Sharon O'Neill: Will £40m Stakeknife report reveal something we didn't already know?

Freddie Scappaticci is not expected to be named in Stakeknife report

The findings of a seven-year £40million investigation into the activities of the army agent codenamed Stakeknife, operating at the heart of the Provisonal IRA, will be published on Friday. West Belfast republican Freddie Scappaticci, who was at the centre of that investigation, died in England last year. In 2016 the former Bedfordshire police chief, now PSNI Chief Constable, Jon Boutcher was tasked with examining a series of IRA murders of suspected informers.

Since then Operation Kenova has been finding out what role master spy Stakeknife had in those killings. Come Friday we will know and expect that number to be in double digits. Detectives have also been investigating current and former members of the military, police, MI5 and IRA suspects. But we already know no-one will face the courts - the Public Prosecution Service ruling there simply wasn't enough evidence to charge. Back to superspy Scappaticci, who was once described as the ''jewel in the crown'' when it came to his value as an intelligence asset. Just a few days ago UTV revealed that after his death - Boutcher told his colleagues on the Op Kenova team that he believed Scappaticci should have been brought before the courts in 2020 for murder and torture.

News of that came as a huge blow to some of his victims' families who wanted to at least have a day in court. Will the report tell us anything we didn't already know about Stakeknife? Well don't be expecting a big reveal. Op Kenova will not confirm or deny it was Freddie Scappaticci. You will have to read between the lines of this interim report for that. Codenamed Stakeknife, the asset was given the number 6126 when he joined the covert Force Research Unit. Sources say Scappaticci was viewed as being so important he had an entire team looking after him. A meeting could take up to 20 operatives making sure no-one was following them.

So when did Scappaticci decide to turn 'tout'? There are a number of theories about that and it may not be answered tomorrow, but will likely be in the final report. Sources say he became an informant in 1978 after receiving a vicious beating from the IRA following a row with another member. After that he simply threw the head up, walked into a police station and spoke to a military intelligence officer and the rest as they say is history. ''He was the best source the military had. It wasn't about saving lives. If a (IRA) job went wrong he would give a massive picture of intelligence,'' a source told UTV. ''There are acceptable losses is how the military would put it. They wouldn't come out and say that.'' The spy was well-paid for his intel, receiving £80,000 a year and died a wealthy man. This on top of money he made during his day job as a builder and a VAT scam he had on the go with others in the IRA. The son of an Italian immigrant Scappaticci grew up in the Markets area of south Belfast. A talented footballer and boxer, he was also known to have a fierce temper - perfect for a role he was about to take on. And it wasn't long before he joined the Provisional IRA. After being interned in the 70s, Scap, as he was known, quickly moved up the ranks becoming head of the Belfast brigade, then second in command of the much feared internal security unit which flushed out informers. He then took charge of what was widely nicknamed the so-called nutting squad and it provided the perfect cover for the spy's double life.

Those accused of being informers or 'touts' as they were called faced the harshest of punishments - death. Abducted, tortured and forced to record harrowing confessions for their families before the end. That end - normally the side of a road close to the border, stripped naked for all to see, a warning to others about the deadly price of talking to the enemy.

Exactly when his double life as a spy and IRA enforcer ended is not clear. Some say it was was around the early 90s after the now infamous Sandy Lynch kidnapping affair and Scap fled to Dublin to escape the growing cloud of suspicion. When he returned republicans insist this was when he was sidelined, but other sources say he continued to feed his handlers information for a time. What we can say for sure is he wasn't publicly unmasked for another 13 years - that brazen denial that he wasn't the agent codenamed Stakeknife before he was spirited out of Northern Ireland for a new life with a new identity in England. An injunction prevented the media from trying to find out anything about Freddie Scappaticci - he was protected right up until his death.

Freddie Scappaticci was a top IRA man and also a spy for the Army.

He did appear in court in London in December 2018 after admitting pornography charges - something he was always big into. The judge had no idea who he was dealing with. Handing him a suspended sentence, he told Scap: ''You have not been before the court for 50 years - and that's good character in my book''. The IRA enforcer turned spy has been described as many things over the years but until then a man of 'good character' wasn't one of them. This report rubberstamping just how wide of the mark that was.

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