Infamous Double Agent 'Stakeknife' Is Dead. Maybe

Freddie Scappaticci was reportedly a British mole while with the IRA
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 19, 2023 3:25 PM CDT
Famed Double Agent 'Stakeknife' Is Dead. Maybe
Troops stand behind barbed wire in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1970.   (AP Photo, File)

Freddie Scappaticci is dead. Whether that means a British double agent known as "Stakeknife" also is dead remains a bit more uncertain. It's a complicated, fascinating tale. Scappaticci, the son of an Italian immigrant, grew up in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and joined the Irish Republican Army to fight against the British as a young man, per the New York Times. He rose through the IRA ranks, according to the Irish Times, but he is widely believed to have switched sides to become Stakeknife, Britain's most important secret agent during what was known as the Troubles. Media outlets identified him as such in 2003, prompting him to leave Northern Ireland for England, where he died last week while under a witness-protection program. He was thought to be in his 70s.

For the record, Scappaticci publicly denied being Stakeknife, whom British officials have described as the "golden egg" in their IRA spying. In a strange twist, Scappaticci led the IRA's "informant-hunting unit," per the Guardian, and was known for his brutality in that role. He is linked to the murders of at least 18 suspected informants. Of course, if Scappaticci were an informer himself, that means he was "a paid British agent killing fellow British agents," notes the Times. In its coverage of his death at the BBC, the outlet states definitively that he was the secret agent.

It's possible the mystery might yet be unraveled for certain. An investigation into the identity of Stakeknife is currently underway and being led by a former chief constable in the British police named Jon Boutcher. “We were made aware last week of the passing of Frederick Scappaticci,” Boutcher said in a statement on Tuesday. “We are working through the implications of his death with regards to our ongoing casework," he said, adding that people who might have been reluctant to previously come forward should do so now that Scappaticci is dead. (More Northern Ireland stories.)

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