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What is clear is that both the FRU and Special Branch would have been anxious to see an end to Stevens’ investigation: they knew that if he pressed on it would be only a matter of time before he stumbled upon the true nature of the British govern-ment’s role in the Northern Ireland conflict.
It is unclear how much harm was caused to Stevens’ investigation by the fire.
”’ By the time the fire was eventually extinguished, the team’s desktop computers had melted into pools of metal and plastic; steel filing cabinets had buckled, and the documents inside had incinerated.
Whoever started the fire clearly intended to destroy every scrap of documentary evidence that the police team had gathered.
It wasn’t pulling the triggers of that squad’s guns, perhaps, but, through Nelson - and others - it was pulling the strings of those who did.
For a generation, the overwhelming majority of the British people had regarded their armed forces as reluctant peacekeepers between two warring tribes in Northern Ireland, and had seen themselves as the innocent victims of a terrorist campaign.
That narrative would be seriously undermined if it were to become clear that the British state was influencing, or even managing, the actions of the gunmen from one of those two tribes - if it were to emerge that elements within the British security forces had not merely begun to mirror the terrorists, but were in control of terrorism - and had been, almost from the beginning.
The appalling acts of the paramilitaries were, with some notable exceptions, acknowledged at the time they were committed, even if some today insist they were committing ‘political’ rather than ‘criminal’ offences.
I ran down to another one and smashed that and again nothing happened.’ A heat-sensitive intruder alarm had also failed.
Bynum raced to the guardhouse at the entrance to the complex, where an armed officer from the RUC was on duty.
Attempts to investigate such crimes all too frequently face obstruction, with the government failing to disclose material it holds that would allow the truth to be established; inquests, Ombudsman’s inquiries, litigation and police reviews have dragged on for decades.
There is a suspicion among some in Northern Ireland that the British state is unable to contend with the past because it cannot disclose the full truth, in all its intricacies. On the day of the ceremony a fourth died, and then two more.
That man, a former British soldier called Brian Nelson, was also known as Agent 6137: he was working for the British government.