Relatives of victims of the UDA Greysteel and Castlerock massacres are considering suing the PSNI for claiming convicted gunman Torrens Knight was a Special Branch agent.
Police Ombudsman Marie Anderson’s damning report of 19 murders committed by the terror gang in the North West between 1989 and 1993 appears to lend further weight to the claim that the serial killer may have been an informant.
It has previously been claimed he returned to the taxpayer-funded role – earning £50,000 – after being released early from prison in 2000 after serving just seven years of a multiple life sentence.
A legal source told Sunday Life: ‘These allegations are of the most serious nature and as the PSNI will not identify the informants they must be tested in court.’
Knight (52) is believed to have remained ‘on the books’ with Special Branch until unexplained payments to his bank account were discovered by SDLP MP John Dallat, who died last year. When the politician went public with this information in 2007, regular cash payments – estimated at £50,000 a year by a bogus Scottish engineering company – suddenly stopped.
Born again Christian Knight was found guilty of 12 of the 19 murders Ms Anderson investigated and detailed in the Operation Greenwich report released last Friday.
Referred to by the number “Person H” in the investigation, the police ombudsman stops short of appointing that person as an officer.
But information provided to Sunday Life by UDA members, legal documents and multiple sources seems to suggest that Knight may be the person targeted when the ombudsman says:
- An informant was recruited by the Special Branch despite “intelligence and evidence” indicating he was involved in murders.
- It “is unclear whether he was cleared by police as he continued to be implicated in murders”.
- That he “later resumed providing information to the police and continued as an informant for several years”.
- Special Branch records of its “recruitment and continued use” have been destroyed.
Operation Greenwich’s use of the plural “murders” is significant, as only a handful of its UDA gang members were implicated in multiple murders.
Summing up this shocking state of affairs, the ombudsman said: “Given the role of this individual and his involvement in a number of murders, these records should have been kept for evidentiary purposes.
“It is worrying that he remained an informant for a number of years, although the RUC special branch is aware of his earlier actions.”
Crucially, the informant gave managers no information about the 1993 massacres at Greysteel and Castlerock.
Operation Greenwich instead revealed that the informant had tried to “deliberately mislead” and attempted to “manipulate” them in order to obtain information about police investigations.
He further reveals that a former Special Branch officer was questioned on criminal bail about their relationship, but it was decided not to prosecute.
Attorney Kevin Winters, whose firm KRW Law represents the families of nine of the 19 people murdered by the UDA gang, said: ‘We welcome any attempt, whether through a legal, non-governmental or public organization. ‘a journalistic hustle, to expose the truth about state-sponsored terrorism.’
Sunday Life can also name UDA leaders today who oversaw the terror gang’s sectarian murder campaign as convicted bomber Billy McFarlane and his close associate Robert Smyth.
McFarlane, who was removed from his post as a UDA ‘brigadier’ in the North West in 2013, is ‘person B’ in the police ombudsman’s report, while the former ‘military commander’ of the UDA/UFF Smyth is the “K person”.
The investigation identifies B and K – whom we identify as McFarlane and Smyth – as planning the massacre of eight Catholics and Protestants at the Rising Sun pub in Greysteel.
McFarlane is also accused of organizing the murders of Malachy Carey, Daniel Cassidy and the attempted murder of Patrick McErlain.
Smyth was allegedly implicated in the shooting of Carey and Cassidy, as well as playing a role in the massacre of four work colleagues at Castlerock and the murders of Gerard Casey, Thomas Donaghy and Sinn Fein councilor Eddie Fullerton. It can further be revealed that a decision was made not to prosecute Smyth for Greysteel even though he was named as playing a lead role by one of the UDA killers during police interviews.
The police ombudsman found that ‘Person G’ – fugitive driver Brian McNeill – had told detectives that ‘Person K (Smyth) was instrumental in organizing the attack’.
“Person F” and “Person I”, also featured in the Operation Greenwich report, are Greysteel gunmen Stephen Irwin and Geoffrey Deeney.
McNeill described how Robert Smyth “informed” them of the shooting at the Rising Sun bar, showed the killers the route and the location of the forest where the guns could be found.
Referring to McNeill’s statements, the ombudsman added: ‘Person K (Smyth) also suggested they go to the Rising Sun Bar that afternoon to conduct a reconnaissance.’
Four days after the Greysteel atrocity, Smyth’s fingerprints were discovered by police on a white bag inside a holdall containing UDA weapons.
A dossier on his role in planning the massacre was sent to the prosecution, but a decision was made not to charge “because there was insufficient evidence to offer a reasonable prospect of his conviction”.
Smyth and Billy McFarlane were previously named in court as being heavily involved in the Greysteel massacre when shooter Stephen Irwin was sentenced to life in 2008.
Following the publication of Operation Greenwich, the PSNI apologized to the families of those killed and injured, stressing that policing methods had changed over the past 30 years.
Deputy Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said: “These are appalling crimes committed by people with bad intentions. We are acutely aware of the pain and anger felt by the families of those killed and injured and we apologize to the families for the findings of this report.
“The peace process has changed the context for policing. The PSNI has now significantly improved the policies and procedures that guide our response to potential threats and the way we approach criminal investigations and intelligence management.
In subsequent interviews, police ombudsman Ms Anderson admitted the findings stunned her.
She said: “When you get close to the details of it all, you have to take a step back… the human story that’s being told is part of it. of my work. Shocked? I think the phrase I would use is numb.