State Violence and Collusion Timeline 1985

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Events related to state violence and collusion in Northern Ireland in 1985.



  • 21 - The Officer Commanding (OC) of the FRU's East Detachment (East Det FRU) noted on one contact form related to Brian Nelson that: "I do not believe that recovery of the weapons consignment [from South Africa] en route would necessarily lead to a security problem. The ultimate circle of knowledge will be much greater than the four names. Additionally, random customs inspection, at say Dover, is a real possibility. The source will be reassured on these points."[2]


  • Undated June - Brian Nelson travelled to South Africa on an arms procurement mission.[3]
  • Undated June - A Security Service memo from F5/4 to HQNI says of Nelson's trip, "We fully appreciate the delicacy of source's position but we are naturally most anxious to intercept the goods before they reach Northern Ireland."[2]
  • 23 - An FRU contact form notes that "great care" will need to be exercised to ensure that exploiting Brian Nelson's intelligence does not lead to the UDA unmasking him as an agent.[2]
  • 28 - An FRU contact form records that Tommy Lyttle had told Brian Nelson that the UDA are unable to raise the money to purchase the South African arms.[2]


  • 1 - A contact form records a meeting between Brian Nelson and his two FRU handlers during which Nelson informed them that Thomas 'Tucker' Lyttle - a high-ranking UDA member - had asked him to provide names, addresses and photographs of Sinn Féin Councillors.[2]
  • 8 - An FRU contact form of this date records that Tommy Lyttle had specified to Brian Nelson that T/27 (Pat Finucane Review cipher) was the Sinn Féin member to be targeted.[2] Following this meeting with Nelson, the FRU send a Military Intelligence Source Report (MISR) to the RUC noting the the threat to T/27..[2]
  • 16 - Following another meeting with Nelson, the FRU send another MISR to the RUC reiterating the threat to T/27.[2]


  • 3 - Loyalist L/28 (Finucane Review cipher) tasked Nelson with obtaining an updated photograph of T/27.[2]
  • 10 The FRU passed on intelligence about L/28's photo request to the RUC Special Branch in a MISR.[2]
  • 11 - L/28 told Nelson that T/27 left his house "between the hours of 0715-0730 every day except weekends". T/27 had been followed and L/28 stated that Nelson's camera had been used to take photographs of him as he left his home. Nelson was asked to confirm that the photographs were of T/27.[2]
  • 13 - L/28 told Nelson that he thought it would be feasible to shoot T/27 with a rifle from a range of 300 metres but that he felt the chance of missing at that distance was greater. A Force Research Unit contact form dated that day recorded that Nelson:"… believes the rifle shot will be dismissed and the old favourite method of knocking on [T/27's] front door by a UDA member with a pistol would achieve more certain results."[2]
  • 16 - An FRU MISR outlines the key details of the UDA's targeting of T/27, but omits the role of L/28.[2]
  • 17 - Nelson carries out surveillance of T/27.[2]
  • 19 - The FRU debrief Nelson, creating a contact form that records the finalising of the targeting process on T/27. In addition to the name, address, photograph and routine of T/27, the UDA now has visual confirmation of his identity and Nelson has correctly forecast the method of attack to be used. The FRU are also aware that L/28 is the central figure behind the plot.[2]
  • 23 - An FRU MISR record sonly that "the UDA continue to target [T/27]"[2]
  • 27 T/27 is shot three times at close range as he answered the front door of his home in West Belfast. Although he was seriously injured, he survived the attack. Later that day Nelson met his handlers and outlined to them his conversations that afternoon with L/28. After listening to the reports of the shooting on the radio, L/28 had told Nelson that "it went just the way it was planned".[18] The CF of that day attached a photograph taken by the UDA whilst targeting T/27.[2] This incident would appear to be the shooting of Harry Fitzsimmons.[4]


  • 10 - In an FRU contact form, Nelson reported a conversation with L/28 indicating that a 'friend' of James Pratt Craig had allegedly been told that the RUC SB "were aware" that T/27 "was being targeted with a view to being shot, a month ago". L/28 told Nelson that he was taking this tip-off "with a pinch of salt" because the police would "surely" have "placed people within the area" if they knew about the targeting.[2]
  • 25 - Nelson left Northern Ireland for another stint in Germany.[5] He remained an FRU agent, according to the Irish News.[6]


  • 26 - an FRU contact dated 26 December 1985 noted that Brian Nelson "was asked to give up his job in Germany and return to work for the office".[2]


  1. Mark Urban, Big Boys' Rules, Faber and Faber, 1992, p.197
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 Sir Desmond de Silva, Volume 1 - Chapter 6: The recruitment of Brian Nelson, Pat Finucane Review, 12 December 2012.
  3. Barry McCaffrey, At least 29 killings blamed on actions of double agent;The secrets that died with Brian Nelson THE DEATH OF BRITISH ARMY AGENT 6137, Irish News, 14 April 2003.
  4. Paul Johnson, Anglo-Irish deal 'will provoke a strike in Ulster' / Official Unionist Taylor suggests Loyalist action against any imposed government in province, The Guardian, 28 September 1985.
  5. Peter Taylor, Brits: The War Against the IRA, Bloomsbury, 2002, p.288.
  6. Barry McCaffrey, At least 29 killings blamed on actions of double agent;The secrets that died with Brian Nelson THE DEATH OF BRITISH ARMY AGENT 6137, Irish News, 14 April 2003.