28 December 2005

'Stakeknife' in spotlight over 1992 murders

Belfast Telegraph

Life could have been saved: group

By Michael McHugh
newsdesk@belfasttelegraph.co.uk
28 December 2005

THE PSNI team probing the alleged activities of IRA mole Stakeknife is being urged to re-investigate another brutal murder of a republican by the IRA.

The killing of Portadown man John Dignam in June 1992 comes under the spotlight as the row over British informers and Stormontgate rumbles on.

The PSNI's Historic Enquiries Team (HET) is understood to be probing the murder as part of the Stakeknife investigation into allegations surrounding west Belfast man Freddie 'Stakeknife' Scappaticci.

Mr Dignam, Aidan Starrs and Gregory Burns were murdered by an IRA team after being dubbed informers despite Stakeknife, himself a British agent, allegedly being in a position to save him.

They were found shot dead in a remote field in south Armagh.

The British/Irish Rights Group has sent a dossier on Mr Dignam's murder to the Historic Enquiries Team and director Jane Winter said there were a number of questions which needed to be answered.

"We have sent a file on one alleged victim, John Dignam, and we have put in everything which we have been able to discover about that case and the HET have confirmed that they will be looking into that," she said.

In addition to being alleged informers, the trio were accused by the IRA of having killed Portadown woman Margaret Perry.

"The allegation is that some of the people involved were working for the FRU and working for Special Branch and if that is true it is possible that all four murders, of Mr Dignam, Aidan Starrs, Gregory Burns and Margaret Perry, could have been avoided," Ms Winter added.

"After what the Perry family went through the thought that her death could have been prevented is a terrible thought. If that is true then whoever is responsible should be brought to book."

Relatives of Mr Dignam have demanded a public inquiry into the matter and have called for Scappaticci to be summoned to give evidence.

The HET was handed the files on Stakeknife. The team was also given files on the murders of the trio by the Stevens team which had been investigating the killings.

"I think the HET is better placed to look not just at Stakeknife but at all the issues which Stakeknife has thrown up," Ms Winter said.

"People have had to live with the stigma of having their relatives labelled informers and this may not have been true.

"The HET is quite interested in looking at a pattern of crimes. They have more information at their disposal than the Stevens 3 team would be in a position to get as to which killings were carried out by the IRA's so-call internal discipline unit and who was involved and the real truth behind those killings."

A PSNI spokesman said they were not commenting on the matter.

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