The Attorney General (AG) has ordered a fresh inquest into the 1988 murder of Gerard Slane. The development has come after lawyers acting for the family, Kevin R Winters & Co, made submissions to the AG several months ago.
The loyalist terror group the UDA/UFF murdered Gerard Slane, father of three, in 1988 at his home in West Belfast. It later emerged that a secretive British army military intelligence group, the Force Research Unit (FRU), and the RUC Special Branch all had knowledge of the planned attack yet failed to prevent it.
It also emerged that the terror group’s most senior intelligence officer, Brian Nelson himself a former British soldier, was in fact the FRU’s leading agent and that under their command he had procured and organized Gerard’s murder.
In January 1990 Nelson was subsequently arrested and charged by the Stevens Enquiry Team despite efforts by MI5 and FRU to thwart any probing into the murder by Stevens.
In January 1992 Nelson stood trial in relation to a number of murders and conspiracy to murder. This included Gerard’s murder.
Headlined as the biggest ever case in the history of the conflict at the time, and prior to the trial commencing, a series of meetings between the then British Attorney General, Sir Patrick Mayhew, the British Prime Minister John Major and representatives of the prosecution and the then head of judiciary, resulted in Nelson receiving a political deal in not taking the witness stand. Instead Nelson’s commanding officer within the FRU took the stand testifying on his behalf.
Known then as ‘Colonel J’ and giving evidence form behind screens, to conceal his identity, the head of the FRU stated that Nelson was first and foremost loyal to the British army and not the UDA/UFF. Adding that Nelson’s undercover actions had saved many lives.
A John Ware BBC Panorama programme later disproved this evidence and subsequent programmes, also by John Ware who had unprecedented access to Nelson, his prison journal, loyalism and the British army, painted a harrowing account of Nelson’s and the FRU’s role in a series of murders, the directing of loyalism, the supply of information for targeting people, restriction orders clearing routes for killer gangs, and the importation of hundreds of weapons arming loyalism were all revealed.
In 2002 John Ware also unmasked ‘Colonel J’ as Brigadier Gordon Kerr who was by then an attaché at the British Embassy in Beijing.
Speaking at the press conference Gerard’s widow Teresa said;
‘It is now 23 years after Gerard’s murder and there is never a day or moment that we as a family stop thinking of him.
‘Gerard was robbed of seeing his children growing up and of seeing his grandchildren. His parents, brothers and sisters were robbed of their son and brother, and my husband was brutally taken from me.
‘As a family we have many questions about Gerard’s murder.
‘It is important for the family that after all this time there may now be a proper opportunity to fully examine Gerard’s murder and the roles played by all of those involved. Public scrutiny is vitally important and therefore we welcome the fact that a new inquest will now take place.
‘At the trial of Brian Nelson there was no opportunity to examine this matter.
‘Brian Nelson did not take the witness stand and the trial lasted only a few days in which no facts were disclosed.
‘From behind screens his commanding officer,’ Colonel J’ gave evidence on his behalf – subsequently this evidence has been shown to be untrue.
‘The circumstances surrounding Gerard’s murder – the planning – the resources – the weapons – the role of the FRU – has never been examined publicly in any detail whatsoever. Nor has the fact that Gerard’s murder was preventable and yet the authorities allowed it to go ahead.
‘All we ever wanted was for truth and justice to takes its course but an orchestrated campaign of cover-up has overshadowed everything surrounding Gerard’s murder and other murders also involving Brian Nelson and the FRU.
‘The 14 year investigation by Lord Stevens into Gerard’s murder, and these other murders, has never been made public.
‘This needs to be addressed – Gerard’s murder was not the only act that involved the role of Nelson and FRU – there were many.
‘This is an awful chapter in our recent history. For our family these deeply disturbing events need addressing.
‘Hopefully now after 23 years this inquest can shine a light into the darkest of events and that lessons can be learned, the facts and details provided as to how a government – through its intelligence services – participated in murder and got away with it time after time.
‘As a family we need to have Gerard’s murder comprehensively addressed.
‘Our pain and grief is no different to that of many other families also bereaved in the conflict- that Gerard’s murder has been clouded in secrecy and cover-up only adds to these emotions.
‘We expect that Gordon Kerr will be made amenable to the courts – he was readily available from behind screens in January 1992 to provide lies and cover for Nelson. Our family expects him, the role of the FRU under his command at time, and his evidence to be examined in absolute detail concerning Gerard’s murder at this inquest.
Gerard’s son Sean added;
‘We know that there are lots of families from both sides of the community that need answers and it is difficult for them especially when there exists criticisms about ‘raking over the past’ and the costs.
‘We too are taxpayers as are many, many victims. Inquiries into health, planning and other less controversial matters take place regularly without complaint and this exposes the fact that there are people who have a vested and political interest in preventing the truth from emerging.
‘The deliberate wasting – the taking of a life – that of my father by a Government agency of its citizens should be of much more concern to wider society than money. It is a public interest matter of the highest importance.
‘Such Criticisms also conveniently ignore the fact that the government has human rights obligations of which this inquest is one.
‘Had the security forces did the job they claimed, that of saving lives, then my dad would have been alive today. They did the exact opposite.
‘If costs are an issue I simply say dispense with all this and publish the Stevens Report, acknowledge what was done, make reparations and lets turn a page on these awful events and begin properly a healing process.’