Sunday Life

Loyalists at war: Sacrificed
Army spooks pointed UFF killers away from top Provo spy and onto innocent grandad...and their original target was NOT Scap!

19 September 2004

THE man named as the British agent 'Stakeknife' was NOT the original target of the UDA hit squad that murdered pensioner Francisco Notarantonio, in his west Belfast home in 1987.

Freddie Scappaticci's name WAS on a hit-list provided by double agent Brian Nelson to the killers in the UDA's west Belfast battalion.

But a second man, believed to be the IRA's 'officer commanding' in Belfast, was the one to be murdered, before Nelson's Army handlers directed them away from their target, and towards the innocent grandfather.

Senior figures in the UDA and UVF have dismissed claims Scappaticci was the man the intelligence chiefs in the Army's Force Research Unit (FRU) were trying to protect, by setting up Notarantonio.

They have since concluded that the senior IRA man, whom they had under surveillance at the time, and who was to be targeted before Brian Nelson provided "intelligence" on Notarantonio, was an agent every bit as important as Stakeknife.

In Springmartin, a small Protestant estate on high ground overlooking the republican Springhill and Ballymartin, the UDA and UVF shared the keys to a flat.

They used the apartment to spy into the heart of the republican areas, and it was from there they carried out a surveillance operation against a senior member of the IRA's Belfast brigade in 1987, only to have Army agent Brian Nelson point them away from the IRA operative, and onto Francisco Notarantonio.

Later, in response to demands for a public inquiry into collusion, the UDA in west Belfast hinted it had information that could blow the cover of one of the British state's most important agents inside the IRA.

Both it and the UVF believed - incorrectly, as it turned out - that they knew the identity of the British agent codenamed Stakeknife, involved in the murky incident in 1987 when the UDA decided to kill a senior IRA member living in the Springhill estate, upon whom it and the UVF had been spying, but was steered instead towards ex-IRA prisoner Notarantonio by its west Belfast intelligence officer, Brian Nelson, who was working on the instructions of his Army handlers.

In 2003, when former FRU soldier 'Martin Ingram' said Stakeknife, the ex-head of the IRA's internal security squad, was none other than Freddie Scappaticci, the UDA and UVF men involved in the Springhill plot were flummoxed.

Scappaticci had never lived in Springhill, and, at the time of the loyalist surveillance, was across the border in Dundalk.

The loyalists have since concluded that the other target, saved by Brian Nelson, was an agent working in the highest ranks of the IRA's Belfast brigade.

One of the authors' loyalist sources refused to name the senior IRA man, on whom it had been spying at the time.

But from the geography of the area, the people living in the Springhill area, and their roles in the IRA, the authors and Sunday Life believe they know the identity of the man, a top Provo bomber.

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