Freddie Scappaticci, who was in his 70s, has consistently denied being the double agent known as Stakeknife, who worked as the IRA’s chief spycatcher, heading up a unit responsible for brutally interrogating and murdering suspected informants while receiving secretly informing the British.
Police launched an independent investigation into the activities of the double agent known as Stakeknife in 2016, amid claims that more than a dozen murders were allowed to happen, including the sacrifice of other intelligence assets, in order to protect the cover of their “golden egg” source.
The agent was paid at least £80,000 a year by the British while serving as the “bogeyman” of the IRA.
Mr Scappaticci, born in Belfast to Italian parents, fled Northern Ireland for an undisclosed location in 2003 when newspapers first named him as the alleged agent. “I am not guilty of any of these allegations,” he insisted at the time.
He was arrested in connection with the Operation Kenova probe in 2018, but the only charges brought against him were two counts of possessing extreme pornography uncovered during the investigation, for which he was handed a suspended sentence.
The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) in Northern Ireland concluded in 2020 that there was insufficient evidence to charge him with perjury, while charges of misconduct in public office against two people alleged to be his handlers were also ruled out.
A promised “interim report” on the case is still yet to be released seven years into Operation Kenova, which is investigating more than 200 murders as well as kidnaps and torture.
Former Bedfordshire chief constable Jon Boutcher, who is leading the probe, said his team was made aware last week of the death of Freddie Scappaticci.
“We remain committed to providing families with the truth of what happened to their loved ones and continue to actively pursue criminal charges against several individuals,” he said.
“We will publish an interim report on (Operation) Kenova’s findings this year.
“We also recognise that people may now feel more able to talk to the Kenova team following the death of Mr Scappaticci, who had long been accused by many of being involved in the kidnap, murder and torture of potential PIRA informants during The Troubles.
“I appeal to anyone with information that might help those impacted by the events we are investigating to contact us in confidence to help families understand what happened during these difficult times.”
The planned report is expected to focus “on the organisation that committed these awful murders, state intervention or otherwise, and whether steps were, or were not, taken before serious criminal conduct was carried out or subsequent to it to prevent a full investigation”.