Sunday Life

Spence 'the untouchable'

06 March 2005

Johnny Adair posing in front of Jim Spence's house last month

A notorious UDA crime boss has been paid by British spy bosses to plan gun attacks on republicans and cause havoc among fellow loyalists, an ex-Intelligence Service handler has claimed.

Woodvale gangster Jim Spence has been outed by a former handler inside the Army's Force Research Unit - the outfit that ran loyalist double-agent Brian Nelson and the IRA's Freddie 'Stakeknife' Scappaticci.

Speaking to Sunday Life, he claimed Spence is an "untouchable", who has been in the pay of British Intelligence for 20 years - a claim furiously denied by the top loyalist.

But a second former FRU officer last week backed up the claims made by the ex-handler, who now lives in the English Midlands.

The ex-handler, who first worked for FRU, and later the re-named Joint Services Group, told how Spence:

• Was used by British Intelligence to plan attacks on republicans.

• Received documents on Pat Finucane from FRU agent Brian Nelson, and passed them to Shankill UDA man Mo Courtney, before the murder of the Catholic solicitor.

• Was paid to stir up divisions inside the UDA.

• Has been allowed to run criminal rackets with impunity.

Rumours that Spence has been working for British Intelligence have circulated for some time, stirred by Spence's bitter rival, Johnny Adair.

Previously, Spence has angrily denied claims that he is the loyalist 'Stakeknife'.

But, last week, he refused to meet Sunday Life reporters to answer questions about the former Intelligence officer's claims.

The source told Sunday Life that British spy masters had used Spence to organise UDA attacks on at least five republicans.

He linked Spence to the 1989 murder of solicitor Pat Finucane, that also involved security service agents Brian Nelson, William Stobie and Ken Barrett.

Barrett, who is currently in jail for the solicitor's murder, was filmed by BBC's Panorama naming Spence in the planning of the brutal killing.

But Spence later refuted the claims, and accused his former friend of being a "Walter Mitty" character and a "liar".

However, the source claimed Spence's primary role as a paid agent was to spread dissent within the UDA's Belfast command.

"He was the perfect conduit to spread misinformation right to the very heart of the UDA.

"Spence was used to foment dissent and division within the UDA . . . to keep its leaders at each others throats - and that's what he did, " said the source.

"He was good at driving a wedge between them."

The source added that the intelligence services allowed Spence to operate his lucrative extortion, blackmail, sex trade and drugs rackets with impunity.

"That was part of his reward," said the former handler.

"As well as his payments, he was allowed to operate with impunity, as long as he did what they wanted him to do.

"He was using hookers from England in his Belfast brothels, dealing in drugs and contraband tobacco . . . but he was never going to get pulled. He was untouchable."

The source said Spence met his handlers at a number of different hotels in Belfast, London and Glasgow.

He described how, on one occasion, a local taxi driver and fellow UDA man Barrett "compromised" a meeting between Spence and his intelligence handlers, at Belfast Castle.

Later that night, the taxi driver had a number of "visitors" to his Belfast home, who "persuaded" him to leave Northern Ireland immediately.

The source claimed that during the recent UDA feud, Spence had been used by his handlers to encourage Johnny Adair to confront the rest of the UDA leadership.

"Spence and John White encouraged Adair to take them on," said the source.

"They (the security services) wanted Adair out of the picture, and used Spence to achieve that aim. After Adair was jailed, he continued to foment division by opposing the UDA leadership.

"After John 'Grug' Gregg was killed in February 2003, Spence aligned himself with the UDA leadership to oppose Adair. Again, this would have been on the direction of his handlers."

Guess what he calls you behind YOUR backs

Jim Spence has a talent for making up derisive nicknames for fellow UDA bosses, according to the ex-Intelligence Service handler.

The source claimed Spence labelled South Belfast UDA boss, Jackie McDonald, the 'Irish Ambassador', because of his supposed willingness to acknowledge the involvement of the Dublin government in Northern Ireland affairs.

He had also dubbed south east Antrim boss John Gregg 'Grug the Thug' before his murder.

And he branded east Belfast 'commander' Jim Gray and his associates the 'Spice Boys', because of their bleached hair, loud clothes and trendy lifestyle.

A former close associate of Johnny Adair, Spence was the UDA's 'B' company boss in west Belfast for several years.

Ironically, he and Adair came to the fore in the UDA following the murder of Pat Finucane, the flaunting of security force documents by the UDA, and the subsequent Stevens Inquiry, which rounded up many senior UDA figures. He remains an influential presence within the loyalist terror group today.

Security forces believe he is the brains behind the majority of the UDA's money-spinning criminal operations in west Belfast, including racketeering and prostitution.

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