IRA prison spy dies of cancer

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The Independent Online
A FORMER high-ranking Northern Ireland prison warder, who in June 1990 was jailed for life for helping the IRA murder a colleague, died of cancer yesterday. He had also been suffering from multiple sclerosis.

Christopher John Hanna, 45, who had held a senior position at the Maze, had been involved in plans to stage a large-scale jailbreak from the prison. He had also given information on other colleagues during an affair with a woman IRA intelligence agent.

Hanna had been in a prison hospital for some months, and was recently transferred to an outside hospital. Suggestions that he be released on health grounds brought criticism from relatives of Brian Armour, the prison warder who was assassinated by the IRA with Hanna's help. It is understood he was estranged from his family, but became reconciled with his wife in the last few days.

In the Maze Hanna was responsible for a staff of 22 who ran an 'H-block' holding hardline IRA inmates. On some nights he was duty officer in charge of the whole prison, with access to every key.

Hanna's information allowed the IRA to kill one prison officer and almost kill another. The authorities believed the point of these attacks was to incriminate Hanna and give him no choice but to help the IRA with a large-scale escape. The plan, which did not materialise, was to free 25 or more IRA prisoners using arms and explosives smuggled in by officers.

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