Derry Journal

'Special Branch Offered Me The World'

Friday 5th November 2004

A 37-year-old man has claimed that PSNI Special Branch offered to pay him £500 a month to spy on suspected dissident republicans in the Strabane area.

The man, who does not want to be identified, claimed he was approached by two Special Branch officers who called at his home in Sion Mills.

He said that despite efforts made on his doorstep to persuade him to become a police informant, or risk going to jail, he refused the offer.

The man told the 'Journal' that he was asked to provide information on three local republicans, one of whom was his "mate."

Detailing the encounter which took place outside his home near Sion Mills Police Station at around 10 a.m. last Wednesday, he said: "They came to my house wearing uniforms but weren't wearing any name badges.

"They said, 'We're Special Branch. This is the way it is, either you're with us, or against us. I said 'what do you mean by that'? and they said, 'You know the craic with DNA, you can find DNA anywhere.'"

He claimed he took this remark as a veiled threat as police had previously arrested him and removed items during a raid on his home following an incident in Strabane approximately six months ago. He was later released without charge.

"They said 'we want you to become an agent for us.' I said 'in other words you want me to become an informer and they said, 'if that's the way you want to put it.' I said 'I don't want to be one of them, I don't want to end up with a bullet in the head.'"

The Sion Mills man, who works in Strabane, claimed that one of the police officers who called himself 'Declan' did all the talking, but wanted to give him a new handler's name "because too many people know about Declan." "He turned round and said, 'You'll be getting £500 a month.' I joked 'is that all you're giving me to risk getting a bullet in the head?' His next retort was, 'no, the money does go up if you stay where you are and give us the information we want.

"As far as they are concerned I am involved; I said I'm not involved in anything," he insisted.

The man continued: "They wanted to come into the house but I didn't let them. I said I didn't want to do it and if I was involved, should they not be trying to get me away from it? They said 'no, we want you to stay where you are.'

When he told them he would be going public to highlight the incident, "they shrugged it off," he said.

The man continued: "I told them, 'I don't want any money from you or anything to do with you.' They said 'all we want is five minutes of your time and we'll persuade you. They said 'we can meet you at a rendezvous place.' After that they asked me a few questions about people I know and they also questioned me about incidents in the town.

"I said I have to go now and they asked me for my phone number. I said 'I haven't got a phone and I haven't got a car either.' They said 'don't worry about phones and cars.' They were offering me near enough a car; they were offering me the world.

"It came to the point where they said 'we don't want you running about thinking you are getting away scot free. You only have to look at the examples of [naming two well-known Strabane republicans currently in prison].

The man went on: "Once I wouldn't give them my telephone number they said 'how can we get in contact with you?' They said 'we know where you work, what if we give you a wee shout there?' They said it wouldn't be suspicious if they came into my place of work. They said 'you live up in Sion, you're safe,' as if to say if I touted I would be all right up there.

"That is where it ended, I just shut the door and that was it but they said they were going to get in contact again. They said they were going to crack down on known republicans or just anybody who disagrees with them.

"They even mentioned that I had papers belonging to the 32-County Sovereignty Committee in the house; they were basically saying if you don't give us what we want you're going to jail," he claimed.

The man said that by highlighting his case, he also wanted to reassure other people who may receive similar approaches to "buy" their co-operation with offers of money and other inducements.

"When I mentioned a person who was shot dead in Strabane for being an informer, they just laughed and said 'you'll be all right,'" he claimed.

A spokeswoman for the 32-County Sovereignty Committee condemned the incident and urged "all republicans to be vigilant." "This insinuation about placing DNA is extremely dangerous; Derry man Seamus Doherty is in jail over the head of peelers fitting him up," she claimed.

When contacted in relation to the matter, a PSNI spokesman said: "We cannot comment on individual cases. However, in common with all police services in Ireland, Great Britain and Europe, it is our duty to gather intelligence to help combat crime."

The spokesman added: "If any person feels they have been treated unfairly by the police they should contact the Ombudsman."

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