigated because if there is any truth in them a very serious situation is disclosed . . . My Lord . . . the failure to disclose the relevant information to enable the investigations properly to be carried out has -- and this was the evidence of Chief Superintendent Nesbitt before the learned judge -- resulted in the situation that the wrongdoing cannot properly be discovered and rooted out if it exists . . . It . . . nullifies the whole purpose of the investigation if this attitude is adopted. [my emphasis]6
Both companies must have appreciated what would be the consequences of the programme, that almost inevitably there would be an inquiry as a result of the programme and [Source] A's role would be crucial . . . That the immediate effect of the programme would be to undermine the confidence of the public, particularly in the Province of Northern Ireland, in the RUC and an inquiry would be essential if the damage to that confidence was to be kept within limits. It was, and should have been, obvious that if the investigations into the RUC took place . . . the security forces would inevitably want to identify [Source] A and follow up his involvement. This would be necessary if [Source] A was speaking the truth to eradicate a canker within the RUC and it would be necessary if he was not speaking the truth to show the RUC had been gravely slandered to the disadvantage of the Province . . .
Mr. Justice Pill:
The result of the respondents' contempt of court is that the authorities and the courts have been deprived of the opportunity to investigate the extremely serious and inflammatory allegations which have been made. If the allegations are true, urgent and thorough investigation is required. Prosecutions would be likely. If the allegations are untrue, they should be exposed for the dangerous and pernicious falsehoods they are . . . The danger to society if falsehoods of this kind go uncorrected needs no underlining. Neither does the degree of concern to be felt if Source A is telling the truth. The respondents should not have so conducted themselves as to place themselves in the position they have, for the reasons given by My Lord [Woolf]. [my emphasis]7
All three men -- Lord Woolf, Mr. Justice Pill and Mr. (now Mr. Justice) Andrew Collins -- had condemned us for our refusal to give Source A's name to the RUC; not one of them seemed in any way bothered by the fact that the RUC was "investigating" itself; nor was any one of them prepared seriously to entertain the possibility that the RUC was so corrupt, so thoroughly imbued with Loyalist sentiment, that the official RUC "investigator" was in league with the murder conspirators. Now, as Nesbitt's own words reveal, we know -- with all due respect to Mr. Justice Pill -- that Nesbitt was not "deprived of an opportunity to investigate" but was prevented from coming to the "hoax" verdict that he was to reach much later when, unfortunately, he eventually managed to get his hands on Source A, Jim Sands. And we can now also appreciate the irony of Lord Woolf's observation, quoted above, that we should have known that "an inquiry would be essential if the damage to confidence [in the RUC] was to be kept within limits." How right he was! Contrary to what Mr. Justice Pill had to say, prosecutions were never likely to result from Nesbitt's "investigation;" if we had co-operated with Nesbitt's "Inquiry," we might as well have posted Source A's name directly to Committee chairman, Billy Abernethy. If we had not defended our sources, the Committee's fifty to sixty members would, almost certainly, have escaped justice forever and the world would never have learned about the RUC death squads.
1 I hope that the next edition of this book will contain the names of all fifty to sixty members of the Committee.
2 Billy Wright murdered: Denis Carville, Dwayne O'Donnell, John Quinn, Malcolm Nugent, Thomas Armstrong; Robin Jackson murdered: Eileen Duffy, Katrina Rennie, Brian Frizzell, Sam Marshall, RUC Sergeant Joseph Campbell, William Strathearn and Patrick Campbell. Neither Billy Wright nor Robin Jackson were ever charged with any of these murders.
3 Committee member Ken Kerr sought to persuade me that the Committee was responsible for an additional sixteen murders of Catholics and Republicans, all carried out between January 1989 and October 1991; in view of my discovery that Kerr was trying to sabotage my investigation, I have not included any of those sixteen specified murders in this book.
4 RUC Press Release, August 2nd 1992; Compare these reassuring words with the transcript of John Coulter's interview with his anonymous RUC Inner Circle member. [See Appendix 4]
5 Compare Nesbitt's posturing in front of Judge Clarkson with the transcript of his tape-recorded conversation with the Sunday Express's Barrie Penrose. [See Appendix 4]
6 Mr. Collins declined to offer any reason for his expressed belief that the programme's allegations had "probably" been "complete rubbish." His remarks have certainly not induced any scepticism in my mind over the truth of Brian Raymond's aphorism that judges are just "politicians with wigs on."
7 I hope Mr. Justice Pill now realises that our "extremely serious and [allegedly] inflammatory allegations" were absolutely true.
One day, hopefully, I will be able to look back on The Committee -- the television documentary, the book, the legal battles, the entire eight-year controversy -- as a closed chapter in my life. When that happy day finally dawns, I will be able to say that I behaved throughout as a reputable journalist ought to do, that I published the truth and then defended it against powerful forces which, for a time, almost succeeded in discrediting me (and Ben Hamilton and Martin O'Hagan) and in deceiving the public about what we had uncovered in Northern Ireland. For the present, however, I have no choice but to persevere with the investigative journalism I began in 1991 and to respond to all those who have attacked me and my publishers, whether in the libel courts or elsewhere.
Since the original version of this book was published in May 1998, I have been successful in expanding my inquiry into collusion between RUC Special Branch and Loyalist terrorists in the murder of Republicans and politically uninvolved Catholics, from the onset of the troubles in the early 1970s to the mid-1990s. I have come to appreciate more fully that the Committee, which ran the Loyalist assassination campaign from 1989 until late 1991, was merely a more formal expression of a phenomenon which existed for many years. Though even now I still do not know the complete cast list of Committee members, I understand more fully than before that the RUC Inner Force was indispensable to the murder conspiracy. For, as a key source has recently explained to me, the initiative in Loyalist attacks on Republicans has always come from the RUC, which employed men such as Robin Jackson and Billy Wright as and when it suited. These two notorious Loyalist assassins, this source made clear, could not have operated as they did without official protection from the highest levels within the security forces-including Britain's domestic intelligence agency, MI5, which always worked closely with RUC Special Branch.
So it is, I think, fair to say that no-one can be said properly to understand the conflict in Northern Ireland without taking into account the following facts, which have been effectively concealed from the public in Ireland and Britain for many years.
RUC Special Branch, working with the elite RUC Special Patrol Groups [SPGs] which spearheaded the war against the IRA, employed a small number of hard-line Loyalists to assassinate Republicans and, when necessary, to attack the general Catholic population. One of these assassins, Robin Jackson, murdered more than 100 people. [See Appendix 6]
British Military Intelligence and MI5, which worked closely with RUC Special Branch, fully supported this strategy. The new information presented in Chapter 13 of this paperback edition shows that this strategy of state terrorism against the Catholic population was implemented on both sides of the Irish border, with lethal effect.
Specifically, the Irish Republic's capital city, Dublin, was bombed during the rush hour in May 1974, with explosives provided by British Military Intelligence and with car bombs made at the home of an RUC Reserve officer. Former British Army personnel, drawn mainly from Portadown, led the two Loyalist gangs which bombed Dublin and Monaghan on the same day, killing thirty-three innocent civilians and seriously injuring an estimated 200 more. Perhaps we will learn, one day, the identity and military rank of the British security officer who authorised this incident which, for most people in Britain, is just another Irish atrocity.
RUC Special Branch and Armagh SPG employed the services of these Loyalist paramilitaries to carry out machine-gun attacks and plant car bombs outside Catholic-owned premises in an effort to terrorise the Catholic population into abandoning its support for Republicans and/or the aspiration for a united Ireland.
RUC Special Branch continued to adhere to this strategy of selective assassination when such collusion was placed on a more systematic and widespread footing with the emergence of the Committee and the RUC Inner Force in the late 1980s.
Once the Committee's existence and murderous activities were exposed on Channel 4 Television in 1991, an elaborate propaganda exercise initiated by the RUC and championed most notably by The Sunday Times succeeded in discrediting the broadcast revelations. After Channel 4 had dropped this story, which was simply too hot to handle, no other British media organisation dared to pick it up again. Britain's largest public service broadcaster, the BBC, ignored the story for eight years before finally, in March 1999, broadcasting a small part of the truth -- when it screened an interview with former terrorist Bobby Philpott, who admitted that the RUC had been indispensable to the Loyalist assassination campaign. The British press also failed to report the story, with the result that the British public has been kept in ignorance of the facts documented in this book for the first time.
The public in Britain and Ireland is, therefore, likely to hear the full truth about the conduct of the RUC, the UDR and the other British "security services" only if and when my libel action against The Sunday Times is heard in public in the High Court in London in January 2000. Only then will the public learn the truth about RUC collusion, the RUC's "shoot-to-kill" policy, the Stalker Affair, the Brian Nelson Affair, the Committee and the secret campaign of political assassination against Republicans and the general Catholic population of Northern Ireland.
In summary, my investigation into the Committee and collusion between the RUC and Loyalist paramilitaries has led me to the conclusion that all sides in the conflict in Northern Ireland, especially the Provisional IRA and the RUC, engaged in naked terrorism and that both the IRA and the RUC occupied the same moral terrain. It was, as I have made clear, utterly reprehensible for the IRA to commit its notorious atrocities in the name of Irish people. It is, however, even more shameful that those constitutionally charged with upholding the law and protecting the citizens -- most especially, the RUC's most senior officers -- should have facilitated the activities of the Committee and, earlier in the troubles, should have endorsed the state terrorism of the Special Patrol Groups in Armagh and elsewhere. Anyone who may be reluctant to assent to my equation of the moral status of the IRA and the RUC would do well to reflect on Appendix 6 of this book, where I list just some of the innocent victims of the late, notorious RUC Special Branch agent Robin Jackson, "The Jackal." Perhaps, when the scale of this scandal finally becomes known, the British Government will inform the House of Commons about how this assassin's career was nurtured, about his "training course" at the British Army's Pontrellis facility in Wales and, most especially, about his "handlers" within RUC Special Branch.
Who would have believed that fourteen-year-old Michael Donnelly, shot dead in 1975 while trying to alert the customers to an attack on his father's public house, was an innocent victim of the RUC itself? Or that, in 1977, RUC Special Branch would have recruited Robin Jackson to murder RUC Sergeant Joseph Campbell? Or that the RUC Inner Force would have helped Billy Wright to murder Denis Carville? Or that RUC Special Branch allowed Robin Jackson to commit any of the other murders listed in Appendix 6?
Indeed, I have discovered that the RUC, the SAS, British Military Intelligence and other arms of the "security services" did not limit their activities to conniving in the murder of Republicans and politically uninvolved Catholics. Any inquiry into the numerous "unsolved" murders in Northern Ireland should, I believe, also examine the deaths of some of those British UDR soldiers who had murdered their Republican victims, with the advance knowledge and approval of their superior officers. For example, UDR officer Robert McConnell, whose killings are listed in Appendix 6, was subsequently murdered by the IRA on the basis of confidential information leaked to Republican terrorists by RUC Special Branch. Today, Robert McConnell's family is campaigning for a public inquiry into his murder and they are, I believe, perfectly right to do so.
Based on information given to me by former members of the British security forces in Northern Ireland, I have compiled a list of Ulster Protestants who were all murdered as a result of such "dirty tricks" and collusion by the British security forces. Sensitive information leaked to the IRA had the desired result. These Protestant victims and the locations where thev were murdered are:
UDR officer Robert McConnell (South Armagh)
RUC Sergeant Jimmy Hunter (Warrenpoint)
UDR officer William Frazer (South Armagh)
Rev. Robert Bradford MP (Belfast)
John McKeague (Belfast)
Billy Wright (HM Maze Prison)
R. J. Kerr (Newry)
Billy Hanna (Lurgan)
"Squeak" Seymour (Belfast)
John McMichael (Lisburn)
As the conflict in Northern Ireland reaches its end, with few admissions of guilt and little sign of forgiveness, it will become increasingly clear that publication of the truth about what was done by all sides in that poisonous conflict is the essential prerequisite to a genuine reconciliation and an enduring peace. Only then, when Unionist and Nationalist, Loyalist and Republican, Protestant and Catholic, RUC, WF, British Military Intelligence, IRA and all the other parties to the conflict have been forced to confront the barbarous deeds committed by their members or in pursuit of their goals, will there be any admission of guilt, any desire for reconciliation and any promise never to commit such crimes again. If the RUC, especially, were to be allowed to conceal its terrorist past, the perpetrators of the "unsolved" murders documented in this book will escape responsibility for their crimes; the RUC Inner Force officers who helped the Committee will remain in uniform; and there will be no chance whatever of the RUC winning the allegiance of the entire community in Northern Ireland.
Sadly I have, as yet, seen no reason for thinking that any member of the Committee or anyone in the RUC is ready to admit anything at all.
The RUC has succeeded for the past six years in containing the scandal, which was partially exposed when The Committee was broadcast in October 1991. Publication of this book will, I expect, reopen the controversy over the murder conspiracy and will probably provoke a further round of legal actions against me. Whatever may happen, I will continue to pursue the same strategy I have followed for the past seven years, to document the facts and to publish the truth. Fortunately, those most likely to contemplate action against me may be presented with an opportunity, sooner than they might wish and in a forum well beyond their control, to reply to the allegations I have made against them. For my libel action against The Sunday Times is well advanced and unless that newspaper's lawyers decide, between now and October 1998, to admit that its "hoax" allegation is false, we may witness the spectacle of leading Committee members and their associates appearing under subpoena in the High Court in London; they will be required to testify under oath about the political assassinations they organised between 1989 and 1996. If, however, The Sunday Times' lawyers manage to avoid a full-scale libel trial, that does not mean that the RUC will be able to escape responsibility for its involvement with Abernethy and his friends; the families and friends of all those murdered by the Committee will demand to know everything possible about this scandal.
An Official Inquiry led by an independent figure, who would sit in public and have the power to compel witnesses to testify under oath, will be necessary if the full story about the RUC death squads is ever to emerge. For this unprecedented scandal in the short and troubled history of Northern Ireland is far worse now, in 1998, than it was back in 1991, when The Committee was screened. For, since then, many more innocent Catholics lost their lives as a direct result of the RUC's effort to discredit the programme's allegations and to suppress the truth. If those whom Sands had identified as his co-conspirators in murder had been promptly arrested. the Lovalist death squads would have been unable to function as they had before October 2nd, 1991. So we can readily identify a number of specific tasks that any investigator would immediately face: to establish the reasons why RUC Chief Constable Sir Hugh Annesley failed to stop the killing; to learn how it came about that Nesbitt and Webster were allowed to hold a bogus investigation; to establish how Jim Sands, following his arrest in December 1992, was induced to "recant" his televised confession and to admit his involvement in a "hoax." Once the investigator gives us the answers to these questions, we will be well on the way to understanding the reasons why the RUC allowed the Committee's fifty to sixty murder conspirators to remain at liberty. Then, with these dimensions of the scandal charted, the investigator could probe deeper into the mystery surrounding the many further "unsolved" murders of Catholics by the Loyalists, those which occurred between October 1991 and the cease fires in August 1994.1
We should recall that Jim Sands -- our unique source with the Ulster Independence Committee, the Ulster Loyalist Central Co-ordinating Committee and on the RUC Inner Force (which he attended as an observer for the UIC) -- told us in 1991 that every single assassination by the Loyalists had to be sanctioned by Abernethy's Committee and was organised by the RUC Inner Force. He told us:
The Loyalists will not move without the Inner Force giving the okay . . . The Inner Force is organised on an all Ulster basis. Therefore, they're able to move throughout Ulster. They can move anywhere at will. People from within the Inner Force boast that no terrorist is safe, no Republican is safe in Ulster. The terrorists can be removed at will, if and when the Inner Force decide.2
We have already seen that the Loyalists were not excessively scrupulous in discriminating between Republican activists and politically uninvolved Catholics. Sands made it clear that, though killing an identified Republican had been the Committee's preference, murdering a Fenian -- Loyalist parlance for a Catholic -- was a perfectly acceptable alternative when circumstances required.3 Between 1991 and 1996, the Loyalist death squads controlled by the Committee were allowed by the RUC to murder many Catholics, nearly all of whom were just as innocent as Denis Carville had been. Though the world at large has forgotten these atrocities, the families of those who lost their lives have not-and, having met some of the grieving relatives, I know they never will. I have selected just three Loyalist attacks which took place during this period, the same period in which Nesbitt, Webster and Hetherington were coaxing Sands into his admission of a "hoax," were helping the Sunday Express and The Sunday Times to mislead the public about the truth of the programme's allegations and were simultaneously allowing the Committee's solicitor, Richard Monteith, to sue me in the libel courts. Nine innocent Catholics were murdered in these three attacks and, as with all the murders investigated in our documentary, the assassins escaped amid allegations of collusion which, as usual, the RUC indignantly denied. All nine murders remain officially "unsolved;" the victims would, almost certainly, still be alive if those in control of the Loyalist assassination campaign had been arrested and charged in October 1991.
(1) The Murders of Gerard and Rory Cairns
Just over two years after The Committee had been broadcast, the Loyalist assassination campaign had resumed with undiminished ferocity and the Catholic population living within the notorious "murder triangle" had, once again, been singled out for attack. All Catholics in that area were vulnerable and none more so than those who openly expressed their Irish identity and who made no secret of their love of Irish culture -- traditional music, the Gaelic language and such sports as hurling and Gaelic football. It was, we must assume, the uninhibited enjoyment of their Irish culture and pride in their Irish identity which turned the Cairns family into a target for those who sent the Loyalist murder squad to attack them, after darkness had fallen on the night of October 28th 1993. For, as we shall see, this Irish Catholic family was remarkable only in the fact that its evident Irish identity and character had turned it into an offensive symbol in the eyes of the group of "Ulster British" Loyalists who, on that night, had decided to engage in a bout of ethnic cleansing.
Eamon and Sheila Cairns, who lived in a modest and isolated house in the country five miles from Lurgan, County Armagh, had spent the early evening happily with four of their five children; the parents had been holding a birthday party for their eleven-year-old daughter and youngest child, Roisin. Their three sons -- Gerard, a twenty-two-year-old lorry driver; Rory, an eighteen-year-old joiner; and Liam, aged fourteen -- had all enjoyed the party and each had taken photographs of other family members with their young sister. Paula, aged twenty-one, is the only family member who had not been present; she was living in England where she was completing a degree in business and economics. Shortly after the party had ended, the parents had driven to an evening class in Lurgan, where they were learning the Gaelic language. Liam had gone out to see a friend who lived about sixty yards down the road, leaving Roisin at home with her two older brothers. Not one member of the Cairns family suspected, as Roisin's birthday party ended, that they would never enjoy together such a happy occasion again.
Shortly after the parents and Liam had left the house, Roisin was alone in the kitchen, while Gerard and Rory were sitting in the adjoining living room, watching television. Roisin told her parents what happened after they had left and her father, Eamon, has provided me with a written account which describes, in some detail, the sequence of events that occurred on that night:
At approximately eight o'clock Roisin got up from where she was sitting. At this point the back door, which leads directly into the kitchen, opened. Two men dressed in black boiler suits and faces covered with masks entered through the unlocked door. Initially, Roisin thought it was a Halloween prank by some of Gerard's or Rory's mates. One man ran into the living room to where the boys were sitting, whilst the other stood in the kitchen staring at Roisin and raising his finger signalling Roisin to keep quiet. The other then signalled him and he followed into the living room and started shooting. They carried a rifle each. One gunman shot Rory where he sat in front of the television. One shot passed up through his head and another three through his body. Gerard must have managed to stand up when alerted, trying to protect himself with his arm. Three bullets skimmed his arm before entering his body. Death must have been instantaneous in both cases. Rory was slouched in his chair whilst Gerard lay on the floor in front of the sofa. The two gunmen then ran back out through the kitchen, one stopping momentarily to stare at Roisin.
Roisin then ran to the living room in a state of extreme shock. She saw Rory's eyes were closed. Seeing Gerard with his eyes open, she asked Gerard what was wrong with Rory, not realising they were both dead. She ran out screaming for help and down the road to the neighbour's house where Liam was visiting to raise the alarm.
After the alarm was raised, the RUC and British Army arrived at the house but, by then, the Loyalist squad had already escaped, leaving few clues behind. There had been two men involved; one was the same size as a suspicious character whom Eamon and Sheila Cairns had seen, some weeks earlier, lurking near their home; Eamon noticed that some twigs had been broken near the back fence which separates his garden from that of his neighbour, suggesting that the two gunmen may have arrived by jumping over the fence. All this information and much more was passed to the RUC which, despite the passage of over four years, has since then made no apparent progress in finding the killers.
Naturally, the parents of the dead brothers have tried to discover what effort the RUC made to track down the culprits and what facts, if any, the police had managed to uncover. Suspicions of collusion between the RUC and the Loyalists arose shortly after the murders when Eamon Cairns discovered that, as he puts it, "during one interview with a neighbour . . . one detective remarked that they knew an attack was going to take place but they didn't think it would be so soon." The family grew sceptical about the true status of the RUC's investigation into the murders and, even before learning from me about the existence of the Committee, suspected that the murders had been organised by people whom the RUC, if given any choice in the matter, would never touch.
In assessing the RUC's failure to solve these two murders, we must bear in mind the enormous effort Nesbitt and his team made to prevent the truth emerging about the existence and role of Abernethy's Committee. And we should recall what Sands told us in 1991, namely that "the Loyalists will not move without the Inner Force giving the okay." So the obvious questions to be asked about the murders of Gerard and Rory Cairns, should there ever be a genuinely independent inquiry into their deaths, include: did Abernethy's Committee sanction and organise the killings? Was the RUC Inner Force involved? Were the two assassins drawn from Billy Wright's "rat pack" or from Robin Jackson's gang?
Given what we have learned from Sands about the Committee's central role in organising Loyalist terrorism, we are justified in assuming that Abernethy and his co-conspirators should still be regarded as the "prime suspects" for these murders. And given what we know about the role of the RUC Inner Force, it is highly likely that these murders will forever remain in the RUC file marked: "Unsolved." If Eamon and Sheila Cairns were to succeed in securing a public inquiry they would, I believe, make two crucial discoveries -- first, that those ultimately responsible for the murder of their sons have been known to the RUC since October 1991; and second, that if the RUC had arrested the conspirators at that time, their two boys would probably still be alive.
(2) The Murder of Kathleen O'Hagan
Paddy O'Hagan is lucky to be alive. He would certainly have been shot dead along with his wife, Kathleen, if he had been at home with her on Saturday night, August 7th 1994, when a Loyalist squad arrived at their remote farmhouse in the Sperrin mountains in County Tyrone. On that night, Paddy had gone out for a late night drink and a game of pool with friends, leaving his five young children, all under the age of eight, in the care of his wife who was pregnant with their sixth child. When he returned home in the early hours of the morning, he encountered a scene of pure horror. His terrified children came rushing out to meet him shouting: "Mammy's dead. Mammy's in heaven. Bad boys came and broke the glass. They've shot mammy and she's in heaven."4
Paddy rushed into the house and made his way to the bedroom. "I think the light was on where she was lying. I put my arms round her. She was still warm but I saw there was nothing I could do for her. That's a wee picture you'd never forget."5
As Kathleen O'Hagan's body was lowered into the grave a few days later, a local woman grabbed the microphone through which the funeral service had been relayed to a large crowd outside the church. "The RUC colluded in the murder of Kathleen O'Hagan," she told the mourners, many of whom applauded eagerly. They also welcomed a family statement, read aloud, which claimed that the death was "the end product of years and years of endless organised harassment of our family." But the RUC dismissed all the criticisms, rejecting the collusion charges as "ritual statements and less than constructive," and asserting that this "savage, barbaric and cold-blooded murder" would be vigorously investigated.
It will not surprise the reader to be told that, despite the professed intention to track down the killers, the RUC's detective efforts appear to have come to nought. More than three years after this killing, which the priest at the funeral described as "unnaturally obscene," nobody has been arrested or charged with Kathleen O'Hagan's murder. And it is not at all likely that anyone ever will be. For Kathleen's husband of nine years, Paddy O'Hagan, is not someone for whom the RUC would have much sympathy; he had spent eight years in prison for IRA terrorist offences before his release and marriage in 1985. In fact, he had met his future wife for the first time when she was visiting her Republican brother, who had lost a leg in a premature bomb explosion, an incident which eventually led to his sharing a prison cell with Paddy O'Hagan.
Kathleen O'Hagan's murder hit the headlines because the Loyalist terrorists, in murdering this five-month pregnant woman in front of her five infant children, had sunk to an abyss which most people who heard about it, no matter what their political viewpoints, could recognise as an uniquely depraved and foul deed. Yet, as the wife of a former IRA terrorist, Kathleen O'Hagan was soon forgotten and, as a result, there can be few who seriously believe that the RUC, left to its own devices, will ever locate or prosecute the culprits. We can be fairly confident that Kathleen O'Hagan's murder will forever remain offficially "unsolved."
Was it a Committee killing? Who gave it the go-ahead? Was the RUC Inner Force involved? Was the Loyalist squad led by King Rat, by The Jackal or by somebody else? Was Kathleen O'Hagan murdered because she was the mother of a large Catholic family, because she was a symbol of the population trend the Ulster Loyalists fear? We are unlikely to learn the answers to any of these questions unless and until a public inquiry, instituted along the lines outlined above, is able to interrogate Abernethy, Ross. Forbes. Monteith and the other members of the Committee. Before any investigator decides to cross-examine these people about this particular murder, they could profitably recall what Jim Sands told us in his filmed interview about the nature of the Committee's murder conspiracy: "It's run as a business, with business expertise being given by experienced people . . . Nothing happens now without actually getting the go-ahead from the central Committee." Did Billy Abernethy give the "go-ahead" for the murder of Kathleen O'Hagan?
(3) The Loughinisland Murders
In the summer of 1994 millions of people in Britain and Ireland greatly enjoyed the spectacular progress of the Irish Republic's football team in the World Cup in the USA; it was a source of pride not just for the Irish but also for the British because the hero of the hour was the team's English manager, Jackie Charlton. And when, on June 20th, the Irish team defeated the soccer loving Italians by one goal to nil, cheers erupted in many thousands of pubs, clubs and homes throughout the British Isles.
Tragically, the joyous emotions stirred by this sporting triumph were instantly crushed when television viewers in Britain and Ireland were shown pictures of what had happened in a pub in County Down at the time the football players were on the field. For shortly after the match had begun, a Loyalist squad had burst into O'Toole's bar in Loughinisland and opened fire with a machine gun, spraying the customers with bullets. O'Toole's bar had, as the Loyalists would have known, a largely Catholic clientele and it was crowded with regulars who had arrived to watch the live television coverage of the match. Six people were murdered, five Catholics and one Protestant -- the bullets did not discriminate on the basis of religion or age or anything else. Six more families were plunged into misery and the Loyalist squad, having achieved their objective, escaped undetected.
Most of those murdered in the attack were in the prime of life -- Patrick O'Hare, Malcolm Jenkinson, Dan McGreanor, Eamonn Byrne, Adrian Rogan; one of the dead, Barney Green, was in his eighties. The television pictures of the carnage, the blood-splattered bar and the heart-broken relatives managed to convey the intensity of the hatred and the horror of the sectarian conflict, which has driven ordinary human beings into barbarism. Loughinisland is now a word which stands for the images we saw that night in June 1994.
I remember wondering, when I first heard about that attack and saw the images on my television screen, whether the Committee could possibly have been responsible. "Kill the fish and poison the water" had been the Committee's strategy for eliminating the IRA and intimidating the Catholic population in Northern Ireland. The attack on O'Toole's bar in Loughinisland had fitted in with that strategy. Could it possibly be the case, I asked myself, that these six harmless men had been murdered by those very individuals whose names I had learned from Jim Sands in 1991?
When Tim Laxton and I eventually met and talked with Committee member Ken Kerr in Maidstone in 1996, I asked him about the Loughinisland murders. Two years on from that attack, the images had faded in my mind but I knew that the atrocity would remain an acutely painful memory for many thousands of people, especially the Catholic population in Northern Ireland. So who was responsible for Loughinisland? Did Billy Abernethy give it the go-ahead? Was the RUC Inner Force involved? Were those six murders the result of collusion between the RUC and the Loyalist squad?
Ken Kerr claimed that the attack had been sanctioned and organised by the Committee. And he gave us the name of the RUC Inspector who, he said, had supervised the killings. For the reason I have already given -- Ken Kerr's attempt to discredit my investigation -- I have decided not to name this RUC officer publicly at this stage. But if Kerr's information about this RUC Inspector turns out to be true, it will explain why these murders, almost four years after the attack on O'Toole's bar, remain officially "unsolved." The Committee's involvement would be shocking but no more shocking than the fact that those identified by Jim Sands in 1991 as the architects of Loyalist terror continue to enjoy immunity for their crimes.
Early in 1998, I obtained fresh information about these three atrocities. I believe that, if they were to be probed by an independent investigator, it will be discovered that:
(1) Rory and Gerard Cairns were murdered by a member of Billy Wright's "rat-pack" and that the RUC has known the person's identity since the day the crime was committed. The assassin's identity is known to me.
(2) Kathleen O'Hagan was murdered by another of Wright's "rat-pack" and, again, the identity of the assassin has long been known tO the RUC.
(3) The Loughinisland atrocity was carried out by the Loyalist assassin who has been an RUC "hitman" since 1973, the Committee's Robin Jackson.
In late 1997 I was trying to arrange meetings with some of the leading figures in the Loyalist assassination campaign in an effort to discover whatever I could about more of the Committee's "unsolved" murders. I had made tentative arrangements to meet R.J. Kerr who, though not a member of the Committee, had helped Robin Tackson to murder William Strathearn in 1977, had participated in the attempted murder of Paschal Mulholland in 1984 and had been involved -- albeit at a low level -- in Loyalist sectarian killings over a period of nearly thirty years. He was in a position to fill in many gaps in my knowledge of Loyalist terrorism and had grown disenchanted by developments within the paramilitary underworld. Shortly after I had learned of his willingness to talk to me, the news reached me of his death in a mysterious explosion, reportedly an accident. I had also taken initial steps towards arranging a meeting with Billy Wright in prison where he was serving an eight-year sentence -- not for murder, not even for attempted murder, but for threatening to kill a woman in his home town, Portadown. I was told he would see me but I did not really expect to make any significant breakthrough in my research from such a steely and ruthless terrorist. Before any date was fixed for the meeting, he was murdered by a Republican splinter group on December 27th, 1997. And my hopes of securing an interview with the Committee's other key assassin, Robin Jackson, were also dashed when, in January 1998, I learned that he was dying of lung cancer.
Though I have been forever denied the opportunity of face to face interviews with these assassins, there remains -- at least in theory -- considerable scope for securing confessions from those who planned and organised the murders. But it is highly improbable that any of these Committee members will talk. On the other hand, it is certain that I will persevere in my efforts to expose what they have done.
1 By choosing this date, August 1994, I do not wish to suggest that the Committee and its assassins were idle after that date. For the Loyalists have continued to murder Catholics right up to the present day (February 1998).
2 See Chapter 4 p. 38.
3 See Chapter 4 p. 42.
4 These tragic events are movingly described in an article by Susan McKay in the Sunday Tribune, "The Life and Death of Kathleen O'Hagan." August 14th 1994.
5 Same article, Sunday Tribune, August 14th 1994.
Twenty-four identified or suspected Members and four Associates of the Ulster Loyalist Central Co-ordinating Committee. This terrorist organisation -- The Committee -- controlled the Loyalist death squads which murdered, among others, the eighteen Republicans and Catholics listed in Appendix Two. These are some of the "prime suspects" for the murders of Republicans and Catholics between October 1991 and mid-1996, as listed in Appendix Two; Source A, Jim Sands, told us that the Committee had a membership of between fifty and sixty people. All those listed below deny membership. Almost all of the alleged Committee members were interviewed by the RUC, which declared them all innocent.
24 Alleged Committee Members
|Billy Abernethy||Chairman, Ulster Loyalist Central Co-ordinating Committee-"The Committee;" Ulster Bank executive; ex-RUC Reserve|
|Hugh Ross||Presbyterian Minister; President, Ulster Independence Committee|
|Trevor Forbes OBE||RUC Assistant Chief Constable and Head of Special Branch (retired)|
|James Sands||"Source A;" Hugh Ross's "messenger"|
|John McCullagh||Representative, Ulster Resistance paramilitary organisation|
|Isobel McCulloch||Performed secretarial services, booked halls etc.|
|Graham Long||ex-British Army, Loyalist paramilitary|
|Nelson McCausland||Belfast City Councillor; Ulster Unionist Party|
|David Prentice||Businessman; Prentice Garages, Portadown, Co. Armagh|
|Albert Prentice||Businessman; Prentice Garages, Portadown, Co. Armagh|
|Charles Moffett||Accountant, laundered money for arms shipments|
|Richard Monteith||Solicitor, Belfast and Portadown, Co. Armagh|
|Cecil Kilpatrick*||Member, Ulster Independence Committee; Hillsborough, Co. Down; ex-RUC Reserve|
|Lewis Singleton||Solicitor; Ulster Independence Committee [See below, Drew Nelson and William David Trimble MP]|
|Philip Black||Staff member, Computer Science Department, Queen's University, Belfast|
|Sammy Abraham||Businessman; Akraprint Ltd, Tandragee, Co. Armagh|
|Will Davidson||Full details on this individual to be supplied in a later edition.|
|Alec Jamison||Inner Force|
|Robin Jackson||Assassin; nickname The Jackal|
|Billy Wright||Assassin; nickname King Rat|
|Dean McCullough||Portadown/Lurgan Ulster Volunteer Force|
|Alec Benson||Assassin; Loyalist Retaliation and Defence Group, Lisburn, County Antrim|
|Ken Kerr||ex-British Army, Loyalist paramilitary [See Chapter 14]|
|Ian Whittle||RUC Inner Force, Portadown Representative|
|*Sands has a slight speech impediment, which explains why this name appeared as "Kirkpatrick" in the Channel 4 dossier.|
4 Committee Associates
|Alan Clegg||RUC Inspector and Head of Lurgan RUC Station when Sam Marshall was murdered by Robin Tackson in March 1990|
|William David Trimble||Member of Parliament for Upper Bann; Leader, Ulster Unionist Party since 1995; Member of the Privy Council, which advises the Queen of England; briefed by Committee leaders while assassination campaign was under way; swore affidavit in libel proceedings brought by Committee member Richard Monteith; defended Committee member Hugh Ross on Right to Reply; attacked The Committee programme in speeches in the House of Commons; legal representatives: Lewis Singleton and Drew Nelson [See above and below]|
|Frazer Agnew||Politician, Ulster Unionist Party; ex-Mayor of Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim; associate of Trevor Forbes [See above]|
|Drew Nelson||Solicitor; Dromore, Co. Down; Partner in Legal Practice with Lewis Singleton [See above]; Signed affidavit on behalf of Richard Monteith in his unsuccessful criminal libel action against the author|
Ken Kerr gave me the names of at least twenty more people who, allegedly, attended meetings of the Committee or who, while judging it prudent not to attend, had fully supported its murderous acivities. These included four senior RUC Special Branch officers, two senior civil servants in the Northern Ireland Office and a Lieutenant Colonel in the Ulster Defence Regiment. Given Kerr's failed attempt to sabotage my investigation and, therefore, the dubious status of all his revelations, I have decided not to identify in this book any of the additional alleged conspirators or assassins whose names he gave me. Nevertheless, I hope that further research will enable me to identify all fifty to sixty Committee Members and Associates, and to give a comprehensive list of the Committee's victims, in the second edition of this book.