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Paper pays for killer's memoirs

THE memoirs of a former IRA terrorist, who has admitted at least two murders and was given two life sentences, are to be serialised in a national newspaper later this month. The revelation will fuel the controversy over convicted killers profiting from books about their crimes.

The Prime Minister yesterday went on television to re-iterate his concerns that child-killer Mary Bell had made money from a book about her life. "I still think it is wrong that people make money out of crimes they have committed," Tony Blair said.

The Independent has learnt that the memoirs of reformed IRA leader Sean O'Callaghan are to be serialised later this month in the Daily Telegraph. His book, titled The Informer, earned him a large advance, reported to be pounds 175,000, from Transworld Publishers.

Mr O'Callaghan, 42, a former Sinn Fein councillor who joined the IRA at 15, pleaded guilty in 1990 to murdering Peter Flanagan, a Royal Ulster Constabulary detective, and Eva Martin, an Ulster Defence Regiment soldier, in 1974.

After the killings, he changed his view of the IRA and became a valuable informer for the Garda. Since his release from prison, after serving only eight years of his sentence, he has campaigned for peace and become a respected authority on Northern Ireland affairs.

Mr O'Callaghan was this week arrested by the Garda in Dublin and questioned about matters, including the death of John Corcoran an IRA man and Garda informant, murdered in 1985. He was yesterday freed without charge.

Transworld issued a statement yesterday describing Mr O'Callaghan as "an authority on the IRA and a working journalist" who had spent 20 years "working ceaselessly to destroy terrorism".

His agent, Bill Hamilton, said: "He's a man who risked his life under the most dangerous circumstances to subvert terrorism and then handed himself in to prison in order to pay his debts."

Confirming that the Daily Telegraph would be serialising the book this month, he said Mr O'Callaghan would be "coming absolutely clean" about his killings and his role in the IRA.

The Daily Telegraph refused to comment. Earlier this week its editor, Charles Moore, wrote an article entitled: "Why we refused to serialise the story of Mary Bell." He wrote that Bell had not received any pardon for her crimes and "remains guilty".

Instead the book, Cries Unheard, was published by the Times, which paid pounds 40,000 for the serialisation rights. The author, Gitta Sereny paid Bell a sum, which unconfirmed reports put at pounds 50,000, for her collaboration in the project.

Yesterday the Attorney General, John Morris, said that after two days of investigation he could find no redress in the law for ordering Bell to repay the money.