We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

Freddie Scappaticci, who is widely believed to be the agent Stakeknife Pacemaker Press
Operation Kenova

Stakeknife: 'More lives lost than saved' due to British Army's IRA spy, report finds

The Operation Kenova interim findings are expected to call for apologies from the UK Government and the IRA.


A MAJOR REPORT into the British Army’s top agent in the North during the Troubles, codenamed Stakeknife, has found he “cost more lives than he saved”. 

Operation Kenova, a major independent investigation into Stakeknife – the British Army’s top agent inside the IRA’s internal security unit – has concluded that it is unlikely he saved hundreds of lives and more likely the figure was between high single figures and low double figures.

The interim findings of Operation Kenova have been revealed after an investigation lasting seven years and costing approximately £40 million (€46.8m).

Kenova has probed the activities of the agent Stakeknife within the Provisional IRA.

It examined 101 murders and abductions linked to the IRA unit responsible for interrogating and torturing people suspected of passing information to the security forces during the Troubles.

Stakeknife was part of the terror group’s internal security unit and Kenova examined crimes such as murder and torture, and the role played by the security services, including MI5.

Speaking today, PSNI deputy chief constable Chris Todd said the report makes a number of recommendations that will seek to “find a lasting solution to our troubled past”. 

The 208-page report called for apologies from the UK Government and the IRA to bereaved families and surviving victims.

Among its 10 recommendations, it also called for a review into the UK Government’s policy of neither confirming nor denying sensitive information relating to intelligence issues.

The agent Stakeknife was widely believed to be west Belfast man Freddie Scappaticci, who was in his 70s when he died last year.

While Scappaticci has not been named in the interim report, it confirmed that Stakeknife was an individual rather than a collective of different agents, was involved in “unjustifiable criminality, including murder” and resulted in more lives being lost than saved.

The Kenova investigation was originally headed up by Jon Boutcher but he left the position to take up the role of chief constable of the PSNI.

bouthcer Jon Boutcher was in charge of Operation Kenova before he became chief constable of the PSNI

Last week the Public Prosecution Service in Northern Ireland announced that no prosecutions would be pursued after consideration of the last batch of files from the investigation.

Some 32 people, including former police, former military personnel and people linked with the IRA, were considered for prosecution on a range of charges from murder and abduction to misconduct in public office and perjury.

However, the PPS found there was insufficient evidence to pursue cases.

Current Kenova head Iain Livingstone expressed frustration at the decision.

He said the team had built “a strong and compelling case which we are frustrated will now not be tested before a court”.

sir iain Former Police Scotland chief constable Iain Livingstone replaced Jon Boutcher as head of Operation Kenova

Speaking at a press conference today, Livingstone said he fully endorses the findings and recommendations in the interim report.

He said this will provide “truth” to families and that a final report will be published later, telling “the full story of the investigation into Stakeknife”.

Meanwhile, Boutcher told today’s press conference that he owes it to ‘Legacy families to tell them what actually happened”.

Boutcher also called for Stakeknife to be named in the final report and said no agent should be given “perpetual anonymity, come what may”.

He said he has released the interim report to make public some “key findings” about certain patterns of UK state intervention and non-intervention. 

The interim report has made 10 recommendations, including the establishment of an “independent framework and apparatus for investigating Northern Ireland legacy cases”.

It also called for UK authorities to review the application of the Neither Confirm Nor Deny policy (NCND) that currently prevents the identification of agents involved in many historical Troubles cases.

There is also a recommendation that 21 June, the longest day of the year, should be designated as a day to remember those lost, injured or harmed as a result of the Troubles.

The interim report also notes that “many families whose loved ones were murdered during the Troubles have not been given even the most basic and uncontroversial information about what happened”, and calls for “due regard” to be given to their “views, interests and well-being”.

The UK government has said it would not comment on the report until the inquiry had completed its work.

A Number 10 spokesperson said: “On this interim report, it would not be right to comment on the substance of it while it is an interim report.

“We will respond in full in due course following the full and final report and also following the conclusion of litigation which is related to the substance of this report.”

Meanwhile, the daughter of an IRA victim insisted Operation Kenova has not failed victims, despite the lack of prosecutions.

The body of Belfast woman Caroline Moreland, a 34-year-old Catholic mother of three, was found near Rosslea, Co Fermanagh, in July 1994.

Shauna Moreland was 10-years-old at the time of her mother’s death.

She said: “If these cases had been properly investigated at the time there could have been prosecutions.

“We have been failed by the system since 1994 and it was only when our cases were moved outside Northern Ireland that we got a process we could believe in.

“Right from the start, Jon Boutcher told us that Kenova would be a victims-first approach and that’s what he gave us.”

fermanagh Shauna Moreland said Operation Kenova had not failed victims

She added: “There was nothing until Kenova gave what my mother deserved.

“They showed that my mum mattered and she was not just a statistic.”

-With additional reporting from Press Association