Nearly €13m has been spent on the latest police inquiry into Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane’s murder, it was revealed tonight.
The cost of former Scotland Yard chief Lord Stevens’ third probe into a loyalist assassination shrouded by allegations of security force collaboration was branded a waste of money by the lawyer’s family.
And unionists have called for the seven-year investigation to be brought to an immediate halt.
Ian Paisley Jr, a DUP representative on the Northern Ireland Policing Board, said: “There’s been absolutely no public benefit from the inquiry or the money spent on it.”
Stevens III was launched in 1999 to re-examine claims that special branch and military intelligence assisted the Ulster Defence Association unit who shot Mr Finucane at his north Belfast home ten years earlier.
It confirmed in April 2003 that rogue police officers and soldiers plotted with loyalist terrorists to murder Catholics during the 1980s, including the Finucane killing.
Now the Northern Ireland Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde – who once ran the probe – has disclosed how much has been spent on it so far.
Sir Hugh also confirmed it was being scaled back and taken over by a new unit given a £30m (€43m) budget to examine more than 3,000 unsolved killings during 30 years of violence.
He said: “The cost of the Stevens III Inquiry to date is £8,916,936 (€12,991,649).
“However, it is anticipated that the cost of the Inquiry will significantly reduce as the investigative capacity of the Stevens Team is being reduced from 30 to 11 officers.
“The current status of the Inquiry is that as of February 2006 all outstanding matters are being handed back to C8, the Historical Enquiries Team.”
Stevens III loyalist hitman Ken Barrett was convicted of the Finucane murder and six others for handling terrorist documents, Sir Hugh stressed.
The Public Prosecution Service is also studying 27 files on police officers and members of the security services arising from the investigation.
The findings of collusion was endorsed by retired Canadian Supreme Court judge Peter Cory, who urged public inquiries into the Finucane case and three other controversial murders in Northern Ireland.
Establishing potentially lengthy tribunals is expected to cost the Government millions of pounds.
Around £155m (€225m) has already been ploughed into the Bloody Sunday probe in Derry.
After seven years Lord Saville is due to deliver his findings on the 1972 shooting of 13 civilians by paratroopers later this year.
The Finucane family, who claim a UK-government-proposed inquiry will shield the truth, accused the authorities of squandering funds.
Michael Finucane, the solicitor’s son, said; “The money that was spent on the Stevens investigation would have been far better spent preparing for a proper inquiry.
“Stevens was asked to return to Northern Ireland in 1999 after we submitted our confidential dossier to the Secretary of State at that time, Mo Mowlam.
“That work has been ongoing for seven years; so much could have been achieved in relation to an inquiry in that time.”
He added: “The Stevens investigation on the whole hasn’t proved to be anything more than a delaying tactic.
“It doesn’t command public confidence because it hasn’t been an open, transparent inquiry – something a police investigation by its very nature cannot be.
“In this case that inevitably leads to distrust among the wider public, that’s why a public inquiry is necessary.”
Mr Paisley, whose party and Policing Board colleague William Hay received the information in a written response from Sir Hugh, was equally scathing of Stevens III.
The investigation destroyed the protection for a key informant shot dead by former paramilitary associates.
William Stobie, an ex-UDA quartermaster involved in the Finucane plot, was killed at his north Belfast home weeks after the criminal case against him collapsed.
“This inquiry has resulted in the exposure of a potential witness/defendant who has ultimately been murdered, and therefore no justice prevailed there” Mr Paisley claimed.
“It has subsequently resulted in the debacle of the Finucane’s being being granted an inquiry based on the Cory recommendations, only for it to be stymied by the family.
“From what I can see the inquiry is over and it should be brought to a halt now.”
The Police Service of Northern Ireland insisted the best way forward was for the probe to be passed to the new team headed up by retired Met commander David Cox – who worked on Stevens III.
A spokeswoman said: “It’s the view of both the Chief Constable and Lord Stevens that these investigations are best advanced by the recently established Historical Enquiries Team, within whose remit they firmly fall.”