12 February 2006
Collusion: The Murder of Pat Finucane
The Killing of Pat Finucane
On 3 October 1997 the United Nations Special Rapporteur, Data Param Cumaraswany, having visited Belfast to investigate allegations of harassment and intimidation of defence lawyers by members of the RUC, called for a judicial inquiry into the murder of human rights lawyer Pat Finucane.
Pat Finucane was shot dead by two masked men on 12 February 1989 in front of his wife and three children. His wife, Geraldine, was also injured in the attack.
The killing was claimed by the UDA who said Finucane was an IRA man. This was denied by family members, friends and in public statements by the RUC.
One of the weapons used in the attack was one of 13 weapons stolen from a British Army barracks in 1987 by a serving member of the British Army's UDR regiment.
The killing took place a few weeks after British minister Douglas Hogg said to the British parliament: I have to state as a fact but with great regret that there are in Northern Ireland a number of solicitors who are unduly sympathetic to the case of the IRA. Challenged, Hogg said: I state this on the basis of advice that I have received, guidance that I have been given by people who are dealing with these matters and I shall not expand on it further.
The killing of Pat Finucane took place in the context of frequent allegations that RUC officers made regular threats against, or derogatory comments about defence lawyers to detainees. Such allegations have been recorded by Amnesty International, the London based British Irish Rights Watch, Helsinki Watch and the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights. Included in the allegations is a claim by Loyalist sources that UDA members detained at Castlereagh prior to the killing were told by RUC Special Branch that Patrick Finucane and a few other solicitors were helping to keep IRA gunmen out of prison. Similar allegations, instancing the inquiry by the UN Special Rapporteur continue to the present.
However, Brian Nelson, the British military intelligence agent who also served as chief intelligence officer of the UDA, alleged after his conviction on other charges that he had directly assisted in the targeting of Pat Finucane.
According to the journal written by Nelson, and quoted on the BBC Panorama programme on June 1992;
Nelson was asked to gather information about Finucane some weeks prior his killing.
He informed British intelligence officers of this request.
He passed a photograph of Pat Finucane to UDA member Eric McKee just a few days before the killing.
Loyalist sources claim that Nelson reconnoitered the Finucane home with the killers before the attack.
Despite this warning Patrick Finucane was not informed of this threat to his life. A similar threat at the time, against another prominent lawyer, Paddy McGrory, was not relayed until two months after Pat Finucane's death.
Nelson was never charged in connection with the killing.
His claims have never been examined in an open court.
No one to date has been prosecuted for the murder of Pat Finucane.
No one has been charged in connection with the murder. Three men were subsequently charged with possession of the murder weapon.
According to Ed Maloney, a journalist for the Sunday Tribune the man who asked Nelson for the photograph of Pat Finucane and who was subsequently brought to the Finucane home by Nelson was the head of the UDAs murder gangs. This man served a sentence for possession of scores of leaked documents along with four others. One of these was UDA leader Tommy Lyttle. All were arrested by the Stevens inquiry team. Like the Nelson trial itself a deal was struck which prevented the full details of collusion between British forces and loyalist murder gangs coming out in open court. In the Panorama programme Nelson names the man as Ernie McKee.
The Steven inquiry did not interview Pat Finucane's widow, his partner, Peter Madden pf the Madden/Finucane legal firm, or any of his clients to whom threats had been made against Pat Finucane himself.
The Report of the International Human Rights Working Party of the Law Society of England and Wales in 1995 states:
There is credible evidence of both police and army involvement. We cite the most significant items below. There is further evidence in the hands of the police which we have not been given access.
The Goverrnment told the UN Special rapporteur that the DPP directed that there should be no prosecution against any officer in connection with Patrick Finucane's death. Significantly the Government did not deny that there was collusion by the government or the security forces in relation to the murder.
The following threats were made against Patrick Finucane by RUC officers
death threats by CID officers;
false allegations by CID officers that he was a member of the IRA;
threats by CID officers to pass his name and details to loyalist paramilitaries.
Our understanding is that none of these allegations has been investigated by the police, let alone tested in court. DS (Detective Sergeant RUC) Simpson told the inquest that some of them were investigated by the Stevens inquiry. John Stevens told us that as far as he could remember they were not. It is wholly wrong in our view that such allegations should remain unexamined.
Since the inquest two British army officers have admitted army participation in the UDA murder plot that involved Patrick Finucane. The context of each admission is very different; one in a television programme and one on oath in Court. Yet they are both credible. Together they raise serious questions which require further investigation.
(i) Admissions by Brian Nelson
Brian Nelson was a British army intelligence officer who was placed in the UDA in 1987. He is currently serving prison sentences arising out of his involvement, while acting as an intelligence officer, in other terrorist murders. (Note: Nelson is now a free man. This 1995 report predates Nelson's release in 1996).
His admissions to involvement in the Finucane murder were transmitted in a BBC Panorama programme on 8 June 1992.
He was asked weeks before the murder of a UDA terrorist what he could find out about the movements of Patrick Finucane;
He told his army handlers of the UDA interest in Patrick Finucane's movements;
3 days before the murder he handed a UDA terrorist a photograph of Patrick Finucane leaving court with his client Patrick McGeown.
(ii). Admissions by a British Army colonel known as J. Colonel J gave evidence on oath at Belfast Crown Court in mitigation for Brian Nelson. He said:
Brian Nelson was infiltrated by the army into the UDA
The army directed Brian Nelson to work in and report on the intelligence structure of the UDA. Nelson learned the identity of UDA assassination targets, sometimes suggesting them himself. He then assisted the UDA by providing it with information, including photographs, on those to be assassinated. Nelson reported this to his army handlers.
Brian Nelson had provided the UDA with a photograph of a targeted victim leaving court. The army was aware that this individual was a target for assassination.
The army told the RUC of assassination plots so that the RUC could warn the victims and prevent the murders which Nelson helped to plan.
We received no evidence that Patrick Finucane was warned that he was a target for assassination.
We asked the DPP, his deputy and John Stevens about the Panorama allegations. If Panorama was right, Nelson had admitted to conspiracy to murder Patrick Finucane. How then could there not be sufficient evidence to prosecute him? They said they could not comment on individual cases. However they indicated that the full journal was not in police hands.
We note that in spite of his admission on oath, Colonel J has not been prosecuted.
John Stevens told us he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt who was responsible for the murder. He also said he knows the truth about Brian Nelson and the full facts concerning his involvement in collusion and murders. We do not. The public does not.
While the facts are not disclosed by the police and known to the public only through television, they remain untested, the murderers remain unpunished, the allegations of collusion persist, and a cloud remains hanging, not just over the legal profession, but over the system of justice itself.
A thorough, wider investigation is required!
The British government has yet to respond to the call from the UN Special Rapporteur for a judicial inquiry into the killing of Pat Finucane.
The widow of Pat Finucane has issued a civil suit against the Ministry of Defence for damages for allegedly failing to pass on intelligence warnings that he was the target of loyalist gunmen.
Patrick Finucane's brother, Martin, stated that RUC road-blocks had been in place in close proximity to the Finucane residence up to an hour before the murder; their removal prompted allegations that the RUC had cleared the area so that the gunmen could have unfettered access to and from the house. Reports of police operations on that evening would be one documentary source to be examined in a wide-ranging independent inquiry into collusion.
Allegations of collusion by British forces with loyalist paramilitaries have yet to be the subject of an independent inquiry.
The killing of Pat Finucane and the apparent lack of a thorough investigation into his killing has had wide ramifications for the public perception of the rule of law.
The claims by Brian Nelson, an agent of British military intelligence, of his direct involvement in the targeting of Pat Finucane places him at the centre of the wider picture which needs to be thoroughly and independently investigated. That is allegations of collusion between British forces and loyalists and the South African arms shipment used to re-arm the loyalist paramilitaries in the last 1980s as well as the murder of Pat Finucane.
It also adds to the wider question of the credibility of earlier investigations initiated by the British authorities including the Widgery Tribunal into Bloody Sunday and more recently the Stalker/Sampson inquiry into the shoot-to-kill policy. The credibility of these inquiries are already seriously in question.
Reference to the latter in particular, statements by the British authorities repudiating the existence of a shoot-to-kill policy by British forces are not substantiated by evidence of an official will
to investigate fully and impartially such incidents
to make the facts publicly known
to bring the perpetrators to justice, or
to bring legislation concerning such matters into line with international standards.