The Independent on Sunday disclosed yesterday that three informants, who had given police valuable information about contract killings, drugs trafficking and other crimes, are believed to have been murdered by professional hit-men hired by underworld figures.
Each informant was tracked down to their new homes in Germany, Holland and Ireland where they have been relocated and given new identities out of public funds.
Senior police sources say that in each case the underworld was prompted to take revenge after the existence of an informant was inadvertently disclosed by police withdrawing from a prosecution rather than name their source. Police had been forced into the choice by judges' rulings and have warned that more informants may die as a result of similar decisions.
The deaths of the informants are seen as the most serious repercussion of the greater emphasis by courts on disclosure of all information held by the prosecution to the defence, which has arisen out of recent Court of Appeal judgements - particularly the Judith Ward and Guinness cases.