This week saw renewed calls for a public inquiry into the 1989 murder of former republican prisoner Sam Marshall by the loyalist Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and allegations of security force collusion in the killing.
Marshall was gunned down minutes after attending a Lurgan police station as part of his bail requirements. Two other men, Colin Duffy and Tony McCaughey, who were with Marshall at the time were uninjured in the attack.
It emerged this week that at the time of his death he was under surveillance by up to eight military intelligence officers, two of whom were less than 100 yards away when he was shot yet apparently saw nothing.
In its report into the killing the Historical Enquiries Team (Het), which was tasked with reviewing cold cases, found that:
- A military commander at a remote location monitored a unit of eight undercover soldiers, including two with camera equipment at the entrance of the police station
- The armed military intelligence personnel at the scene were in six cars, including the noted red Maestro
- Two other undercover soldiers followed the republicans on foot and were within 50-100 yards of the attack but said they did not to see the killing in which the gunmen fired 49 shots
- After two masked loyalists jumped from a car and started shooting, the troops did not return fire, claiming it was out of their line of sight and too far away, but alerted colleagues who launched an unsuccessful search for the killers. Despite being in a republican area the soldiers make no reference to feeling at risk from the gunmen
- The RUC found gloves near the gang's burned-out getaway car, but the gloves were subsequently lost
- The RUC sought to deny the existence of a surveillance operation by giving "misleading or incomplete" statements. But RUC Special Branch had briefed the undercover troops
- Investigators could not rule in or rule out that the RUC had leaked information to the loyalists, but they said the killers may have gathered their own intelligence
The Het also found that the guns used by the UVF killers in the attack were linked to at least four other murders, including that of prominent Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane the same year.
Marshall's family have alleged that the weapons - VZ58 automatic rifles - were part of a huge shipment of weapons smuggled into Northern Ireland by British military intelligence agent and leading member of the loyalist Ulster Defence Association Brian Nelson (see box) in 1988 with the full knowledge of his British handlers.
The Het was unable to answer all the questions posed by relatives over the weapons used in the Marshall murder, but the family has obtained a copy of the original Royal Ulster Constabulary report on the killing, after the document was handed to a US court as part of an extradition case in 1993.
It confirmed that the guns were VZ58 automatic rifles, similar in appearance to the AK47.
The provenance of these weapons is itself a matter of interest. It has been suggested that they were originally abandoned by the Palestine Liberation Organisation, seized by the Israelis and then ended up being sent to the pro-apartheid regime in South Africa.
Profile: Who was Brian Nelson?
Brian Nelson, a former Black Watch soldier from the loyalist Shankill Road area of Belfast, played a key role in at least 10 murders and provided the UDA with details on at least 16 other people who were subsequently killed, including Pat Finucane.
Sir John Stevens' report into collusion in Northern Ireland suggested it could link Nelson to up to 30 murders, many of them of innocent civilians.
He was discharged from the army in 1970 and joined the UDA in 1972.
In 1974 he was jailed for seven years for the kidnap and torture of Gerald Higgins, a partially-sighted Catholic. Mr Higgins died shortly afterwards.
Nelson served just over three years in prison and re-joined the UDA on his release.
In the 1980s Nelson was recruited as an agent by the Force Research Unit (FRU), a shadowy branch of the British Army.
He rose rapidly through the UDA ranks to become its intelligence officer, collecting information on potential targets and selecting victims for assassination.
Much of this information was provided by elements within the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Ulster Defence Regiment. The RUC has publicly acknowledged that thousands of intelligence files found their way into the hands of loyalist paramilitaries.
It is alleged that the FRU helped Nelson compile targeting data and computerise the UDA's files. The FRU also used Nelson to direct loyalist paramilitaries to specific targets.
In 1992 Nelson was jailed again, this time for 10 years, having struck a deal which saw him plead guilty to five counts of conspiracy to murder in exchange for 15 other charges, including two murder charges, being dropped.
The court heard pleas for leniency from a senior army officer and from the then secretary of state for defence Tom King.
Although Nelson was never charged with his role in the murder of Pat Finucane, he is known to have handed a picture of the solicitor to a UDA man days before the murder. He allegedly informed his British handlers about the murder plot, but if so this information was never acted upon.
In another infamous case Nelson, at the behest of his British handlers, deliberately fed the loyalists disinformation which fingered Belfast man Francisco Notarantonio for assassination. The gunmen murdered Notarantonio in his bed, apparently in the belief that he was Freddie Scappaticci, a senior figure in the IRA.
Former FRU agent Martin Ingram has claimed that this was done deliberately to protect Scappaticci, who was also a British Agent who operated under the code-name Stakeknife.
Nelson was freed in 1996. He died in 2003, just days before the publication of the Stevens Inquiry's report, apparently from a massive brain haemorrhage.
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