State Violence and Collusion Timeline 1987

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Events related to state violence and collusion in Northern Ireland in 1987.


  • Undated January - Peter Taylor states that in January 1987, the new head of the FRU, 'Colonel J' (Gordon Kerr) identified a gap in agent coverage of the loyalists, and decided to re-recruit Brian Nelson. This decision was opposed by MI5, according to Taylor, who felt that the loyalists were sufficiently covered already.[1]
  • 14 - Brian Nelson is met by the OC of East Det FRU A/03, A/07 and a Security Service officer at Heathrow Airport. The FRU contact form makes clear that the FRU's aim was to "tempt [Nelson] to return permanently" to Northern Ireland. Without having consulted the FRU, Nelson had already begun to pursue the possibility of arranging an arms shipment with the Turkish 'Grey Wolves' terrorist group in West Germany. At the Heathrow meeting, Nelson indicated that he was happy to pursue the arms shipment, and for his intelligence to be exploited and UDA members arrested, subject to four conditions. The first 'condition' was as follows: "… [the] first batch of weapons would have to be allowed through without any action by us [the security forces], or else he would be immediately suspected."[2]
  • 19 In an MI5 report of the meeting with Brian Nelson on the 14th, Nelson was said to be "highly motivated by patriotism to Britain and contempt for paramilitary godfathers". He was described as being of "a much higher calibre than the average UDA gouger".[58] Overall, the officer felt that Nelson would make an "excellent" agent for the Security Service.[2]
  • 21 - A telegram from the Security Service's Assessments Group, based at Stormont, to the agent-handling section, comments on the Nelson meeting: "Turning to the UDA - Grey Wolves link that has been established we are averse to giving this further encouragement. There is no merit in setting up an arms supply conduit where one does not currently exist …"[2]
  • 21 - A letter from the RUC to the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) states that agent-handling guidelines: "take no cognizance at all of the special problems relating to Northern Ireland. They were, of course, drawn up to deal with 'ordinary' criminals in a mainland context, rather than for coping with terrorists. Given our special situation the restrictions placed upon us by virtue of the guidelines are unrealistic if we are to continue paramilitary penetration/source protection."[3]


  • Undated February - FRU head A/05 recorded a conversation with the Assistant Secretary Political in which "ASP then indicated that Head Office were very interested in the … [Nelson] case. [G/03], he said, had been very impressed by … [Nelson] whom he thought had great potential. ASP further said that while he did not want it thought that his Service was 'poaching' he felt that Head Office might have it in mind to offer … [Nelson]full-time employment in a secret capacity." His note of events indicates that he "briefed CLF [Commander Land Forces] and ACOS [Assistant Chief of Staff] G2 on the case and outlined the [Security Service] interest". The then CLF, Major General A S Jeapes, apparently indicated that he "saw no reason" why the Service should take over the case. The document also records that G/02 apparently told A/05 that Patrick Walker, the then Head of Counter-Terrorism at the Security Service, was very angry about the FRU's actions.[2]
  • 3 - The Head of F8 recorded that it would be "grossly unfair" to persuade Brian Nelson to return from Germany to the detriment of his family.[2]
  • 13 - FRU members A/03 and A/07 set off for Germany on 13 February 1987 but the meeting is cancelled following strong objections from the Security Service to it taking place without their involvement.[2]
  • 16 - G/02, head of the Security Service agent-handling section, stated that he now had "no confidence" in FRU head A/05 and would subsequently "avoid any possible involvement with the FRU".[2]
  • 18 - Brian Nelson met A/07 and A/03 on 18 February in Northern Ireland. The discussion revolved round financial arrangements and the 'package' to be agreed with Nelson for his return to Northern Ireland. A/07 sought HQ approval for £7,200 in capital expenditure to give to Nelson for the purchase of a house and a taxi, plus monthly payments of £200. Nelson was described as being "very reluctant to discuss financial matters as he finds the subject somewhat embarrassing". The tasking of Nelson at this stage was to regain his old job as UDA Intelligence Officer. Nelson was said to believe "that the role is currently being carried out by Lyttle who would be only too pleased to delegate it to [him] again."[2]
  • 19 - In a note, the MI5 Assistant Secretary Political (ASP) adopted a sceptical position towards the FRU's planned re-recruitment, citing Nelson's likely "lower standard of living" in Northern Ireland as a factor which A/05 and the Army needed to be "aware" of. However, the observed that the Service would have no further interest in Nelson: "… until 6137 has made a firm decision as to his future, and it has been established if he has been able to regain his previous contacts and position within the UDA."[2]
  • 20 - A meeting of MI5's agent-running section says of Nelson, "If the Army is successful in enticing the subject back to Northern Ireland, [the agent-running section] might then be interested in taking it on."[2]
  • 25 - A Security Service telegram, referring to Nelson by his source number, 6137, noted the following: "It may be of interest that ACOS G2 told DG [Director General] on his visit yesterday that if they, the Army, had had 6137 in place they would have been spared the humiliation of the Coleraine UDR theft. Since the RUC chose not to tell the Army about their specific intelligence on the raid, the Army now regard it as necessary to have their own agents reporting directly to them."[2]
  • 25 - At a meeting with the FRU, Brian Nelson outlined how he suggested to Tommy Lyttle that he would: "… attempt to smuggle four hand guns to the Province in his furniture when it is moved from GERMANY. 6137 also suggested to LYTTLE that he would purchase these weapons from the 'GREY WOLVES'." Lyttle declined the offer and Nelson was rebuked by his handlers for this behaviour, which, however, A/07 attributed to "a tendency to be a little over enthusiastic".[2]


  • 2 - the MI5 Assistant Secretary Political writes to FRU CO A/05,, "It is possible that the Security Service may renew its interest in 6137 [Brian Nelson] if he should regain his previous position within the UDA."[2]
  • 13 - High-level meeting to discuss new agent-handling guidelines for Northern Ireland appears to have taken place between NIO officials and senior RUC officers.[3]
  • 22- Sunday Times story on James Miller.[4]


  • 27 - An MI5 meeting concludes: "There was some doubt that 6137 would return to Northern Ireland from Germany; if he did, [the agent-running section] would aim to take over the running of him."[2]
  • 30 - Nelson reports to the FRU that Tommy Lyttle had informed him that he would be "Chief Intelligence Officer UDA for the entire Province". Further, L/28 had informed him that L/35 and L/27 would work with Nelson in the Intelligence Team.[2]


  • 18 An internal minute to the Permanent Under Secretary of the Northern Ireland Office on agent-handling concluded: "As we may well wish to see a rather different method for reviewing the guidance, it will suit us if the process set in train by the RUC makes fairly slow progress. But it would not be wise to take any steps at this juncture to halt it; we should simply desist from hastening it."[3]



  • 3 - Edward Campbell, a 40-year-old Catholic taxi-driver was shot dead by the UDA/UFF on 3 July 1987. Although he had been interned in the 1970s, he had no IRA connections at the time of his death. This was one of some 15 murders in which the Stevens Inquiry concluded Brian Nelson played an active role.[6]
  • 22 - The Chief Constable of the RUC, Sir John Hermon, wrote to the NIO seeking confirmation that "steps are being initiated to take action" on agent handling guidelines.[3]


  • 4 - An FRU contact form records that loyalist L/28 had asked Nelson to provide him with three copies of "all photographs and information on Republican personalities in his [L/28's] area",and made it clear that these targeting packs would be going to his military commanders, L/22, L/20 and L/03.[7]
  • 7 - NIO responds to Sir John Hermon's letter of 22 July.[3]
  • 7 - An FRU Military Intelligence Source Report (MISR) passes on details of Nelson's UDA tasking to the RUC. However, there is no evidence the FRU has sought to identify the individuals targeted.[7]
  • 18 - FRU contact form notes that L/49 had in his possession a targeting pack that included a photograph of T/26's house, it does not suggest that the handler provided Nelson with any assistance relating to that photograph. The same CF noted that the UDA were targeting T/01, and included the handler's comment that "[T/01] now lives in Downpatrick".[54] It did not explicitly state that Nelson was given that information by his handler, though in other respects the relevant CFs do broadly corroborate the story that Nelson recounted in his 'journal' about the targeting of T/01.[7]
  • 23 - Michael Power was shot dead on 23 August 1987.[8], a Catholic with no paramilitary involvement, his death was the result of one of the first files passed on to the UDA by Brian Nelson. FRU files showed that this was purely an opportunity for Nelson to ingratiate himself with the UDA.[9]


  • 9 - Patrick Hamill, a 29-year-old Catholic with no paramilitary connections, was shot dead at his West Belfast home. The UDA/UFF used intelligence given to Nelson by the FRU for the killing.[10]
  • 21 - Jim Meighan, a 22-year-old Catholic from the New Lodge in North Belfast, was shot dead by the UDA on 21 September 1987. He was targeted by Brian Nelson because he was going out with a Protestant girl.[11]
  • 22 - Brian Nelson and L/27 chose two targets, one of whom was Declan McDaid, in response to a request for targets from 'Tucker' Lyttle.[7]
  • 23 - Nelson told his FRU handlers that the UDA intelligence team had a photo of Declan McDaid and had carried out a 'recce' of his home on Oceanic Avenue in North Belfast. This intelligence was passed by the FRU to the RUC SB.[7]
  • 27 - Two members of the North Belfast UDA tell Brian Nelson that they had planned to shoot Declan McDaid when he visited the social security office but something had happened to put them off. Nelson was told that McDaid would be shot the following week.[7]
  • 29 - Nelson informed his handlers that the North Belfast UDA were seeking to assassinate McDaid.[7]


  • 9 - Francisco Notorantonio was shot dead at his home. The FRU allegedly passed his name to the UDA through Nelson in order to direct them away from an FRU agent in the IRA.[12]
  • 13 - FRU contact form involved in the formulation of plans to bomb an oil refinery in County Cork in October 1987, the form suggested that the targeting was L/28's idea and that the UDA did not follow through on the plan.[7]
  • 14 - The FRU receives copies of Nelson's intelligence dump.[7]
  • 15 - Nelson attends a UDA meeting, during which he tells the assembled company:"… that as from FRI 16 OCT 87, he would have updated all available targeting information and it was available when required."[7]
  • 20 - Nelson was specifically tasked by his then handlers to "copy all UDA targeting [sic] files and computer floppy discs".[11] Given that the FRU had already received copies of Nelson's intelligence dump, this raises the possibility that FRU were explicitly tasking Nelson to copy material for the purpose of dissemination to other UDA members.[7]
  • 26 - An FRU contact form following a meeting with Brian Nelson records: "Having updated his P card system, 6137 has photocopied the files and has supplied the following people with copies:(a) [L/22] (b) [L/20] (c) [L/03] (d) [L/18] (e) [L/12]. The reason for the distribution of the files is twofold: (a) To prevent the information being lost in a Security Forces raid. (b) To increase the targeting capacity of the UDA."[7]


  • 8 - Provisional IRA Enniskillen bombing kills 11 people.
  • 9 - Adam Lambert, a 19-year-old Protestant , was shot dead by the UDA. The gang used information supplied by Brian Nelson who was under the impression that Lambert was a Catholic.[13] Sir John Stevens concluded that Lambert's murder could have been prevented and that there was collusion in the case.[14]


  • Undated December - Final arrangements made for the South African arms shipment initiated by Brian Nelson.[15]
  • 22 - UDA figure John McMichael killed by an IRA car-bomb at his home in Lisburn.[16]
  • 23 - The UDA's Tommy Lyttle agreed a list of personalities to be "targeted with a view to attacks in the New Year". Eight targets were included on the list, including T/27.[2]
  • 24 - Following a meeting with Brian Nelson, information about UDA targeting was passed by the FRU to the RUC in the form of both a MISR and an immediate report to TCG Belfast.[2]


  1. Peter Taylor, Brits: The War Against the IRA, Bloomsbury, 2002, p.289.
  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 Sir Desmond de Silva, Volume 1 - Chapter 6: The recruitment of Brian Nelson, Pat Finucane Review, 12 December 2012.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Sir Desmond de Silva, Volume 1 - Chapter 4: Agent-handling, Pat Finucane Review, 12 December 2012.
  4. Barrie Penrose, MI5 'plotted' Ulster strike, Sunday Times, 22 March 1987.
  5. Issue 50979 Page 8356, London Gazette, 30 June 1987.
  6. Martin Ingram and Greg Harkin, Stakeknife, O'Brien Press, 2004, p. 183.
  7. 7.00 7.01 7.02 7.03 7.04 7.05 7.06 7.07 7.08 7.09 7.10 7.11 Sir Desmond de Silva, Volume 1 - Chapter 7: The activities of Brian Nelson 1987- 89, Pat Finucane Review, 12 December 2012.
  8. David McKittrick, Seamus Kelters, Brian Feeney, Chris Thornton, and David McVea, Lost Lives: The stories of the men, women and children who died as a result of the Northern Ireland Troubles, Mainstream Publishing, 2004, p.1087.
  9. 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.
  10. Martin Ingram and Greg Harkin, Stakeknife, O'Brien Press, 2004, p. 184.
  11. Martin Ingram and Greg Harkin, Stakeknife, O'Brien Press, 2004, p. 184.
  12. Peter Taylor, Brits: The War Against the IRA, Bloomsbury, 2002, p.295-296.
  13. Martin Ingram and Greg Harkin, Stakeknife, O'Brien Press, 2004, pp. 184-185.
  14. David McKittrick, Seamus Kelters, Brian Feeney, Chris Thornton, and David McVea, Lost Lives: The stories of the men, women and children who died as a result of the Northern Ireland Troubles, Mainstream Publishing, 2004, pp.1098-1099.
  15. 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.
  16. David McKittrick, Seamus Kelters, Brian Feeney, Chris Thornton and David McVea, Lost Lives, Mainstream Publishing, 2004, p.1103.