” I PLACED CAR-PART AD ONLINE AND THEY PHONED ASKING ME TO SPY ON DISSIDENTS “
POLICE have turned to one of world’s most popular online small ads websites in an attempt to recruit informers against dissidents republicans. A Co Tyrone man has told how Special Branch contacted him through Gumtree.
Previous efforts to gather information on republicans have involved following people on holiday, approaching one man at the Anne Frank museum in Amsterdam and sending the wife of a convicted bomber unsolicited cash in the post. Seamus Hughes (52) from Ballinderry which straddles the Tyrone-Derry border, said he felt ” intimidated ” when approached within weeks of advertising for a car part – an electronic control unit known as a ‘ brain ‘ – on Gumtree. The part-time taxi driver said men claiming to be police officers threatened that he would lose his taxi licence if he refused to spy on named individuals and report back. Mr Hughes said he was particularly spooked because the officers were able to identify him even though only his telephone number was on the website. ” Just my number was put on Gumtree – there was no name,” he said.
Hugely popular with bargain hunters across the globe, Gumtree is an internet classifieds service used by people who post their products and contact details online to buy and sell everyday goods. A police spokesman said the PSNI does not comment on ” intelligence matters and no inference should be drawn from this “. The 52-year-old claims that within days of posting the advertisement he received a call to his mobile phone from a man claiming to have the part he wanted and arranged to meet him in Newry, Co Down, to make an exchange. Mr Hughes says the man refused to accept cash and instead told him he could pay his debt by providing him with free taxi runs between Cookstown and Newry. After taking the car part home Mr Hughes realised it didn’t work. Two weeks later he was contacted by the ‘ seller ‘ and the pair arranged to meet for a second time near Cookstown so he could return the unwanted car part.
” I handed it back and thanked them for not charging me and trusting me,” Mr Hughes said. ” Then one of them said to me : ” I have done you a good turn so I want you to do us a good turn “. I nearly feel over when he said it. They said : ” You have been running about in bad company and you are going to end up in jail “. ” Then they started to name people that they wanted information on, saying some were republicans. ” I told them I didn’t know these boys and don’t agree with their carry on and that I have no interest in politics. ” He said : ‘ Get us some information and we will give you a car and money and whatever you want. ‘ I told them I didn’t want their money. I asked ‘ Who are you ? ‘ and he said : ‘ We are the police ‘.” Mr Hughes says one of the men threatened to have his taxi licence removed if he did not cooperate. ” I am walking about in fear that I could lose my taxi licence,” he said. ” You don’t want to lose your livelihood. ” Just my number was put on Gumtree – there was no name. And yet they rang me. ” I live on my own and it can be very quiet. Coming and going in the middle of the night, you’d be afraid. They are trying to intimidate me…. I hear the dogs barking at night and there are strange things happening around the house. I am feeling vulnerable. ” That’s why I am going public. I want people to know what is happening.” A PSNI spokesman said police did not comment on ” intelligence matters and no inference should be drawn from this “.
INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES USING MORE UNORTHODOX METHODS
INTELLIGENCE agencies are looking at increasingly unorthodox methods to recruit people as informers. Earlier this year the Irish News reported hoe Gerard Gearon a father-of-two from Ardoyne North Belfast, was approached while visiting the Anne Frank museum in Amsterdam. Mr Gearon had traveled to Amsterdam in March for a weekend break with a friend when he was approached by two plain-clothed officers whom he recognised from a previous approach 18 months earlier at London’s Stansted Airport. Mr Gearon said he was offered £10,000 to provide information on named people in the Ardoyne area.
In June last year Co Tyrone man Peter McCaughey – a brother of Martin McCaughey who was shot dead with Dessie Grew near Loughgall in 1990 – fled in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates after being approached by two men who said they were senior British Intelligence officers. A man who called himself Nick said he wanted to take Mr McCaughey to Afghanistan to ‘ debrief ‘ him at a military base there.
In January Belfast man Alex Rogan says he was approached while on holiday in Portugal by men who identified themselves as intelligence officers. And in one of the more bizarre approaches intelligence agencies sent the wife of a former Real IRA prisoner an envelope stuffed with cash in an attempt to recruit her as an informer. Martine McCafferty, the wife of convicted bomber Terry McCafferty, received £500 in Northern Bank notes in October 2011. A note with a hand-written message was attached to the money along with a mobile phone number. When this was called, a man with an English accent using the name ‘ Tom ‘ answered and said he worked for MI5.
WITH MANY THANKS TO : CONNIA YOUNG, IRISH NEWS.