He was the British Army's golden egg, but spy Stakeknife and his intelligence masters now face an investigation for his alleged role in multiple murders. Darragh MacIntyre reports.
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Tonight, Freddie Scappaticci,
the British agent at the heart of the IRA,
is finally under investigation.
Why did it take so long?
I am Freddie Scappaticci.
In June, Freddie Scappaticci tried to stop Spotlight
broadcasting these 2003 pictures.
He took the BBC to court, but lost.
I'm telling you, I am not guilty of any of these allegations.
Back then, we reported on a special Police Ombudsman investigation.
Now, the Director of Public Prosecutions has intervened.
I have requested the Chief Constable
to investigate a range of potential offences,
which relate to the alleged activities
of an agent commonly known as Stakeknife.
It will also include an investigation
of any potential criminal activity that may have been carried out
by security service
and intelligence personnel.
We told you that Scappaticci was suspected of a role in 24 murders.
But the police say they now intend to examine many more killings.
There are other cases that I will want to ensure
the investigative body that looks at this takes into account.
We were told it could be as many as 40 killings, maybe more.
Yeah, that is a possibility. We could be touching on 50.
Well...that is astonishing.
Well, it is, but, I mean, it depends how you set the parameters.
You've just said we are looking at as many as 50 killings, 50 murders.
Why wasn't this investigated before?
Well, that is a good question.
It was clear to me that an investigation
of a much broader scale was required, and required urgently.
Because this matter has lain virtually untouched
by investigative hands now for at least 12 years.
Given the nature of the allegations that were made,
given the seriousness and volume of incidents that we're talking about,
I do think it is unacceptable that we are sitting here in 2015
having this conversation.
Why? Why this delay?
I wish we could explain the delay,
but it is an unconscionable delay, given the weight of the allegations
which are contained within this report.
12 years ago, former IRA man Freddie Scappaticci
was publicly linked to multiple murders.
He was also identified as a top army agent - Stakeknife.
He is now at the centre of one of the biggest murder investigations
the State has ever seen.
And the intelligence services are also in the frame.
This just isn't about who pulled the trigger.
There are very serious allegations about who was pulling strings.
Freddie Scappaticci, the British Army's golden egg.
The informant who hunted down IRA informants.
Central to the controversy about Stakeknife
is that he was a British state agent who was involved, allegedly,
in the murder of other British state agents.
Clearly, those allegations form the basis of our investigation.
That a British state agent was involved
in the murder and killing of other British state agents?
-That is part of...?
-That is part of our investigation.
Tonight, the story of Frank Hegarty,
a British Army informant whose death is alleged to have been overseen
by another Army agent, Freddie Scappaticci.
Loving family man.
We were his life.
But it turns out he had another life as well.
Ryan Hegarty was five years old when his father was murdered by the IRA.
This is the first time he has spoken publicly about his dad's killing.
It has haunted me my entire life.
Ryan has had a troubled past, with convictions for assault.
He was into greyhounds, racing greyhounds, coursing.
-So dogs was your dad's life?
-It was a major part of his life.
-You went racing with him one night.
-Yes, I did.
I can vaguely mind going up to Lifford, which is in Donegal.
I went there, like.
I can mind been taken there, like. I definitely mind that, like.
Frank Hegarty was an active Republican in Derry
from the start of the Troubles.
Two Catholic civilian workers are killed in a bomb attack
outside Londonderry's Ebrington Barracks.
Five years later,
military intelligence cast its net and hauls in Frank Hegarty.
They met him...on the roads...
..when he walked his greyhounds and stuff.
They said that he was responsible for planting a bomb
over at Ebrington Barracks, and two civilians were killed.
And if he cooperated with them or worked for them,
then he would be granted immunity from prosecution.
So that's how I think they recruited him.
That was taken in 1978 in West Belfast.
That's just inside...
'Patrick Mercer did nine tours of Northern Ireland
'as a British Army officer,
'sometimes, in an intelligence role.
'He knows how informants were recruited.'
They would be arrested,
often on a minor charge,
a motoring offence, tax evasion.
It would be put to them, "Look, we know, we absolutely know
"that you shot a policeman six months ago.
"Now, would you like 10 years in Long Kesh,
"would you like 20 years in Long Kesh,
"or on the other hand, would you like to become an informer?"
And, of course, there are benefits to being an informer
in terms of pay, in terms of the fact
that we guarantee we won't kill you.
Guarantee as best we could.
So it was a mixture of fear and greed.
But Frank Hegarty wasn't recruited by the police or the regular army.
He was working with a secretive army intelligence group
called the Force Research Unit, or FRU.
This is the very same organisation that ran IRA man Freddie Scappaticci.
Patrick Mercer worked alongside it.
Did they see themselves as being a force apart?
Well, they certainly saw themselves as being special troops.
They were used in a highly specialised fashion
and were extremely effective.
The Force Research Unit was centred at Thiepval Barracks in Lisburn.
From there, it ran agents such as Frank Hegarty
and Freddie Scappaticci, and many dozens of others too.
But the ethics of how to run these agents
was never going to be clear-cut.
If you allowed the agent to continue carrying on their operations,
then you were stuck in the position of what they were doing,
probably endangered the lives of policemen, soldiers
or other civilians.
On the other hand, if they didn't allow them to run,
you weren't going to get the intelligence that you wanted.
There were no...
There were no firm rules.
It wasn't the sort of thing
about which rules could be rigidly applied.
In the 1980s, successive Conservative governments
were asked, but declined, to bring in proper guidelines
on handling informers.
Recent enquiries suggest this explains, at least in part,
why some informants appeared to get away with murder.
Informants like, it is alleged, Freddie Scappaticci.
The Belfast man was an IRA veteran, twice interned in the 1970s.
He was in the same cage in Long Kesh, cage five.
He was a small, burly fellow.
Very tough, very self-assured,
and very quick to throw a punch in an argument.
In the late 1970s, when the IRA's Northern Command
set up its own dedicated internal security team,
Scappaticci joined it.
It was known as the Nutting Squad,
for shooting its victims through the head.
But Freddie Scappaticci's speciality wasn't killing people.
It was breaking them.
Former senior members of the IRA
have told me that he was the interrogator.
That was his job.
He had another job with the British Army,
where he was known as Stakeknife.
It was S-T-E-A-K K-N-I-F-E,
in other words, the instrument that you used
-for cutting a piece of steak.
-How do you know that?
Because I saw that printed on several documents -
that the information had come from Agent Steak Knife.
You had came across Agent Steak Knife in your time...?
I saw the code word used. I never met the man.
Steak Knife was thought to be a very high-grade agent
who was producing very reliable intelligence.
I was never personally involved with Steak Knife,
but his reputation preceded him.
If Stakeknife, Freddie Scappaticci, was a star recruit
for military intelligence, then Frank Hegarty wasn't far behind.
By the mid-1980s, the Derry man was a key figure
in the IRA's efforts to procure and hide weapons,
part of its Quartermaster staff.
And because he was also a British Army agent,
the Security Forces would potentially have known
where many of those weapons ended up.
Intelligence experts say most informants have a best-by date.
And we now know Frank Hegarty's time was running out.
This boat, the Casamara, sails to Ireland
with a large shipment of weapons for the IRA.
It is the first of four such shipments,
all from Libya.
Some of the weapons are hidden in three arms dumps
in Sligo and Roscommon, south of the border.
Frank Hegarty, as part of the Quartermaster Team, is involved.
Just months later, Margaret Thatcher signs the Anglo-Irish agreement
with the Taoiseach, Garret FitzGerald.
We are both resolved to take every step
to end violence in Northern Ireland.
It marks a seismic shift in relations between the two islands.
But at the heart of the deal, from the British perspective,
is the promise of increased cooperation
in the battle against the IRA.
Two months later, Sunday morning, January 26th 1986,
Frank Hegarty is spirited out of Derry by his handlers.
Frank Hegarty was at the centre of a game of political chess,
and it seems in this game,
he was the pawn that was required to be sacrificed.
His information had been shared with the Dublin authorities.
The arms dumps were raided that same day.
-More than 140 rifles and handguns were seized -
a serious blow to the IRA's terrorist campaign.
It is one of the biggest arms finds ever made in the Republic
and is the first major success for the Special Police Task Force
sent to border areas as a result of the Anglo-Irish Agreement.
The two governments celebrated the security success,
but Ryan Hegarty sees it differently.
My father was sacrificed to keep the Anglo-Irish Agreement alive.
-How do you work that out?
-How do I work that out?
Because it would have proved to everybody...
..the public, that the authorities were getting tough on the IRA
with these weapons seizures.
In Derry, the IRA only took hours to work out who had betrayed them.
They kidnapped Frank Hegarty's family -
an insurance policy.
We were taken to Ballyshannon and held for ten days.
I just think they were holding us there
as some kind of bargaining chip.
-A bargaining chip?
I think...they were afraid.
If he had went supergrass
or went into the witness box and talked,
a lot of people in high places
would have been...would have been or had gotten nervous,
so by taking us down there and holding us there,
that is what I believe what the IRA was up to.
The family were released unharmed.
Seven weeks later, Ryan's mother was flown to London to meet Frank.
British intelligence officers were there too.
They said to my mother...
They offered my mother over £100,000
if she would go off with my father.
And she says she refused,
because she knew if she took the money,
she was never getting back to Derry again.
That was it. It was over.
Her life here was over, finished.
We'd have been looking over our shoulders
for the rest of our lives.
So what did she do?
She walked out on my father.
Did she make the right decision?
As a mother, yes.
My mother was thinking about us.
Frank Hegarty returns to Derry.
His family have long insisted
that Republican leader Martin McGuinness
persuaded him to come back, assuring him he would be safe.
He came back for my mother, he came back for me
and he came back for my sister, cos he missed us,
which any father would.
Was he foolish to come back?
Frank Hegarty spent the next three weeks
hiding in a room in his mother's home.
'Ryan saw him just the once -
'a planned trip to an ancient fort in nearby Donegal,
-It's an impressive place.
-It is. It's lovely.
But it's very sad for me.
It's where you last saw your dad.
I remember it well.
We walked around, we just walked round there.
He took my hand and we just walked around it.
I can remember it, because I mind the clothes that I was wearing.
-He was in disguise.
Yeah. Cos he didn't usually wear...
-So he had sunglasses on?
And he had a flat cap on him and a brown leather coat.
I think he was happy that he saw us.
He was happy.
The following day,
Frank Hegarty met with the IRA
at a hotel car park in Buncrana, County Donegal.
He was taken away and not seen by his family again.
He could have stayed in England.
He could have stayed where he was, but he came down here to...
He came down here and faced them.
He faced them.
That's being very brave, in my eyes.
The army agent was going to his death and may well have known it.
What he didn't know was that another army agent
was almost certainly waiting to interrogate him -
Ryan says it was a rendezvous with death.
Three days later, Frank Hegarty was found dead on the border,
shot four times in the head.
Ryan believes military intelligence could have saved him
but chose not to.
They washed their hands of my father, I believe.
But what of Freddie Scappaticci's role?
The man accused of overseeing multiple murders
was secretly recorded explaining how and why Frank Hegarty was killed.
'We played the recording to Ryan
'and clearly heard a man asking Freddie Scappaticci
'about his father.'
It gets to the stage where he starts to talk about your dad.
Freddie Scappaticci was then asked
how he knew about Frank Hegarty's death.
As far as Ryan is concerned,
this is evidence that Freddie Scappaticci
was instrumental in his father's murder,
and whatever he knew, so did his handlers.
When my father went to meet the IRA,
Freddie Scappaticci would have had informed,
or would have had the information, his handlers...
What the procedure was,
where they were going to take my father,
who was all there...
..and what was going to happen to him.
They would have known everything.
Key members of the Force Research Unit
would later receive a slew of promotions
and a raft of Queen's medals.
But the unit was also coming in for scrutiny.
In 1989, a senior English policeman, Sir John Stevens,
began investigating allegations of collusion.
Remarkably, at first,
the British Army lied to his investigators,
claiming they didn't run any informants - none.
In 2003, Sir John Stevens completed his third inquiry,
concluding, in fact, that there was widespread collusion
between loyalists and the security forces.
This was when, for the first time,
he confirmed that Stakeknife was on his radar.
In relation to the so-called Agent Stakeknife -
yes, we are investigating those matters.
Soon after, Freddie Scappaticci was outed as Stakeknife.
But unlike many other alleged informers,
he was given the benefit of the doubt by senior Republicans.
What we are dealing with is unsourced,
unsubstantiated accusations and let me repeat again,
large sections of the media, unprecedented
in this case, named the person and followed up these accusations
as if they were fact,
yet no proof has been brought forward.
Behind the scenes,
Sir John Stevens geared up for another major investigation -
That investigation's going ahead,
we're getting together the documentation,
we've got a team of 28 officers working on that
and in due course, we'll be reporting
to the Director of Prosecutions.
But that's not what happened - no paperwork ever reached the DPP.
Instead, the investigation ended,
all the paperwork and files on 25 cases
were sent on to the newly formed Historical Inquiries Team.
Over the next years, the HIT sent on
18 cases to the Police Ombudsman for investigation
but the ombudsman can only investigate the police -
Michael Maguire believed more was at stake.
There were other agencies involved,
so by looking exclusively at the police,
that was only a partial picture
which is why we began to take a broader view
of what was happening.
His office had spent two years reviewing Stakeknife.
The final report put a spotlight on the intelligence services
and their agent.
The allegations that we're dealing with aren't just about the police,
which is solely within my remit,
but potentially involving other agencies as well
and indeed individuals who actively participated in murder.
It raises very serious questions about the nature
of the relationship with people
who are alleged to be informers -
whether those individuals are protected from justice
as a consequence for being an informant.
Finally, on June 18th last,
the Director of Public Prosecutions was called in and shown the report.
I was profoundly shocked about the sheer scale
of the criminal...alleged criminal conduct of the agent.
That in itself raises some significant questions
about where the...responsibility for the criminal conduct lies,
beyond the agent's personal responsibility.
-What do you mean by that?
These individuals don't work on their own. They...
They are...people who are permitted
to act in the way they act
by those who manage them within the security services,
and military intelligence.
So, it raised questions as to where the ultimate accountability lay
for the apparent criminal conduct of the agent.
'The DPP says that this should all have been dealt with years ago.'
Should the police have pushed this investigation back in 2003?
This investigation should have been taken forward
thoroughly and expeditiously as soon as the information became known
to those whose statutory responsibility it was
to carry out investigations.
-That's the police.
-That's the police.
Sir Hugh Orde was the Chief Constable then.
He told us that the current Chief Constable could speak for him.
Shouldn't a comprehensive investigation have begun
much earlier than this?
You're talking about as many as 50 killings.
I have said many times I'm not going to try to defend the indefensible,
but it would also be wrong to say there has been no investigation
or that people have not acted with integrity around this.
There has been no comprehensive investigation into Stakeknife
since those allegations were first become known generally -
to the police and to the public, indeed, back in 2003.
There have been individual investigations
where the person known as Stakeknife has been a suspect
that have been thoroughly investigated.
I'm not trying to say that the job was done
and that this is a misunderstanding -
the Police Ombudsman, the Director and I share a concern about this.
The Chief Constable says
the investigation will span the years 1978 to 1995.
The problem I have at the minute, this is so big,
it's so vast-ranging,
it's a time period of about 17 years -
everyone is fixated on the individual
known as the agent Stakeknife,
and I'm quite sure he will be the subject of investigative rigour,
but actually there will be other suspects in all of this,
and there will be implications for other people in all of this.
All this will take resources - money - which is in short supply.
-Do you have the resources to do such an investigation right now?
Or anything like the resources?
The Secretary of State doesn't seem enthusiastic to help.
She told Spotlight funding was a matter for the PSNI.
But after years of silence,
the relatives of Scappaticci's victims have found their voice.
People like Frank Mulhern, whose son was shot dead in 1993.
The PSNI here have had long enough to investigate this,
and they haven't done a thing.
So it needs to be an independent police force.
It seems the families are pushing at an open door.
I accept - and realistic - that it is unlikely that the PSNI
would garner the confidence and the support
from families of those who have lost their lives
to do this investigation at this point in time.
So, if that's the case, we need to look at other options,
and those are things I need to talk to the Northern Ireland Office
and the Department of Justice about.
Sources have told the BBC
that one option may see as many as 50 detectives
drafted in from across the UK.
The investigation could run for five years.
The Ministry of Defence has told us that collusion in murder
never was and never can be acceptable.
Any such allegations should be investigated.
We put a number of questions to Martin McGuinness.
Today, he told us that he had absolutely no role
in the death of Frank Hegarty.
It's almost 30 years
since Frank Hegarty was driven along this same road outside Castlederg,
skirting the Tyrone-Donegal border.
It's pretty isolated.
His last moments on this...this earth.
-You haven't been here before...
-Never, this is my first time.
..but still, you're able to point out the spot.
Oh, aye. Definitely. I seen it on the TV.
Where the British Intelligence
dug his grave,
and the IRA put him into it.
If the allegations surrounding Stakeknife are true,
it suggests the State was associated with murder
on an industrial scale.
As every day passes,
the failure of the State to get to the bottom of these allegations
becomes more glaring.
Truth, if it comes, will come dropping slow.