Police backed over killing

William Stobie was a Special Branch informer

The police did all they reasonably could to protect a loyalist informer before he was murdered, the Police Ombudsman's office has found.

William Stobie, 51, was killed by the Red Hand Defenders in December 2001, weeks after being acquitted of charges relating to the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane.

Stobie was a self-confessed former Ulster Defence Association quartermaster and a Special Branch informer.

Ten days before he was killed, Stobie was warned by police he should urgently move from his home on the Forthriver Estate in north Belfast.

The Ombudsman found police patrols had been stepped up around his home and he had been given other security advice, but he stayed at Forthriver.

According to police files, about 18 months before his murder, he was assured of his safety by a senior loyalist, believed to be Johnny Adair.

The Stobie family had alleged that police failed to ensure his safety, but Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan said the investigation by her office showed they did all they could to protect him.

"The police have been exonerated on this occasion," she said.

"I'm quite satisfied that nothing they could have done would have prevented Mr Stobie from being shot when he walked outside the house.

"Clearly they could have been there 24 hours a day, but that is not practical given the number of people under threat here.

"It is very sad - if Mr Stobie had taken their advice, he might be alive today."

The case against Stobie, who was accused of aiding and abetting the killing of Mr Finucane, was dismissed through lack of evidence.

Mr Finucane, a high-profile Catholic solicitor, was shot dead by the UDA in front of his family at his north Belfast home.

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