MI5 agent Jim Spence – codenamed ‘Sentinel’ – who organised Pat Finucane murder

EXCLUSIVE: THE senior loyalist double agent who set up Pat Finucane for murder will not be named in a report to be published on Wedensday, Belfast Daily can reveal.

Jim Spence – who was codenamed ‘SENTINEL’ in security force circles – will not be unmasked as the top British intelligence agent who organised the assassination of the solicitor on the orders of his intelligence handlers.

The family of Pat Finucane fly to London on Wednesday to read the De Silva report before it is published by the British Government.

The report has already been through a government security check but the family still want a fully public inquiry into his killing.

Sir Desmond de Silva QC was asked to undertake a legal review of the case, amid long-running allegations of state collusion in the murder.

The Secretary of State also said that neither she nor any other member of the government has read the report.

The commissioning of the legal review angered members of the Finucane family who said it fell well short of the full public inquiry for which they had long campaigned.

Relatives subsequently launched a legal challenge against Prime Minister David Cameron’s refusal to establish an inquiry.

However, the Finucane family believe the report was already “sanitised” by De Silva before it got to government lawyers and intelligence agencies.

They are still demanding a full, public inquiry into Mr Finucane’s murder to get at the truth of who ordered the killing.

The report has been cleared to publish because it does not reveal the identities of any living agent or informant who was working for MI5, RUC Special Branch, or the British Army’s agent running section, the Force Research Unit (FRU) at the time.

At the time of the murder, Spence was in charge of the UDA in the Woodvale District of west Belfast.

Belfast Daily can reveal that five agents or informants were working for the security forces in February 1989.

They were:

* James Thomas Spence,  aka ‘SENTINEL’, the commander of the UDA’S Woodvale ‘B’ Company;

* Eric McKee, the UFF’s former ‘military commander’;

UFF hitman and police informant Ken Barrett

* Ken Barrett, later convicted of his role in the murder of Jack Kietly, the father of comedian Paddy Kielty;

William Stobie, the UDA/UFF quarter master in west Belfast who was in charge of supplying guns for the UFF assassination squad. He was charged with the Finucane murder but was later shot dead by UFF;

* Brian Nelson, the UDA’s chief intelligence officer who was supplied with index cards by his FRU handlers of suspects for the UFF to assassinate.

Murdered UDA quarter master William Stobie

Eric McKee, Brian Nelson and Jim Spence all worked to the Force Research Unit while Stobie and Barrett were run by RUC Special Branch.

Spence had the murder guns stolen from a military based in Belfast by an associate who is in the Ulster Defence Regiment.

The two gunmen sent to kill Pat Finucane – William ‘Mo’ Courtney and ‘Mr X’ who fired the fatal shots – were not working as either informants or agents at the time of the murder.

Courtney’s gun jammed on the night of the shooting but told associates afterwards that Mr Finucane fell to the floor with a fork in his hand, hence the term ‘Fork Finucane’ used by the UFF afterwards.

However, in the weeks after the murder, ‘Mo Courtney’ was recruited by the RUC Special Branch to work as an informant inside the UFF’s west Belfast brigade.

Belfast Daily has seen sight of an intelligence briefing document which has given a full insight into the activities of Jim Spence.

UDA hitman William ‘Mo’ Courtney

It states: “James Thomas Spence, 14 Westway Drive, Ballygomartin, Belfast. Codename: ‘SENTINEL‘.

“‘Sentinel’ first recruited by Force Research Unit (FRU) in 1988. Seen as such an important asset inside the Woodvale UDA (WDA) he met Colonel Gordon Kerr, commanding officer FRU Thiepval HQNI, Lisburn.

“At some point afterwards, ‘Sentinel’ became jointly handled with RUC SB Belfast.

“Such was his influence inside the UDA, Security Service (MI5) approved his recruitment.”

The document states that father-of-two Spence attended briefings in London, Spain, Antrim and Belfast.

However, in September 1989, Spence came to the attention of John Stevens who was heading up the inquiry into collusion between loyalist paramilitaries and members of the security forces.

It adds: “John Stevens had strong evidence about the role of ‘Sentinel’ in organising and ordering the murder of Pat Finucane on February 12, 1989.

“Stevens discovered that ‘Sentinel’ was a state asset.”

MI5, FRU and the RUC Special Branch needed to protect Spence because he was well placed within the UDA to provide intelligence.

“‘Sentinel’ was regarded as the perfect agent. He planned and ordered the murder of Pat Finucane but was not directly involved.

“‘Sentinel’ was never directly involved in UDA/UFF military operations, only criminal activity for personal gain.

Agent ‘Sentinel’ Jim Spence

“His greatest asset was his ability to engender loyalty and respect. He had the respect of four UDA Inner Council members – Joe English (south east Antrim), Winston Dodds (west Belfast UDA), Jim Simpson (north Belfast UDA) and Billy McFarland (north Antrim and Londonderry).

“His influence on four UDA brigadiers in directing the organisation’s policy meant he was a highly valuable asset to the Security Services, FRU and Special Branch.

“A number of senior Ulster Volunteer Force leaders also confided in him on a regular basis. This intelligence proved vital in targeting the activities of the Ulster Volunteer Force.

“‘Sentinel’ is, by far, one of the most influential and valuable sources of intelligence under the control of the Security Services,” concludes the document.

To this day, James Thomas Spence, aka ‘SENTINEL’, has been protected by the British Government from being exposed as the agent who set up Pat Finucance on the orders of his British intelligence handlers.

The dea Silva report due out next month will be at great pains to keep his identity well protected for fear it will point to clear state collusion in the solicitor’s murder.





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