Chris Albiston

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Northern Ireland.jpg This article is part of SpinWatch's Northern Ireland Portal.

Christopher Charles Kennedy Albiston[1] is a former senior RUC and PSNI Special Branch officer.[2]


According to Brian Rowan, Albiston was one of a small number of senior officers kept informed about Operation Torsion, the raid on Sinn Féin's offices at Stormont in October 2002.[3]

Alan Murray reported that Albiston had a row with Bill Lowry, the head of the operation, shortly after the raid:

It is understood Chief Superintendent Lowry was escorted to his office to clear his desk, after being served with a disciplinary charge by Assistant Chief Constable Duncan McCausland - a charge that was withdrawn 48 hours later.
It is understood that, two days earlier on October 13, he had a bust-up with the man responsible for Special Branch operations, Assistant Chief Constable Chris Albiston, over the briefing.
Mr Lowry's lawyers are now finalising severance terms with the PSNI.[4]

However, a second report by Murray a week later downplayed the significance of Albiston's conversation with Lowry:

Said one former colleague: "There was a difference of opinion with Chris Albiston, nothing more.
"It was not unpleasant, but then on Thursday night, the atmosphere changed and everyone's wondering if there was some interference from the intelligence services in London, or the Box [MI5] boss at Stormont."[5]

McCord Investigation

In January 2007, Albiston was one of three former heads of Special Branch accused by SDLP leader Mark Durkan of failing to co-operate with a Police Ombudsman's investigation.[6]

Speaking in the Commons under parliamentary privilege, Durkan said:

The report from the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland shows that a serial killer was protected by special branch and paid by the state for years. That would be a national scandal anywhere else. Does the Prime Minister accept that that collusion was a fact, not a myth? Is it not a disgrace that three former heads of special branch—Chris Albiston, Ray White and Freddie Hall—failed to co-operate with the police ombudsman's investigation, although two of them have attacked her report and her office? Can Ronnie Flanagan, who presided over a culture of "anything goes, but nobody knows" be credible as chief inspector of constabulary? Will the Prime Minister rethink plans to install MI5 as continuity special branch in Northern Ireland, as that would put it beyond the reach of key powers of the police ombudsman?[7]

In a response on behalf of all three named officers, Albiston said they had given information to the ombudsman and offered to answer specific questions:

"What we were not prepared to do was to be led into making statements in a form designed by the ombudsman, because we know the form of that office.
"We have seen as the result of previous inquiries the way that those who try to help can be frustrated and indeed we know of three officers who appear to have tried to help the office and ended up finding themselves being arrested."[8]

In March 2007, Albiston wrote to the SDLP regarding a newspaper advert by the party, calling for it to dissociate him from allegations of collusion.[9]

In response to a parliamentary question from Jeffrey Donaldson MP, Northern Ireland Office Minister Paul Goggins said in July 2007:

The three former senior officers, Chris Albiston, Raymond White and Freddie Hall, named by the hon. Gentleman were not formally interviewed in connection with any alleged offence in the course of the Police Ombudsman's investigation. I am happy to put on record that these officers, in common with many colleagues, served with commitment and distinction in very demanding policing roles in Northern Ireland.[10]

Rosemary Nelson Inquiry

Albiston gave a witness statement to the Rosemary Nelson Inquiry and was cross-examined by Rory Phillips, counsel to the inquiry, on 13 November 2008.[11]

Beatrix Campbell described his evidence as follows:

In a bullish testimony, the assistant chief constable, Chris Albiston claimed that Nelson fabricated IRA alibis, worked to a paramilitary agenda, and used her position to gather evidence about RUC officers. However, Phillips noted that the RUC had provided no evidence to all this.[12]

External Resources


  1. Transcripts: 13 November 2008, Rosemary Nelson Inquiry, accessed 6 July 2009.
  2. Gemma Murray, 'Officers served with distinction, Belfast Newsletter, 19 July 2007.
  3. How Stormont 'spies' were rumbled, by Brian Rowan, BBC News, 12 November 2002.
  4. Alan Murray, Orde faces quiz over top cop, Belfast Telegraph, 1 December 2002.
  5. Alan Murray, Phone call riddle in top cop crackdown, Belfast Telegraph, 8 December 2009.
  6. Top officers are named in Commons, BBC News, 24 January 2007.
  7. Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister, House of Commons debates, 24 January 2007, 11:30 am, They Work For, accessed 6 July 2009.
  8. Top officers are named in Commons, BBC News, 24 January 2007.
  9. Officer wants SDLP to clarify ad, BBC News, 5 March 2007.
  10. Northern Ireland: Written answers and statements, 17 July 2007 - Royal Ulster Constabulary, They Work For, accessed 6 July 2009.
  11. Transcripts: 13 November 2008, Rosemary Nelson Inquiry, accessed 6 July 2009.
  12. Beatrix Campbell, So who did kill Rosemary Nelson?, The Guardian, 4 July 2009.