IRA convict's wife recruited as informer

Police deal: Tapes reveal agreement aimed at trying to trap Warrington gasworks bomber when 'known' for criminal activities
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The Independent Online

The wife of one of the Warrington gasworks bombers was recruited by police 15 years ago to spy on her husband as part of efforts to get him behind bars.

Tape recordings received by the Independent show that Audrey Kinsella passed on information about her husband, John, as part of a deal struck with police after she was arrested for setting fire to a former boyfriend's home.

Mrs Kinsella, 46, says she gave information on her husband to get a charge of arson reduced to criminal damage. However, she warned him and provided false intelligence.

The officer who ran her as an informant under the code name "Sullivan" was former Detective Sergeant Joe McAleese. He has confirmed there was a deal, struck after Mrs Kinsella offered to inform for cash.

At the time, Kinsella, 51, was suspected of handling the proceeds of one of Nottingham's largest jewellery thefts. He is serving 16 years for storing a bag full of explosives for the IRA cell that blew up the Warrington gasworks in 1993, but he has always claimed he did not know what was in the bag.

Mr McAleese said last week an arson charge against Mrs Kinsella was never likely because damage to the former boyfriend's home was so slight. However, he said her impression that arson was being considered would have improved the bargaining position of detectives. "The offer to inform on John Kinsella was her idea, not ours," he said. "At the time, she wanted to leave him and, in order to do that, she needed money. I said okay, help us and you'll get money. My actions were cleared at every stage by my senior officers."

On the tape, Mrs Kinsella offers to "pinch" her husband's diary, and adds: "But under one thing - that I know for definite that the charge will be dropped." Mr McAleese responds: "You do that and I'll bring you right to the gaffer. How's that? Saturday, I'll bring you to the man, the boss man."

The matter of a charge being dropped is mentioned in two telephone conversations with Mr McAleese secretly recorded by the Kinsellas. Mrs Kinsella was never paid. She was subsequently charged with criminal damage and fined pounds 95.

The operation, which lasted several months, resulted in no valuable information being passed to the police. Mrs Kinsella said she told her husband of the deal as soon as she was released by police.

Although the existence of the operation shows a determination on the part of the police to imprison Kinsella in the early 1980s, it is unlikely to help him in his campaign to be freed.

A former detective inspector told the Independent that the force may have been over zealous at times in trying to put him away at the time but only because his criminality warranted it. Kinsella was well-known to the police but had a knack of avoiding convictions, according to his wife.

In 1980, he received compensation after being held overnight on suspicion of a robbery he did not commit - his alibi was a police officer with whom he was drinking.

Kinsella continued to attract police attention on a regular basis throughout the 1980s without ever being charged. In 1992 he pleaded guilty to being in possession of a CS gas canister during a pub brawl. He said he had been delivering it to a blind neighbour for protection.

According to Mr McAleese, an order went out in 1980 telling officers to back off Kinsella. However, there has never been any suggestion that heavy-handed efforts to lock him up extended to the Warrington gasworks operation. He was arrested because his nephew, Denis Kinsella, was caught at the scene and linked him to the crime.

He has also never argued that he did not hide the bag, containing Semtex, guns and ammunition. The main plank of his argument is that, because he was told the items were stolen goods which were sealed in bin liners, he did not know he was hiding explosives.

Supporters point to the fact he buried the bag underneath a regular bonfire site in an allotment as proof he must have been ignorant of its contents.

Insight into shady world of a detective's grass

Tape recorded conversations between Audrey Kinsella and former Detective Sergeant Joe McAleese provide a fascinating insight into how officers gathered information against him.

One conversation runs:

Audrey Kinsella: "I am phoning you up to tell you I could get [John's] diary. I could pinch it from his top pocket because he puts it in there for two to three days at a time. I don't think he would know if I pinched it. I could bring it down Friday or Saturday."

Joe McAleese: "Excellent, smashing."

AK: "But, under one thing. That I know for definite that the charge will be dropped."

JM: "You do that and I'll bring you right to the gaffer, how's that? Saturday ... I'll take you to the man, the boss man."

Later, after the diary has been smuggled to Mr McAleese, he calls Mrs Kinsella to arrange for its return.

JM: "Any time you want to collect, it [the diary] is in an envelope.

AK: "I can't get down because of the kids."

JM: "Oh, shit. I'm up in Mansfield ..."

AK: "Oh, God."

Mr McAleese subsequently arranged for other officers hand over the diary at a pub, but she wanted assurances about her charge.

AK: "What about my charge now that you've had that?"

JM: "I'll see my gaffer. Don't worry about that ... The gaffer said that to me anyway, I know he said that if you start coming across, everything would be okay. My boss doesn't lie ... That's for sure."