These are the contradictory theories being advanced, with little hard evidence, to explain West Belfast man Freddie Scappaticci, 49, whose identity, background and alleged career as a top-level IRA spy has dominated the media for the last week.
The speculation went into overdrive on Sunday with one newspaper claiming the existence of 80 IRA moles and another that the IRA had been “destroyed” by revelations of Scappaticci’s betrayal.
Sinn Fein sources believe the sudden emergence of the Scappaticci story is an attempt by the British security establishment to muddy the waters after the revelations of RUC/British army collusion in the murder of lawyer Pat Finucane.
As the likelihood of a full inquiry into the Finucane killing increases, the theory goes that the intelligence officials in London want to limit the damage to their own careers and reputation by a flurry of stories that show they were evenhanded in their use of informers.
There’s also a growing theory that the security services fear a full-scale truth commission is now possible and are anxious to preempt it by influencing the rules governing any such inquiry.
Some republicans believe, however, that Scappaticci is guilty of what he stands accused of and that undercover British agents are hoping the IRA will shoot him dead before he has a chance to tell his full story.
Whatever the truth, the story shows no sign of going away, with various journalists and newspapers pinning their reputations on the hope that their interpretation of events is the correct one.
Most of the newspapers agree that Scappaticci (known to other republicans as “Scap”) was second in command of the IRA’s internal security department, referred to sometimes as the “Nutting Squad.”
One security source told the Glasgow Sunday Herald that he had been Scappaticci’s “handler” for six years.
“[Scappaticci] was privy to everything that went on in the Provos: arms dumps, arms shipments, finances, propaganda plans, political machinations, drugs — everything,” the source said. “As one of the top boys in the internal security unit, Scap was called in when an operation went wrong to see if there was an informer involved. When a suspected informer had been abducted, he’d arrive at a safe house to lead the interrogation.
“Scap would tell us what was going on and if we could we’d try to mount a rescue, but more often than not the person was taken over the Irish border and there was nothing we could do to save him. We couldn’t tell the garda as their special branch was riddled with Provo sympathizers.”
Acres of newsprint have been covered with this kind of story, quoting anonymous security sources. On the other hand, there is the testimony of Scappaticci himself, who said he is completely innocent of all the charges and has no explanation why he has suddenly found himself in the eye of the storm.
“My statement basically is that I am Freddie Scappaticci,” Scappaticci told this reporter last week. “I am sitting here today with my solicitor. I am telling you I am not guilty of any of these allegations. I have not left Northern Ireland since I was challenged by reporters on Saturday night.
“Nobody had the decency to ask me if any of these allegations were true and why the police had not come to question me about these allegations.”
When he was asked why he has been linked to Stakeknife, Scappaticci replied: “I don’t know.” And when asked about his involvement with the republican movement, he said that it stopped 13 years ago.
At the end of the interview, Scappaticci appealed for the press to leave his family alone. “I’m not even called Alfredo Scappaticci like the papers say,” he said. “I’m not ‘known’ as Freddie. That is my name; it’s even on my birth certificate.”
In a separate interview with the Andersonstown News, he said: “It’s been devastating. Things have been dragged out in the press with not one iota of truth. Because I had to leave my home for a couple of days for safety’s sake and lie low, my family has been tortured by the British media and gutter press, coming to my house banging on door windows, putting letters through the door.
“My youngest daughter had actually to sit A-levels and it was all so traumatic that teachers had to take her out of school and she had to receive counseling. She’s a quiet girl. She felt my life was in danger and that made it worse.”