24 May 2006

I fear Barrett will go back to crime

Belfast Telegraph

Detective who opposed killer's release warns of consequences

By Chris Thornton
24 May 2006

The detective who first tried to nail Pat Finucane's UDA killer has warned that Ken Barrett, freed from jail yesterday, will make a return to crime.

Barrett was granted early release under the Good Friday Agreement despite objections by Secretary of State Peter Hain. It is believed he has fled to England.

He was let out of Maghaberry Prison yesterday after serving two years for the 1989 UDA murder - a killing allegedly carried out with the help of security forces.

The release left questions over whether Barrett will be available to give evidence to the public inquiry into the Finucane murder - or whether he will be a target from other killers.

Barrett, who once recounted details of the killing while being covertly filmed, had been ordered to serve a minimum of 22 years in prison.

But the Sentence Review Commission decided that Barrett qualified for the early release programme that has already seen scores of paramilitaries freed.

Retired RUC detective Johnston Brown - who tried to get Barrett arrested when he heard him confess months after the murder - opposed the release and testified for the NIO last week when the Commission considered the killer's application for release.

Mr Brown, who once said he could feel the "presence of evil" in Barrett's company, told the Commissioners that he believed he could return to crime - noting that the former UDA man had been finally caught when he went to work for English detectives posing as drug dealers.

"I respect the decision of the Commission," Mr Brown said last night.

"They are decent people working with legislation that is abhorrent. It is that legislation that is letting Barrett out two years into a judicial sentence of 22 years.

"Let's hope he keeps his nose clean - but I fear he won't."

The NIO is due to launch an inquiry into the Finucane murder, but is presently wrestling with the solicitor's family about the terms for keeping national security material secret.

Former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Lord Stevens declared that there was collusion in the killing, noting the role of several informers in the attacks.

Several of the participants in the killing are already beyond the reach of the inquiry - Army agent Brian Nelson, who helped set up Mr Finucane, died of natural causes and police informer William Stobie - the UDA quartermaster who supplied the guns - was murdered weeks after he was found not guilty of the murder.

Last Friday, US politicians called on the Government to hold an independent inquiry into Mr Finucane's murder.

Members of the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation urging Prime Minister Tony Blair to widen its scope.

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