Stakeknife, top army spy in IRA, 'cost more lives than he saved', as victims slam 'damning indictment of the state'

8 March 2024, 17:38 | Updated: 8 March 2024, 17:42

Freddie Scappaticci is believed to be Stakeknife
Freddie Scappaticci is believed to be Stakeknife. Picture: Rex/Shutterstock/Getty
Jasmine Moody

By Jasmine Moody

The actions of a top British spy inside the IRA, code-named Stakeknife, most likely resulted in "more lives being lost than saved", a report has found.

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Stakeknife, whose real name is believed to be Freddie Scappaticci, was a British intelligence agent embedded in the IRA's Internal Security Unit (ISU).

He ran the "nutting squad" for the IRA, whose role was to unearth informants - but he was an informant himself.

A former defence chief once branded Stakeknife "the goose that laid the golden eggs" and claimed his actions had saved hundreds of lives.

Operation Kenova, which was undertaken by Bedfordshire Police and ran for seven years at a cost of approximately £40 million, examined Stakeknife's work.

Read more: Man suspected of being Britain's top IRA spy codenamed Stakeknife dies

Read more: Fury as shopper filmed berating poppy seller in Northern Ireland saying they are ‘badges for murderers’

Former Chief Constable Jon Boutcher, who is in charge of a team of officers conducting a series of independent historical investigations as part of Operation Kenova
Former Chief Constable Jon Boutcher, who is in charge of a team of officers conducting a series of independent historical investigations as part of Operation Kenova. Picture: Alamy

But Kenova's 208-page report found that the number of lives could be between high single figures to low double figures.

Claims of hundreds of lives saved were "inherently implausible" and "a comparison rooted in fables and fairy tales," the report said.

Meanwhile "victims were not protected and terrorists were not subjected to criminal justice," the report found. Operation Kenova linked Stakenife to at least 14 murders and 15 incidents of abduction.

The report stopped short of confirming that Scappaticci was Stakeknife, although it made it clear that Stakeknife was an individual and not a collective of different agents.

The 208-page report did not confirm that Scappaticci was Stakeknife but did confirm that he was arrested as part of the Kenova operation.
The 208-page report did not confirm that Scappaticci was Stakeknife but did confirm that he was arrested as part of the Kenova operation. Picture: Rex/Shutterstock

It also confirmed that he was arrested, and that prosecutors were examining evidence of serious criminality against him at the time of his death at the age of 77 in 2023.

The findings of Operation Kenova examined 101 murders and abductions linked to the ISU, which was responsible for interrogating and torturing people suspected of passing information to the security forces during the Troubles.

The report highlighted that it was the IRA leadership that had "commissioned and sanctioned" the unit's actions and "committed brutal acts of torture and murder" with "each evil act being the epitome of cowardice".

First Minister Michelle O'Neill during a press conference at Parliament Buildings, Stormont.
First Minister Michelle O'Neill during a press conference at Parliament Buildings, Stormont. Picture: Alamy

PSNI chief constable Jon Boutcher, who formerly led the Kenova investigation, paid tribute to the families impacted by the investigation.

"Many of these families have endured delays, setbacks and unfulfilled promises in their quest for the truth," he said.

"Their strength, determination and dignity over the many years is the most inspirational aspect of legacy and a lesson to all of us".

Caller: To vote for Sinn Féin is to vote endorse the Provisional IRA

As the author of the report, Mr Boutcher, highlighted the numerous failings of the security forces and the UK government.

However, he acknowledged they were acting in a stressful and violent environment.

The report has called for the UK government and Irish republican leadership to apologise on behalf of the IRA.

Lawyer Kevin Winters, who represents the families of 12 victims, has said the report was a “damning indictment of the state.

"The staggering takeaway message is that the state could have intervened to save lives," he said.

"We are left with the horrendous conclusion that both the state and the IRA were co-conspirators in the murder of its citizens."

Now, Northern Ireland's First Minister has apologised to the families of victims of the Troubles following a report into a British spy in the IRA.

Michelle O’Neil said: "I am wholeheartedly committed to healing the wounds of the past," she said, adding that she believes an apology from the British Government "should be forthcoming".

No. 10 has said it has extended its sympathies to those impacted by the Troubles.

However, they refused to comment on the report until the inquiry had completed its work.

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