POLICE investigating the attempted murder of British agent Martin McGartland have failed to arrest or question a man identified as a suspect more than 10 years ago.
The shocking revelation was made by cops reviewing the original police probe into the 1999 shooting which left the IRA infiltrator fighting for his life.
The top secret review, headed up by Operation Kenova chief Jon Boutcher, also uncovered how a van used by the shooter has been destroyed by cops.
Boutcher’s team have also linked the suspected IRA murder bid to four other shootings, including that of loyalist terror chief Johnny Adair.
In a set of explosive claims the officers also reveal how:
- bullets used in the IRA hit came from the same batch used to assassinate drugs king pin Brendan ‘Speedy’ Fegan
- three separate DNA samples belonging to the same individual was recovered from the shooting scene
The review, carried out over the last two years, followed numerous complaints made by the informer surrounding Northumbria Police’s investigation into events before and after the attack outside his Tyneside home.
Today Mr McGartland, who is still in hiding and living under death threat, says he now believes the security services are protecting at least one of the IRA men sent to execute him.
He told the Sunday World: “There is a suspect at the centre of this who, I have now been officially told by police, has not been arrested or questioned ever.
“I believe that this person, this mystery man, who I believe is living in Dublin, is a top informer or an agent either before my shooting, and was involved in it in some way and is being protected,.
“Or worse still he was recruited as a result of my shooting i.e. they, the security services, special branch or the police, did a covert DNA test, matched it to him and threatened him with jail and gave him a way out.
“And I believe Jon Boutcher has all the answers to this.”
Mr Boutcher agreed to take on the informer’s case on top of heading up specialist probe Operation Kenova into former IRA security chief Freddie Scappaticci.
The Bedfordshire police chief’s team began its review into the British agent’s attempted murder two years ago.
In 2018 a draft report outlining what his investigators uncovered was sent to Tyneside police chiefs.
That document also set out a series of recommendations, including how a suspect identified at least 10 years ago should be immediately DNA tested.
But that has yet to happen and 10 months on the report has yet to be publicly released.
Mr McGartland said he is now being met with a wall of silence when he asks if it ever will.
He has now decided to release recordings of his meetings with review cops who revealed to him shocking flaws and errors surrounding the original police probe.
They also released previously unknown information that they claimed links the hit on Mr McGartland to other IRA murders, attempted killings and punishment shootings.
One of those is the May 1999 murder of Ulster drugs kingpin Brendan ‘Speedy’ Fegan.
The dealer (24) was blasted to death as he sat in a pub in Newry, Co Down.
In strikingly similar circumstances he was set upon by two gunmen in disguises before being blasted multiple times.
The killing was linked to Provo linked vigilante group Direct Action Against Drugs (DAAD).
In a recording made in October last year, Mr Boucher’s officers can be heard telling Mr McGartland that a RUC ballistics’ report states bullets used in Fegan’s murder came from the “same batch” used on him.
“The information is that the ammunition used is the same type used in the Speedy Fegan murder and that comes from the ballistics (report) in Ireland,” said the officer.
The policeman also goes on to name four other men – including UDA terror boss Johnny Adair – whose shootings they said could be linked to Mr McGartland’s case.
Those named were Brendan ‘Bap’ Campbell (30), Paul ‘Bull’ Downey (37) and Patrick Farrell (49) – all Ulster drug dealers gunned down within two years of each other – were named by the review officers as having potential links to the McGartland’s case.
A botched republican hit job on Adair, who was blasted in the back of the head at a UB4O concert in May 1999, was also linked. The ‘C’ Company boss only survived the republican murder bid due to the bullet being faulty.
However, Mr McGartland said he was “dubious” over the information as some of the killings mentioned did not involve republicans, including that of Patrick Farrell, shot dead by his girlfriend in a murder-suicide in Louth.
In another recording taken on the same date, the officers inform Mr McGartland that a van used by the IRA gunman up to an hour before his attack, has been destroyed.
One officer tells him: “At the end of the day, I don’t agree with it, but they’ve (Northumbria Police) done it and they’ve made some rationale for why they’ve done it.”
He added: “We are astounded ourselves.”
The officers go on to speak about a key piece of DNA evidence secured from the scene.
“They (police) got a DNA profile three times, it’s the same DNA profile.
“There is a person who needs eliminating and they need to get that individual’s DNA. We can’t go into it any more because it’s quite sensitive and a little bit messy.”
The officers added that the man had been identified at least 10 years ago by cops.
When asked by McGartland if the suspect is an informer who is being protected by the security services, an officer replies: “We cannot confirm or deny that”.
When asked why the suspect’s DNA has not been secured by police a review cop responds: “There is a story there….it will all be in the report.”
When challenged by McGartland the cop admits that they do not believe the “story” being told to them by Northumbria Police.
An officer adds: “We aren’t hiding anything from you, but at the moment we can’t give you the full details.
“We have lots of meat on the bone about what you’ve been talking about.
“We’re digging to get a bit more meat on the bone and I know it will be a good read when you get our review document.”
However, almost a year on, Mr McGartland says that hasn’t happened. He says his requests are now being ignored by Mr Boucher’s department.
Speaking to the Sunday World Mr McGartland said: “As far as I am concerned everything smacks of complete collusion, a cover up and a conspiracy
“Even though a report and recommendation was given to Northumbria Police 10 months ago, they still have not eliminated that person through DNA
“I believe this mystery person is a top, top informer who could still be active.
“I believe wholeheartedly that the reason why that van was destroyed was because it was an Aladdin’s cave of forensic evidence and the person who was sitting in it is an agent.
“There is no other plausible reason why after 10 to 20 years police have still not eliminated them from their enquiries.”
Last night a spokesperson for Northumbria police said: “A review into the case was carried out by an external Force and was presented to Northumbria Police late in 2018. We have acknowledged the recommendations of that review. We can confirm this case has remained open since the shooting in 1999 and that we are investing a significant and dedicated resource into progressing the investigation.”
They added: “The report was not for public release as it contains sensitive information regarding the ongoing investigation, however, it has been released to interested parties and redacted where necessary.”
The Sunday World also contacted Mr Boutcher’s office on the revelations made by his officers. However, no one returned our requests for comment.
Mr McGartland was recruited as a Special Branch agent when he was 16. He worked for them for four years until his cover was blown in 1991.
He jumped from the window of a flat in west Belfast where he was being held by the Provisionals’ internal security unit.
In 1999, he was ambushed by IRA gunmen outside his Tyneside home.
He was shot six times in the hand, chest and stomach. His life was saved by neighbours who used cling film to stop the blood flow from his wounds.
The attack left him with life-changing physical and psychological disabilities.
Mr McGartland’s identity had been publicly revealed after he was caught speeding by Northumbria police and prosecuted for holding driving licences in his two names.
In 2017 he lodged a complaint with the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman claiming that the RUC, PSNI, and English police had failed to warn him of threats to his life, including one just before his 1999 shooting.