A republican fugitive arrested for questioning about the murder of British Captain Robert Nairac had been living under an assumed name, it was revealed tonight.
Kevin Crilly, 57, was asleep when heavily armed police burst into the house where he was staying this morning in the village of Jonesborough, south Armagh.
He had been on the run since the British army undercover officer was captured by the IRA, interrogated and then shot more than 31 years ago. His body was never recovered.
Six men were convicted for their part in the killing, three of them for murder.
Crilly also has an address in Dundalk, Co Louth and had given himself a new identity after returning from America where he had lived for many years, according to security sources.
After his 5.30am arrest, the PSNI confirmed their officers working for the Serious Crime Branch had been in contact with the authorities in the United States to discuss the possibility of seeking the extradition of two other men they also want to question.
It is understood the PSNI had been aware for sometime about Crilly’s whereabouts and decided to mount a major surveillance operation.
He was detained under the Terrorism Act which means he can be held for at least 48 hours and a maximum 28 days.
It is believed police papers in the case are now with Public Prosecution Service officials in Belfast who will decide if Crilly is to face charges.
The house where Crilly was arrested is just half a mile from the spot where Nairac was killed. There was also a woman in the house but she was not detained.
Nairac, 29, was kidnapped by an IRA gang in the car park of the Three Steps Inn pub in Dromintee, south Armagh.
On his fourth tour of duty in the North, he was working undercover at the time for a army unit known as 14 Intelligence Company. He told customers in the bar he was a republican from Ardoyne, north Belfast.
At one stage, it is claimed he sang to them, but suspicious were aroused when he asked a girl how he could cross the nearby Irish border without being detected.
Outside the bar he was grabbed by the gang and driven to Ravensdale Forest, Co Louth, just off the main Belfast-Dublin road, where he was brutally beaten and questioned for several hours in a bid to make him talk about his secret role.
Before he was shot and his body dumped, one of the interrogators posed as a priest in an attempt to coax the young captain, a practising Catholic, into making a confession.
One of the three men later convicted of his murder allegedly admitted to investigating police: “I shot the British captain. He never told us anything. He was a great soldier.”
Claims later emerged of associations between Nairac and loyalist paramilitaries who were allegedly linked to a number of terrorist atrocities, including the 1974 bombings in Dublin and Monaghan which claimed the lives of 34 people.
A group calling for a full judicial inquiry into those attacks said they welcomed today’s development, but said they also hoped police on both sides of the border would work towards making arrests in connection with the bombings. Nobody has ever been charged.
Justice for the Forgotten said: “In jurisdictional terms, the Nairac case and the Dublin and Monaghan bombings have very strong parallels.
“Both crimes were planned and organised north of the border, but executed in the Republic (of Ireland). In both instances, it is thought the perpetrators escaped back across the border.”