Security base break-in case collapses

The case against a former chef sought in connection with a break-in at a top security base in Northern Ireland dramatically collapsed today.

The Northern Ireland Prosecution Service announced that Larry Zaitschek can no longer be prosecuted because of the emergence of new evidence concerning the 2002 break-in at Castlereagh police station.



Mr Zaitschek worked in the base's canteen at the time of the dramatic events, when three intruders breached security and escaped with top secret files believed to have related to police officers and their agents inside paramilitary ranks.



Millions of pounds were spent rehousing officers and others whose security was compromised by the episode.



The Castlereagh raid was one of the most infamous episodes of recent years in Northern Ireland.



The base was the top "holding centre" throughout the Troubles, where paramilitary suspects were held and interrogated.



It was seen as a key centre of operations for police and the breach of security was a major embarrassment.



A police officer on duty in the room where sensitive information was kept was overpowered and the intruders escaped with dozens of files.



The raid, on St Patrick's Day, rocked the peace process.



The IRA denied responsibility, while security forces denied speculation of an inside job.



Mr Zaitschek, a US citizen who has returned to his native country, was sought in connection with the break-in, though he denied involvement.



But the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) said today the test for prosecution in his case was no longer met.



It released a statement which said: "The PPS had previously confirmed that there had been sufficient evidence to prosecute Laurence Zaitschek should he be made amenable in Northern Ireland. All such decisions are kept under continuous review.



"After the original decision for prosecution had been taken, new information came to the attention of the PPS through the chief constable.



"The PPS concluded that a duty of disclosure to the defence arose in respect of this information. It took all possible steps in conjunction with police to make it available.



"However, the chief constable has now confirmed that he is not in a position to make this information available for the purposes of disclosure.



"In those circumstances, the PPS has concluded that the test for prosecution is no longer met as the disclosure obligations placed upon the prosecution cannot be discharged and a fair trial could not thereby be achieved."



In the aftermath of the Castlereagh break-in, Mr Zaitschek returned to the US.



It later emerged that police wanted to question him in connection with the raid.



The man who became known as "Larry the Chef" alleged security force harassment in the period that followed and said he would resist attempts to extradite him.



His wife was said to have entered a witness protection programme in Northern Ireland and Mr Zaitschek claimed he was being kept apart from their young son, Pearse.



Events took a further twist when it emerged that Mr Zaitschek had known top republican Denis Donaldson.



The senior Sinn Fein figure was later exposed as a security force spy and went into hiding before being shot dead by unknown gunmen at an isolated cottage in Co Donegal, where he had been living.



The circumstances of the Castlereagh raid went to the heart of the covert world of intelligence gathering.



A statement issued today by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said it had properly pursued its investigation.



It said: "The PSNI has pursued a rigorous and thorough investigation into the events concerning the aggravated burglary at Castlereagh police station which occurred on March 17 2002.



"All materials and evidence gathered during the course of that investigation and known to the PSNI were properly presented or revealed to the Public Prosecution Service, who initially concluded that the test for prosecution was met.



"Recently, other material, which did not originate from the PSNI or the security and intelligence agencies, was drawn to the attention of the PSNI.



"This was relevant to the facts at issue and the PSNI agreed was such that its disclosure would be necessary in order for Mr Zaitschek to receive a fair trial.



"Despite the efforts of the PSNI, we are not in a position to make available all the relevant material to PPS for the purposes of disclosure.



"Consequently, the PPS have concluded that Mr Zaitschek could not receive a fair trial and PSNI are in agreement that a prosecution could not proceed in those circumstances."



The Northern Ireland Office declined to comment today and said the matter was one for the justice system and not for government.



The efforts to resolve what happened in the raid eventually came to focus on how Mr Zaitschek's case would be handled.



The chef gave media interviews where he repeatedly denied involvement.



He said: "I have not spoken to Denis Donaldson in many years - and even then I only knew him for a brief period of time."



Mr Zaitschek said that in the two days after the break-in he was interviewed twice by police in Belfast.



"I was told: 'We're done with you in our inquiries. Good luck in America. Thanks for all your great food'," he said.



"I left and came back to America. So everyone knew I was leaving. They were done with me. I left, and then this whole story was concocted."



A top level review of the raid was carried out by Sir John Chilcott, who is heading the new inquiry into the war in Iraq.



His assessment of the Castlereagh raid found no evidence to support claims that members of security agencies were involved in the break-in.



Assembly member Ian Paisley Jnr, a member of the Northern Ireland Policing Board, branded the decisions "a disgrace".



"Here we have one of the most symbolic crimes committed against the police in decades - one of the most serious security incidents - and the case is dropped because the police can't use evidence they have.



"I think the public will be outraged at this failure of the criminal justice system to bring this man to justice."



He said the material stolen in the break-in had caused havoc in the security world.



Mr Paisley said he would be raising the matter at the Policing Board. "Unfortunately yesterday was Sir Hugh Orde's last attendance at a board meeting before he retires. But I intend to talk to him about this before he goes at the end of August."



The Northern Ireland Office distanced itself from the decision.



The briefest of statements said: "This is a matter for the PPS and PSNI and not for government."



* The article is from The Belfast Telegraph.

Suggested Topics
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Arts and Entertainment
'Deep Breath' is Peter Capaldi's first full-length adventure as the twelfth Doctor
TVFirst episode of new series has ended up on the internet
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?