Pressure for a public inquiry into the murder of Patrick Finucane, a Catholic solicitor, grew yesterday after a former police informer admitted shooting him dead.
The killing has been at the centre of a 15-year inquiry into collusion between Protestant paramilitaries and the security forces in Northern Ireland.
Ken Barrett, 41, pleaded guilty in Belfast Crown Court to shooting Mr Finucane 14 times in front of his wife and their three children at their home in north Belfast in February 1989.
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Barrett, who was a member of the loyalist paramilitary Ulster Defence Association at the time, was working as an informant for the then Royal Ulster Constabulary’s Special Branch.
Two of his former associates also allegedly involved in the shooting have since died. William Stobie, who provided weapons used in the killing, was shot dead by loyalists in December 2001. Brian Nelson – an agent of the Army’s ultra-secret Force Research Unit – who helped provide information on Mr Finucane’s whereabouts, died of lung cancer in Wales last April. Mr Nelson had warned his handlers that a shooting was about to take place, but nothing was done to prevent it.
Evidence against Barrett was first obtained in October 1991, when he met Detective Johnston “Jonty” Brown.
In a secretly taped meeting, the killer told Mr Brown he fired several shots into Mr Finucane’s head. A statement from the retired policeman said: “He said: ‘You never tire of doing this, Jonty’.
“He said he killed Mr Finucane so quickly that he still had a fork in his hand as he was lying on the floor.”
The confessions were recorded by Mr Brown, but the tape went missing and was never recovered. Furthermore, because Barrett was an agent for the intelligence services, no arrest was made and prosecutors were never alerted to the confession, the court heard. Barrett again revealed his role in the crime in August 2001, telling a BBC Panorama team of police involvement in setting up loyalist hits.
A third inquiry into the murder by Sir John Stevens, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, secured a fresh confession from Barrett.
In a conversation with two undercover policemen, Barrett admitted “whacking” Mr Finucane – not, Barrett insisted, because he was a solicitor, but because he was a republican and an IRA man. He also admitted “whacking” other people, and added: “That was my way of life at the time.”
Following yesterday’s guilty plea, Michael Finucane, the son of the murdered solicitor, called on the Government to set up a public inquiry.
Mr Finucane said: “They said they would set out the way ahead at the conclusion of all prosecutions.
“The only prosecution has now been held, so when can the public inquiry be held? That’s the only question the British Government has to answer.”
He added: “The system makes it possible for these guys to kill with impunity. They get the means to do it, the resources and protection afterwards.”
Inquiries are already due to take place into the murders of the Catholic solicitor Rosemary Nelson, the Loyalist Volunteer Force leader Billy Wright, and Robert Hamill, a Catholic killed by a loyalist mob.
FIGHT FOR JUSTICE
* February 1989: Pat Finucane shot dead.
* September 1989: John Stevens begins investigation into security force breaches.
* 1992: Brian Nelson, a UDA intelligence officer revealed as army agent who tipped off handlers about plan to kill Finucane, jailed for 10 years for conspiracy to murder.
* April 1999: John Stevensstarts investigation into Finucane murder.
* April 2002: Retired Canadian judge Peter Cory appointed to carry out inquiry into six murdersinvolving allegations of security force collusion.
* April 2003:Nelson dies of cancer. Six days later, Sir John Stevens confirms security force collusion in Finucane murder.
* May 2003: Loyalist Ken Barrett charged with murder of Finucane.
* April 2004: Coryrecommends public inquiry. Government refuses until proceedings against Barrett are completed.
* September 2004: Barrett pleads guilty.
UVF men were arrested over Gerard and Rory Cairns murder
Killer Billy Wright was one of nine loyalists questioned about the murders of Gerard and Rory Cairns.
Fellow UVF men Mark Fulton and Robin Jackson were also arrested and questioned but later released without charge.
During the Troubles several sectarian attacks were carried out against the Catholic community in the wider Bleary area.
The remains of nine victims, including the Cairns’ brothers, are interred in the small graveyard adjacent to nearby St Colman’s Church in Clare.
- UVF killers told me to be quiet before shooting dead my brothers
- Mother Sheila Cairns will never forgive men who killed her sons
After the murders of his sons Eamon Cairns saw a photograph of Wright and identified him as the man he had seen in the area prior to the attack.
He said that police later attempted to dismiss an eyewitness who said he saw RUC officers attempting to speak to Billy Wright a short distance from the murder scene before the attack.
Mr Cairns said he also saw former UVF man Lindsay Robb in the area before the murders.
In a 2007 report then Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan said she could find no evidence of collusion.
However, the Cairns family continue to suspect collusion in the case.
Posted by Jim on October 8, 2016
Known as the ‘Hallion Battalion’, the UDA unit was being groomed to eventually take over ‘C Company’ from the shaven-headed terror boss.
But its members are now either in the grave, prison or exiled from their former lower Shankill power base.
Not a single one of these UDA ‘young guns’ was present at Adair Jnr’s funeral in Scotland.
Instead it was left to the terror gang’s old-timers like ‘Skelly’ McCrory and John White to bury their pal Johnny Adair’s oldest child.
Sunday Life today looks at what became of the ‘Hallion Battalion’s’ leading members, and how their associations with Adair led each to either prison, exile or an early death.
JONATHAN ADAIR: Died of a drugs overdose one day after being freed from prison for motoring offences.
At the time of his death the 32-year-old was awaiting trial on drugs charges.
He had previous convictions for heroin dealing and wrecking the home of a woman who refused to sell him cannabis.
Jonathan fled the Shankill Road in 2003 after his father’s ‘C Company’ faction was purged by the mainstream UDA.
He was being groomed for a senior role in the unit and had been pictured for a UFF calendar wearing a balaclava and carrying a machine-gun. A year earlier he was kneecapped by the terror gang for hitting a woman during a filling station robbery and breaking into the home of a pensioner.
WILLIAM HILL: A violent ‘C Company’ member who hero-worshipped Johnny Adair and ended up being convicted of murder.
The 32-year-old is due for release in the new year after serving a minimum 13-year life sentence for beating chef David Cupples to death outside the old Girdwood Army barracks.
Hill, who had spent the night taking drugs and drinking in a ‘C Company’ shebeen, mistook his victim for a Catholic.
Popular David was walking along Clifton Park Avenue for an early morning shift when he was set upon by the frenzied sectarian thug.
Hill beat the innocent Protestant with a brick, and the following day threatened staff at a nearby service station to delete CCTV footage that recorded him at the premises the night before.
After the UDA thug was jailed it emerged he had carried out pipe-bomb attacks on the north Belfast office of SDLP politician Alban Maginness and the home of rival loyalist John ‘Grugg’ Gregg.
WAYNE AND BENJI DOWIE: The brothers were among two-dozen Johnny Adair loyalists who fled the Shankill when his faction was exiled by the UDA in February 2003.
Two years later Wayne, 36, was cleared of the UDA feud murder of Jonathan Stewart during a Christmas party in north Belfast.
The 2002 killing was carried out by a ‘C Company’ gunman because the victim was related to a loyalist who had fallen out with Adair.
His brother Benji, 35, was jailed for five years in 2004 for conspiracy to sell crack cocaine and heroin alongside Jonathan Adair.
Despite their associations with ‘C Company’ resulting in them being exiled from Northern Ireland, the Dowie brothers remain in awe of Adair.
In 2003 Wayne Dowie told reporters: “From when I’ve been growing up he’s been the biggest loyalist in my eyes. As Ulster’s young men we looked up to Johnny. We idolised him.”
ALAN ‘BUCKY’ McCULLOUGH: His body was found in a shallow grave at Mallusk in June 2005 two months after he left a safe house in Bolton to return to the Shankill Road.
The 21-year-old, who idolised Johnny Adair, was among the ‘C Company’ members who fled their Belfast home in February 2003 after being attacked by the mainstream UDA.
He moved to the north-east of England, but was unable to settle and sought assurances from the UDA that he would be safe if he returned to Northern Ireland.
Within a month of moving back to the Shankill McCullough disappeared. The body of the dad-of-one was discovered one month later.
Leading UDA member Mo Courtney — a former close friend of Johnny Adair — was convicted of the manslaughter of McCullough and sentenced to eight years in prison.
ANDREW ROBINSON: The knife maniac is serving a minimum 20-year life sentence for the horrific murder of his fiancée Julie-Ann Osbourne in 2000.
The 38-year-old stabbed his helpless girlfriend 50 times and left her body impaled to the floor of their Shankill Terrace home.
Robinson slaughtered Julie-Ann, 22, because she threatened to leave him and take their baby daughter Melissa with her.
At the time of the killing the thug was a ‘C Company’ enforcer who treated Johnny Adair as a god-like figure.
Robinson — who had an appalling record of domestic violence against his partner — was tasked with carrying out punishment attacks for the UDA.
He was behind bars when Adair’s faction fled the Shankill in 2003.
However, he will not be able to return there when he is freed from prison such is the revulsion towards him for murdering Julie-Ann
DEE COLEMAN: The only member of Johnny Adair’s ‘Hallion Battalion’ who is still with the mainstream UDA.
The 32-year-old was behind bars when his then he ro was forced from the Shankill by the mainstream UDA.
But rather than join him in Scotland on his release, Coleman opted to remain in Northern Ireland within the ranks of the terror organisation.
Coleman’s stint in a juvenile jail came about after he was convicted of involvement, aged just 14, in a UDA gun attack on rival UVF supporters during the 2000 loyalist feud.
He was caged again in 2007, this time for six years, for trying to extort £5,000 from an undercover policeman who he thought was a builder.
Coleman, who is currently the UDA’s second-in-command on the lower Shankill, wed two weeks ago in a lavish ceremony.
Fred concludes: After watching a third part of the series the Nineties were as dark as the Seventies, even darker. Collusion among Loyalist Hit Squads and the RUC was so evident it is shocking to think that not one senior RUC officer is behind bars. Nuala O’Loan, former Northern Ireland Ombudsperson, became very emotional during one interview when she was asked about the murder of the Cairns brothers aged only eighteen and twenty one. Billy Wright, according to his own associates, was behind the murders and was given the names by acting RUC officers. The UVF in the Nineties – front for the UDA murdered more Catholics than previous times. Literally it was open season on Catholics. As one researcher said, if anybody had a slight connection with a member of the Republican movement, the RUC would put them on a list as an easy target to be assassinated. It is a programme that people with any interest in Ireland should watch. Mrs Finucane who is still looking for Justice for the murder of her husband Pat, stated with total clarity, the gunmen are one issue but it is who sent them is the Core of getting to the Truth. She went on to say – the Orders now came literally from 10 Downing Street. It was a massive statement to make but senior ranking members of the RUC, some may even be still serving, many retired, should come forward and tell Mrs Finucane the Facts.
Drew Harris was a ranking officer in the RUC during this dark period. I am not suggesting in any way that the Garda Commissioner Harris knows anything about the collusion because if he does/did, he would have come forward years ago and given the facts to over 70 families who had innocent loved ones murdered by the RUC and UDA. It is ironic also that the PSNI (RUC) now are trying to get convictions against former IRA members including Gerry Adams and yesterday Ivor Bell walked free from a Belfast court when the Judge stated that he Mc Intyre had a hatred and was biased towards Gerry Adams. What intrigues me is that I don’t see any witch-hunt in tracking down the RUC officers who were UDA members by night and bringing them before the courts. As usual MI5/6 hide in the shadows – just ask former Police Chief Stevens who had his offices burned down, in a matter of days of his arrival in Belfast. Yes, many questions but very few answers. Again I repeat the witch-hunt against Adams is beginning to back-fire and I wish McIntyre now would go away and look at the other side since he keeps calling himself a Republican. To be continued Fred.