Updated: 12/04/17 : 05:42:29
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'British left spy to die after IRA guns find in Sligo'

Special Report

THE BRITISH secret services knowingly abandoned one of its informers to be executed by the IRA after a major weapons find in Sligo.

The BBC also now claims he and others were sacrificed -- to protect British paid agents higher up in the IRA.

Those sacrificed included Frank Hegarty, noted the BBC ''Panorama'' special documentary broadcast late last night, Tuesday.

It was IRA quartermaster Hegarty who pinpointed the haul of assault rifles found in a Garda raid at Coolera, between Sligo and Strandhill in January 1986.

Prior to last night's programme, the presenter John Ware reported on his extensive research into the case of Frank Hegarty.

In new details, he revealed how the Britsh secret service listened, at the time, to phone calls between Hegarty in England and his family back in Derry.

Thirteen Weeks

Writing in The Irish Times yesterday, Tuesday, Ware claimed that over a period of thirteen weeks, the late Martin McGuinness had visited the Hegarty home on an almost daily basis.

This was at the time Hegarty had left his native Derry and gone to England right after the Sligo arms find of January 1986.

Hegarty was a double agent --  'run' by a branch of British Army military intelligence called the Force Research Unit (FRU). 

John Ware wrote: ''Former FRU operatives have maintained that if ever they were in a position to save an agent, they always would.

''However, this sits oddly with the intelligence available to them from inside the IRA unit, the so-called Nutting Squad.

"It was responsible for interrogating and executing fellow British agents such as Hegarty,'' noted the reporter.

Knew Fate

The BBC documented that one of the Nutting Squad's members and from the late 1980s its head was Freddie Scappaticci. 

''In reality,'' said Ware, ''he was also Agent 6126 codenamed Stakeknife who had worked as an agent for the FRU since 1979.''

Added Ware: ''Better than anyone, Scappaticci knew the fate facing Frank Hegarty.''

''Yet there was no attempt to warn him during the 3 weeks he was in Derry after his return from England,'' wrote Ware.

Recognised Clothes

Hegarty was later executed by the IRA along the Donegal, Tyrone border shortly after he came home from England.

He was shot in the head and his hands were tied behind his back. See link below.

Hegarty's son Ryan recalled on TV last night of learning his father's death watching a BBC news bulletin and recognised the clothes the dead man was wearing.

After the Sligo arms find, Frank Hegarty had been taken by the British security services to a safe house in Sittingbourne, Kent, it has emerged.

That new detail was also unearthed by the BBC whIle researching last night's ''Panorama'' special.

Knowingly Abandoned

Earlier yesterday, Ware also wrote that the British secret services could have intervened to save the lives of several double agents who were in the IRA.

Said Ware: ''While McGuinness may have lured Hegarty back, the intelligence services stand accused of knowingly abandoning him, even though he had risked his life by disclosing the location of a major Libyan-supplied arms dump.

Flat Lies

But for many years the British even denied they 'ran' such double agents.

Retired English police officer John Stevens recalled his role when he came to Ireland to investigate allegations of collusion involving security forces.

Stevens told last night's BBC documentary the British Army had told him ''flat lies.''

Libyan Stamps

A number of men were arrested in other parts of the country after munitions from the Sligo dump were found on their land.

This has long given suspicion that those IRA weapons had been fitted with sophisticated bugs. 

The modern assault rifles found in Sligo were believed to be the among the first guns to arrive in Ireland directly from Libya. 

Some boxes of ammunition seized in county Sligo had 'Libyan Armed Forces' and 'Destination Tripoli' stamped on them, a 2006 book noted.

The author was Sean Boyne -- also a writer for ''Janes Intelligence Review'' -- and his book was titled: ''Gunrunners - The Covert Arms Trail to Ireland.''

Four shiploads of high powered weaponry were later landed along the east coast but ended when a fifth vessel was intercepted with tons of munitions aboard.

Those weapons and an associated 2,000 kg of Semtex explosive were dispersed to smaller dumps and underground bunkers around Ireland.