Detective Sergeant John Symonds was one of the Met Police caught up in the “Times Inquiry of 1969” about police corruption. He is probably most famous for his quote which he gives as “Don’t forget always to let me know straight away if you need anything because I know people everywhere, because I am in a little firm in a firm, alright?”. This was caught on tape and became synonymous with police corruption and freemasonry.
Symonds was a minor player in corruption compared to many others and he was perhaps unlucky as there was routine low level corruption in the Met at the time, and he was made scapegoat for other officers much worse corruption.
Symonds later, more exotic career was as a “Romeo Spy” seducing women for the KGB, but this is less well known.
The whole book is worth reading, but perhaps the most significant revelations as regards child sexual abuse are
- Police had found snuff movies [p44]- something I have never seen admitted by police before
- the Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions had a reputation as a paedophile and regular visitor to a dirty book shop in Spring Street, Paddington, and certainly had attended several of the regular, Friday night film shows screened by the Dirty Squad in their second floor offices at the Yard [p53]. If anyone has any idea who this is around 1969, I would be grateful for the information.
March 1968 E.G. Macdermott was appointed as assistant director DPP, David Prys Jones was another assistant director in the role late 1968, Michael Evelyn appointed 1st Oct 1969 although there was more than one assistant DPP I think. [HT M]. Evelyn decided against prosecuting Father Trevor Huddleston  [HT CC] (There is a possibility that it was before or after these, I will read more and try and narrow down time period.)
Romeo Spy by John Symonds is available from his website  I have reproduced it here, but it is John Symonds copyright. This is another post to which I will refer in my future post on police corruption and its effect on child sexual abuse.
Firstly I have put some of the many excerpts that are of relevance to Police corruption and many about the sex industry. The book, which I have included so that it is picked up by search engines and to have a copy,follows the extracts. To check page numbers you will have to check the original.
Graeme McLagan, a former BBC current affairs journalist, sums up Frank Williamson’s portrait of the Met police: First there were the corrupt ones, then there were those who were honest but knew of corruption and did nothing about it, and then there were those so stupid that they failed to realise there was any corruption at all. 
Police Corruption Excerpts from Romeo Spy
Commander Virgo had carved up the vice scene and licensed all three major players, Bernie Silver, James Humphreys and Jeff Phillips. All had led long criminal careers, but counted senior police officers among their closest friends, dining with them regularly, attending the same Lodge meetings and even going on holiday together [p25]
Humphreys and his wife Rusty ran the strip clubs in Soho while his rival, Bernie Silver, organised the prostitutes and maintained a string of dirty book shops, and Phillips distributed blue movies. Bill Moody had joined the OPS in 1965, and when he had been appointed its head in February 1969 he had institutionalised the arrangement and extorted protection money from all the key players. Regular, weekly retainers were paid, together with an annual Christmas bonus and a lump sum of £1,000 for each new site opened. Managers that made their contributions were never raided; those that fell behind in their payments had their stock confiscated, which was then ‘recycled’ back into the trade. Humphreys, Phillips and Silver were not only free to expand their vice empires, but were even considered suitable guests for the Flying Squad’s annual dinner,[p28]
Symonds tells of how a small locked broom cupboard in an outbuilding was marked ‘cleaners’ but contained the CID’s secret cache of fit-up exhibits. This was a collection of knives, guns, drugs and masks that were occasionally deployed when a reluctant informant needed some persuasion. He says in his experience they were the essential tools of the CID officer’s trade, but their discovery during an official investigation would cause nothing but trouble so he carried the lot to my car and drove them to Peckham police station where a colleague willingly accepted them. [p35]
In theory Moody’s job had been to stamp out pornography, or at least suppress its distribution and availability so it did not fall into the path of people who did not want it. In reality he controlled the trade in a way which enriched himself, his squad and his superiors at the Yard. As a shareholder with porn merchants like Silver, Mason and Humphreys, he had a vested interest in eliminating out the non-paying opposition.
Moody exploited his membership of the Freemasons to manoeuvre himself into the Obscene Publications Squad (OPS), a notorious centre of corruption at the Yard known as ‘the Dirty Squad’ [p43]
At the Yard, the Obscene Publication Squad [OPS] was famed for adding £20 to the weekly wages of every member of the Squad, with an additional bonus of up to £100 each Friday, money known as the ‘whack’ which came from pay-outs made by the very pornographers the OPS was intended to put out of business [p43]
I had been a very occasional visitor, drawn by curiosity but acutely aware of the very addictive nature of the filth which included the most horrifying ‘snuff’ movies, child pornography and other material treasured by the afficionados [p44]
In theory Moody’s job had been to stamp out pornography, or at least suppress its distribution and availability so it did not fall into the path of people who did not want it. In reality he controlled the trade in a way which enriched himself, his squad and his superiors at the Yard. As a shareholder with porn merchants like Silver, Mason and Humphreys, he had a vested interest in eliminating out the non-paying opposition [p44]
Robson had served in the Royal Navy during the war, had commanded a Motor Torpedo Boat [p50]
The problem with such news was that we were all vulnerable to allegations of minor corruption which to a degree was endemic across London, and certainly not restricted to the Yard.[p51]
The truth was that almost every CID officer had seen examples of corruption, maybe participated in a ‘whack’ or at least turned a blind eye to what others were doing. Grotesque as this may sound now, it was a way of life in those days in which the underworld enjoyed an easy working relationship with the forces of law and order. The West End’s clubs, clip-joints, blue movie cinemas, striptease bars and drinking dens were making vast profits and the owners, more subtle than the earlier generation of Maltese hoodlums and street-fighters who had dominated Soho since the war, were altogether more pragmatic and knew how vulnerable the poorly paid coppers were [p52]
I had heard whispers about the Assistant DPP who had a reputation as a paedophile and regular visitor to a dirty book shop in Spring Street, Paddington, and certainly had attended several of the regular, Friday night film shows screened by the Dirty Squad in their second floor offices at the Yard. Clearly he had had enjoyed a close relationship with Moody [p53]
Lambert and Yorke had been replaced on the enquiry by Moody and Virgo, and such completely inappropriate manoeuvres suggested the informed connivance of the Yard’s top commander, Dick Chitty, and maybe the DAC, John du Rose. Could they really have been compromised by Moody? [p56]
I sent word to Moody that I had received almost weekly updates on what had been happening in the OPS, I was reluctant to threaten him. This was an officer who was so powerful and so confident that on Masonic ladies nights he would openly flaunt his friendships with the most notorious pornographers, fraudsters, crooked bookies and their wives. Only someone who knew he was immune could behave in such a manner. [p56]
He [Symonds] went abroad and stayed there with the knowledge of the Met, and so was never charged.
The extraordinary influence of Freemasonry on the Met cannot be underestimated, and within the police the ‘Jockafia’ was especially potent. Whereas the masons in England have a minimum age of twenty-one for membership, the sons of masons in Scotland can join their father’s lodge at nineteen, thus making some Scots policemen ‘Jocksonic’, enjoying a two year advantage over their English contemporaries, receiving the benefit of accelerated promotion based entirely on their links with the lodge.[p63]
Drury revealed that the papers were set by a couple of superintendents at the yard who well understood that men on specialist squads did not have the time to study, so they distributed a limited number of ‘short revision lists’ to favoured candidates. Thanks to Drury’s intervention, I had become on the chosen few, known as being ‘in the swim’. The alternatives were to be ‘on the square’ which involved a separate system of fixing the results, or years of fruitless study.[p69]
A planned month’s holiday in the sun was beginning to look rather more permanent, and I took the necessary precautions, the first being a new passport. The second was a lengthy document in which I described my own experiences in the Met, and named dozens of my colleagues who, by the standards that had been applied to me in London, were equally corrupt, if not much more so, I had little difficulty in preparing this dossier because I had prepared an original version in London and entrusted it to my solicitor, Victor Lissac [p72]
What better agent could one have, in terms of managing a spy-ring in London, than an experienced, bent police officer with full access to the Police National Computer, the Criminal Records Office, and maybe the specialist squads in the Yard such as Special Branch? Nor was this, some pie-in-the-spy fantasy. It was well-known that the Soviets had run several police officers as agents after the 1919 police strike, and had even penetrated the Special Branch.[p80]
simply told the truth about London’s CID, and the KGB soon came to realise the accuracy of my dossier on corruption, especially when Detective Sergeant Nobby Pilcher went down for four years in October 1973, and two of his detective constables had received eighteen months. We had been at training school together, and had both served at Bow Street, and Nobby had featured in my dossier, written long before he had faced any charges. Put bluntly, the police could be bought as easily as anyone else, and probably with rather less of an investment. Nor were these few prosecutions an indication of the willingness of the Yard to clean the Augean stables. In reality the Met had wanted to perpetuate the myth of the single bad apple, and pretend that an isolated case of corruption had been rooted out and eliminated, with the implication that Nobby’s example had no wider implications for the rest of the force. There was a logic in this, for the alternative meant getting rid of most of the Met’s three thousand detectives and starting again, which would be hard, if not impossible to contemplate. My view was that once an officer had taken the smallest bung, perhaps from a Covent Garden street porter, he would take a bribe from almost anyone,[p95]
As I was well aware, Met detectives were very susceptible to large bribes, and although the Branch men were somewhat detached from the rest of the Yard, they were all made from the same cloth. Why take years in the hope of placing a suitable candidate close to an MI5 recruiter when a serving Branch officer could be bought for a fraction of the price, and was already in an excellent position from which to manoeuvre himself into the Gower Street headquarters of the Security Service.[p137]
My offer to document my work for the KGB and reveal my dossier on police corruption was made to the Security Service but, to my surprise, it was turned down flat, without even an opportunity to show what I was prepared to trade. Only later did I learn that MI5 had gone straight to Scotland Yard to ask whether my allegations of widespread corruption within the CID could be true. Not surprisingly, my former colleagues condemned me as a fantasist, and I found myself facing a lengthy prison sentence with no chance of bail [p184]
as a result of evidence from Jimmy Humphreys and another pornographer specialising in hard-core material, Gerald Citron, the lid had been blown off Moody’s activities. In May 1974, during one of the Mark purges, Citron had been convicted of possession of pornography and fined £30,000, but instead of paying up, Citron had fled to the South of France, leaving behind a lengthy statement about police corruption in Soho. Originally from Manchester, Citron had become a major supplier to the Soho market, and had paid off the Dirty Squad like everybody else. [p184]
The picture that emerged of the Dirty Squad’s grip on the very trade it was intended to suppress had astonished even the most hardened and cynical. The Kelland enquiry showed that the Dirty Squad had been collecting £250,000 a year, and before he committed suicide in May 1975 the porn importer ‘Big Jeff’ Phillips gave lengthy interviews to the Sunday People which had published several articles detailing the symbiotic relationship between corrupt plain-clothes men and Soho’s vice merchants. Stories of parties, hookers, holidays and junkets were spiced with allegations of free cars and home improvements for detectives, and suddenly the rumours that had circulated for years were not only confirmed, but helped swing the pendulum of public opinion in the direction advocated by Lord Longford, who had chaired an enquiry into pornography in 1972. [p185]
Hertfordshire Police had never quite given up their interest in corruption in the Met, even though their contribution to Operation COUNTRYMAN had been ridiculed as the futile efforts of provincial flatfoots seeking to root out bad apples in London’s CID. I was invited to prepare a lengthy statement, describing my encounters with senior officers such as Gilbert Kelland, who had been appointed Assistant Commissioner (Crime) in 1977. I was able to give a detailed account of the darker side of my ex-colleagues to the head of the Hertfordshire CID, who was backed by his Chief Constable when the time came to negotiate an immunity for my evidence, which eventually amounted to a statement of 260 pages. My agreement, endorsed by the DPP and the Attorney-General, was to absolve me of involvement in any crime, short of violence, and in return I was entirely candid in naming those whom I knew to have been on the take.[p192]
This is a Final Draft of Romeo Spy by John Alexander Symonds
Introduction by Nigel West
I Encounter in Morocco
ACC Assistant Commissioner, Crime
ASIO Australian Security Intelligence Organization
BfV Federal German Security Service
BND Federal German Intelligence Service
BOSS South African Bureau of State Security
CIA Central Intelligence Agency
CID Criminal Investigation Division
CPGB Communis Party of Great Britain
DAC Deputy Assistant Commissioner
DCI Detective Chief Inspector
DCS Detective Chief Superintendent
DI Detective Inspector
DPP Director of Public Prosecutions
DS Detective Sergeant
FCD First Chief Directorate
FRG Federal Republic of German
GCHQ Government Communications Headquarters
GDR German Democratic Republic
GRU Soviet Military Intelligence Service
HVA East German Intelligence Service
JIC Joint Intelligence Committee
KDS Bulgarian Security Service
KGB Soviet Intelligence Service
MI5 British Security Service
NKVD Soviet Intelligence Service
NSA American National Security Agency
OPS Obscene Publications Squad
PUS Permanent Under-Secretary
REME Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers
SCD Second Chief Directorate
SHAPE Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe
SIS British Secret Intelligence Service
StB Czech Intelligence Service
SVR Russian Federation Intelligence Service
YCL Young Communist League
In the middle of March 1992 an elderly, shabbily-dressed Russian carrying a battered suitcase walked into the British Embassy in the Latvian capital of Riga and asked to see a member of the British Secret Intelligence Service. He was insistent, and eventually he was shown into an interview room, usually used by visa applicants, where he was spoken to by a young woman who was to serve him with a cup of tea, and transform her career over the next few minutes. The woman did not introduce herself as a diplomat, and was actually the embassy’s secretary. Although the man wanted to speak to an intelligence officer, there was no SIS officer, and no local station commander. That station might have consisted of an officer and an SIS secretary, two intelligence professionals at the front line during the collapse of the Soviet Bloc, representing a clandestine organisation, headed at its headquarters in London by Sir Colin McColl, but SIS had not been operational in the newly independent republics of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia since before the Second World War. The British embassy was accommodated in the International Trade Centre, a building that had previously housed the Communist Party’s central committee, and the staff consisted of the Russian-speaking ambassador, Christopher Samuel, his first secretary, Mike Bates, one secretary, and Steve and Margaret Mitchell, a husband and wife team from the Stockholm embassy who acted as the embassy’s secretary and the archivist. The embassy had been opened the previous October, when it had consisted of Samuel’s hotel room, a satellite phone, a bag of money under his bed and a Union Jack on his door. In a similar, simultaneous exercise, Michael Peat had been sent to Vilnius and Bob Low to Tallin.
The elderly Russian, who had arrived on the overnight train from Moscow, spoke no English, but explained that his name was Major Vasili Mitrokhin, formerly of the KGB. He said he was aged sixty-nine, and had joined the KGB in 1948. Reaching into his bag, under a pile of what appeared to be dirty laundry and the remains of several meals, he removed a removed a pair of school exercise books. Inside, written in neat Cyrillic script, was a sample of what was to become one of the greatest intelligence coups of the era. Although this strange offering had failed to impress the CIA Chief of Station across town at the American Embassy, the person Mitrokhin took to be his British counterpart was astounded, not just by the content, but by her visitor’s extraordinary tale. He claimed that from late 1956 until his retirement in 1984 he had been in charge of the KGB’s archives at the First Chief Directorate’s headquarters at Yasenevo, on the Moscow ring road. For the previous twenty-five years, since the premature conclusion of his only overseas assignment, to Israel, he had supervised the tens of thousands of files that had been accumulated by the world’s largest and most feared intelligence agency, and had taken the opportunity to read many of the most interesting ones. Astonishingly, he had spent twelve of those years, and much of his retirement, reconstructing his own version of what he regarded as the most significant dossiers, documenting Stalin’s crimes, Khrushchev’s follies, Brezhnev’s blunders and the many misdeeds committed in the name of Soviet Communism. For most of his career, he said, he had been disenchanted with the Soviet system, had listened to western radio broadcasts and read dissident literature. In 1972, when he was made responsible for checking the First Chief Directorate files being transferred from the old headquarters in the Lubyanka, to the KGB’s modern building on the outskirts of Moscow, he embarked on what amounted to the construction of an illicit history of the Soviet Union’s most secret operations.
Could the material be genuine? Was this strange, shambling figure a Walter Mitty fantasist? Why had he been turned away by the CIA? Would it have been possible for the KGB’s security to have been breached in such an amateurish way? Mitrokhin asserted that he had simply copied the original files and walked out of the heavily-guarded KGB compound with his hand-written notes stuffed into his socks. He had then rewritten a detailed account of the files from his scraps of paper into exercise books and other convenient binders which he had hidden in a milk churn concealed under his country dacha. In return for political asylum for himself and his family he was willing to offer his entire collection, amounting to a full six cases of documents. Furthermore, he was willing to collaborate with SIS so the material could be properly interpreted and eventually published, and he promised to return on 9 April with more samples of his handiwork. On that date he was met by a delegation of SIS officers who examined some two thousand sheets of his archive and scrutinized his Party membership card and his KGB retirement certificate. Acknowledging the authenticity of what he had shown them, a further appointment was made two months’ hence to meet the man now codenamed GUNNER by SIS, and on 11 June he returned to Riga carrying a rucksack containing yet more material.
GUNNER’s documents looked sensational, but why had he been rejected by the CIA? This remains something of a mystery, if not an embarrassment at the CIA’s headquarters, but the then chief of the Soviet/Eastern Europe Division, Milton Bearden, has acknowledged that he was besieged with offers from potential defectors in the months following the Soviet collapse, and as each authentic source was receiving an average of a million dollars, and he was receiving one worthwhile offer every forty days, the Directorate of Operations was simply running out of money and failed to take the shambling old man sufficiently seriously. Bearden had been assigned to language training in preparation for his appointment as Chief of Station in Bonn, with John MacGaffin as his replacement, and Tom Twetton had just become Deputy Director for Operations. Somehow, in the confusion at Langley and maybe a screw-up in Riga where Ints Silins was the US Ambassador, Mitrokhin had been rejected. Whatever the excuse, Paul Redmond, the CIA’s chief of counter-intelligence, was later to agree that the CIA had missed a golden opportunity, leaving him to SIS’s tender mercies.
Mitrokhin was to undergo further interviews in England early in September 1992, when he spent almost a month in the country under SIS’s protection, staying at safe-houses. When he returned to Moscow on 13 October he did so for the last time and less than a month later, on 7 November, he accompanied his family to Latvia and was issued with British passports enabling them to fly to London.
The details of how Mitrokhin subsequently made a second journey to Riga, accompanied by his wife and son, remain classified, as do the circumstances in which an SIS officer later visited his empty dacha outside Moscow and recovered his secret hoard of papers and carried them undetected to the local SIS station, headed by John Scarlett at the British Embassy. Now codenamed JESSANT, no official announcement was made of Mitrokhin’s defection, and in the chaos of 1992 his disappearance from the Russian capital probably went unnoticed. His existence in the archives had been a solitary existence, and he was unpopular with his colleagues, considered an awkward stickler for regulations, unwilling to speed up bureaucratic procedures when offered the customary bottle of vodka as an inducement. However, in the months that followed, numerous counter-intelligence operations were mounted across the globe, each resulting in a stunning success. Near Belfauz, Switzerland, booby-trapped caches of weapons and covert radio equipment were dug up in the forest; In Tampa, Florida, retired US Army Colonel George Trofimoff was approached by FBI special agents posing as Russian intelligence officers, to whom he admitted in a secretly videotaped meeting lasting six hours that he had spied for the Soviets for twenty-five years since his recruitment in Nuremberg in1969; In Australia a senior ASIO analyst was identified as a long-term source for the KGB, but he was not arrested; In a motel in Virginia a former National Security Agency cryptographer, codenamed DAN by the KGB, was detained and charged with espionage. No public statements were issued, but in Moscow the KGB’s successor organisation, the SVR, began to count the accumulating losses. Well-established assets in every corner of the world were being ‘wrapped-up’ in a series of operations that amounted to a colossal intelligence disaster of unprecedented proportions. George Trofimoff, codenamed ANTEY, MARKIZ and KONSUL in Mitrokhin’s files, resulted in the imprisonment of the most senior American army officer ever to be charged with espionage.
In London, Mitrokhin’s arrival and resettlement was but part of a project that was to have lasting consequences. After so many years confined to Moscow he found it hard to adapt to life in England, and to the detriment of his health he concentrated on supervising the transfer of his precious archive onto a massive computer database. As each new case was revealed, SIS despatched a suitably sanitized summary to the appropriate allied security or intelligence agency to exploit, seeking in return only an assurance that the secret source of the information should not be disclosed. On only one occasion, the prosecution of the NSA analyst Robert Lipka in 1997, was there a request that Mitrokhin travel to Philadelphia to testify in person to the origin and authenticity of his dossier, but in the end the spy’s plea of guilty to a single charge of espionage obviated the need for him to appear as a witness. Lipka was sentenced to eighteen years’ imprisonment in September 1997, completely baffled as to how the FBI had tracked him down after a gap of twenty-three years.
One of SIS’s many satisfied customers was the British Security Service, MI5, which was provided with tantalising glimpses into how the KGB had operated in Britain over more than six decades. Where mere suspicions had been marked on personal files, Mitrokhin confirmed guilt of espionage; when an MI5 investigation had been shelved for lack of progress, Mitrokhin supplied additional leads. And in the case of Melita Norwood, a life-long Communist believed to have once operated as a spy, Mitrokhin revealed that she was HOLA and had been in contact with KGB’s illegal rezident in London until January 1961. Born in London in 1912 of an immigrant Latvian bookbinder named Sirnis, Melita had been a member of the CPGB and had been linked to Percy Glading in 1938 when the former CPGB National Organiser was imprisoned for espionage. Her name, and her family’s address in Hampstead were found in a notebook owned by Glading at the time of his arrest, when he was charged with stealing secrets from the Woolwich Arsenal, but MI5 had not pursued the clue. Later she had joined the headquarters of the British Non-Ferrous Metals Association in Euston as a typist for one of its directors, G.J. Bailey, and this had given her access to nuclear secrets as the organisation was a component of the Anglo-American project to develop an atomic bomb, which the NKVD had dubbed Operation ENORMOZ. In 1964 she had been tentatively identified as the spy codenamed TINA who had been mentioned in a single VENONA message from Moscow dated 16 September 1945. According to the text transmitted to the rezident in London, ‘her documentary material on ENORMOZ is of great interest and represents a valuable contribution to the development of the work in this field’. However, the addressee, Konstantin Kukin, had been directed to ‘instruct her not to discuss her work with us with her husband and not to say anything to him about the nature of the documentary material which is being obtained by her’. Thus MI5 established in 1964, when the text was finally decrypted, that Mrs Norwood had been an active spy in September 1945, and had been ordered not to confide in her husband, a Communist school-teacher, about her espionage. Surprisingly, despite this evidence that she had engaged in betraying atomic secrets, MI5 chose not to take any action, and did not even bother to interview her, on the grounds that she had remained a hardened CPGB member and therefore was unlikely to cooperate with any interrogation.
No criminal prosecutions resulted in England as a consequence of Mitrokhin’s disclosures, but in the counter-intelligence world inhabited by molehunters and surveillance experts there are other, equally important advantages to be achieved. Most controversially, one such objective, supervised by John Scarlett, who by then had been expelled from Moscow, was to publish a historical account of Mitrokhin’s collection, and this was accomplished in September 1999 with the help of the Cambridge historian Christopher Andrew. Their joint effort, entitled The Sword and the Shield in the United States, was released amid international publicity, with much of the attention focusing on two spies particular. One was the elderly Melita Norwood, by then a grandmother living in a London suburb, and the other was SCOT, a former Scotland Yard detective, John Symonds, described as ‘the most remarkable British agent identified by Mitrokhin outside the field of S & T’. Symonds may not have had a talent for science and technology, but he possessed other skills that he had made available to the KGB for more than eight years.
The drama behind the exposure of these two masterspies is itself worthy of an entire study in itself, and MI5’s complacency was to be the source of considerable criticism when Mitrokhin’s material was made public, but MI5 had not discovered until June 1999 that a BBC journalist, David Rose, had been researching an unrelated television documentary entitled The Spying Game in which he intended to include an interview with Mrs Norwood. He filmed this secretly in August when he had called at her home in Bexleyheath, Kent, although quite how Rose learned that Melita Norwood had been a spy remains unclear, but the likelihood is that he was told about the case while he was being briefed for his film. In any event, with the certainty that Mrs Norwood was to feature In Rose’s broadcast, the decision was taken at the very last moment to insert her real name, and that of John Symonds, in the pages of The Mitrokhin Archive, thereby attracting considerable media coverage when The Times serialized the book in early September 1999.
The revelation contained in Mitrokhin’s files that John Symonds had operated as a KGB agent codenamed SCOT proved hugely embarrassing for the Security Service because the ex-policeman and army officer had long ago volunteered a confession that had been rejected as being too fanciful to be true. Having disappeared when charged with corruption in 1972, Symonds had spent the next few years working for the KGB, and when he finally returned to Britain in April 1980, having travelled across the world on various different passports, he surrendered to the authorities and was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, having been found guilty at the Old Bailey on two charges of corruption. Although Symonds had offered MI5 a potentially vital counter-intelligence breakthrough, detailing many of the operations he had participated in under the KGB’s direction, he had been rebuffed because his story was considered too incredible to be believed. It was only after his release from Ford open prison, and Mitrokhin’s defection, that MI5 realised what an opportunity it had passed up. Far from being a dreamer and hoaxer, Symonds had been entrusted with a series of sensitive operations by his KGB controllers, and was considered in Moscow to have performed his tasks well.
Even after Mitrokhin’s confirmation of Symonds’ covert role as a KGB spy, the Security Service could not bring itself to accept his renewed, generous offer of cooperation, so doubtless the pages that follow will be read with as much interest by the molehunters of Thames House as by other readers. What led Symonds to collaborate with the KGB in the Moroccan capital of Rabat? How many western secretaries with access to classified information did he seduce while entrapping the unwary at Bulgarian beach resorts? What is the truth behind his allegations of corruption in the Metropolitan Police? Who were his targets among the unmarried women working at the British Embassy in Moscow? Why did his German girlfriend agree to betray secrets to the KGB? Did he really recommend that a Special Branch bodyguard responsible for protecting the KGB defector Oleg Lyalin could be bribed?
What follows is a story that no novelist or thriller-writer could have invented. It is the career of a disappointed soldier, an idealistic police officer, a desperate fugitive and manipulative spy. It is also the story of Nellie Genkova, a beautiful Bulgarian language teacher who remained loyal to a man she knew as John Arthur Phillips, supposedly a Communist Party official who spent much of the year travelling the world. Incredible, certainly, but also absolutely true.
Nigel West August 2010
Encounter in Morocco
My first encounter with the KGB required a detailed account of my background, and I took several days to prepare a document that set out my career thus far. It began with my birth in Peterborough in 1935, and ended with my hasty exit from London in 1972. In between were the events that had shaped my two unexpectedly short experiences as a police officer.
I was educated at Rougemont, a private prep school in Newport, south Wales, and then went to St Julian’s, a good grammar school where I took I joined the Boy Scouts and took an interest in the church. As someone who was later to be accused of being a professional perjurer, this may seem odd, but my scout troop met in the church hall and I had contemplated taking holy orders. I had started and edited our troop magazine, Contact, and had badgered the local mayor and the bishop into contributing articles. When the wartime air aces ‘Cats Eyes’ Cunningham and Group Captain Leonard Cheshire had visited our church I had persuaded them to submit to interviews, and when I sent them courtesy copies of the published version I was invited to attend a Christian summer camp. This consisted of plenty of bible classes and prayer meetings, and brought me into contact with the children of many senior churchmen. Eventually my preoccupation petered out, but the enthusiasm I showed for religion was typical of the way I threw myself into particular interests.
I also excelled rugby, boxing and water polo, but these were physical achievements, not signs of any academic accomplishments, so I did not complete the sixth form before I joined the army at the age of seventeen for the Officer Training Corps. This was a career choice encouraged by my father, then still a serving officer based at the Royal College of Military Science, despite lost a part of his left hand in an explosion at the Woolwich Arsenal during the Second World War while conducting secret experimental proof work. He always had good connections, and one of my godfathers was his former commanding officer, later to sponsor my application for a commission to the War Office Selection Board, while another was a senior Special Branch officer, Commander Flood, who was to give me sound advice about how to get on in the Met. My father had met Flood when the latter had been sent to investigate a mysterious explosion in 1940 which was suspected to have been an act of sabotage by Nazi spies. Flood concluded the incident had been an accidental detonation, and the two men had remained in touch with each other after the war, when he had been based at Fort Halstead.
I was posted to the British Army of the Rhine at Munster, to join my Royal Artillery regiment, as a private soldier, on being commissioned in 1953 and came to command Y (Survey) Troop, 94th Locating Regiment. Although I had volunteered for combat in Korea, I was sent on an Officer’s Gunnery Course at Larkhill in Wiltshire, where I acquired some knowledge of 25-pounders and counter-bombardment skills.
Apart from my encyclopaedic grasp of field artillery, my other lasting asset from the army was an invitation in 1956 to join the army lodge of the Freemasons. I was assured that being ‘on the square’ would help my career, and it certainly did me no harm when I later joined the police and found that the local lodge played an important part in gaining promotions. I knew the lodge exercised great influence in the military because, shortly before leaving the army I recommended that my younger, middle brother Leonard, then a lowly REME corporal, should join. Promotion to Quarter-Master followed soon afterwards, and he later received a commission and was transferred to Middle Wallop where he spent much of his career developing computer systems and avionics for helicopters of the Army Air Corps. He was to become master of his lodge, eloquent proof of the influence exercised by the Brethren.
After nearly three years in the army I was persuaded to join the Metropolitan Police in what would now be described as a fast-track with the promise of swift promotion to the rank of inspector, the objective being the creation of an officer corps within the force, a concept that had been abandoned before the war, following Lord Trenchard’s reforms which had created the training school at Hendon. There were about two dozen of us, all from a similar background, who had been approached to help transform the Met into a professional organisation based on military lines, and I recall particularly an ex-Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm pilot, and another army officer, who held views similar to mine. Within a year we had all left the police in disgust, most appalled by the standards of discipline and the pervasive culture of mild corruption. My first encounter with the Met’s hidden management occurred when Hendon’s Commandant invited me to a meeting which was attended exclusively by Freemans. As well as the Commandant, who was later to be appointed Chief of the City of London force, there were some elderly members of the permanent staff, and a group of the cadets. It was here that I learned of the flying start enjoyed by those of us ‘on the square’ who would be joining one of the many police lodges. We would have advance access to exam papers, the names of contacts to help with interviews and numerous other advantages. No wonder so many inappropriate accelerated promotions occur in the police, and no wonder there is such resentment among those who have seen how the Brethren help each other.
Another good example was my arrest while on the ‘Queer Patrol’ in the Covent Garden urinals, of Tom Driberg, the Labour MP whom I had caught engaged in buggery with another man. A notorious, predatory homosexual, I marched him off to Bow Street, having angrily rejected his offer of £5 to forget the matter, but soon afterwards he had telephoned another Labour MP, and future prime minister, who arrived at the police station and demanded to see Chief Superintendent ‘Bones’ Jones who lived in quarters directly over the station. Obviously this was not a total surprise to some officers, and all involved seemed confident of the procedure. Soon afterwards both MPs left the building in high spirits, my pocketbook was confiscated and I had been warned that the incident never occurred. A month later, still furious at how I had been humiliated by someone I had learned was a notorious, repeat, offender, I handed in my warrant card. In the years that followed I watched as Driberg manoeuvred, or maybe blackmailed, his way to the top of British politics, was elected chairman of the Labour Party, and was ennobled as Baron Bradwell of Bradwell juxta Mare shortly before his death in 1976. This was my first bad experience in the Met, and it was to prove a lasting one. It reflected not only on Driberg, not only on the willingness of another MP to conspire with him, but the Met’s institutionalised collusion. Curiously, if there was a victim of this all-too-frequent encounter in a public convenience, I felt it had been me.
Many of the other ex-officers opted for police service overseas with Commonwealth forces, and I also went for an interview at the Colonial Office, but although I passed the scrutiny with flying colours, I failed the medical because of an injury to my legs I had sustained while in the army. With that avenue closed to me I accepted a post in the City, working for Rickards, an import-export company in Watling Street.
My experience of the City of London was almost as disappointing as mine in the police. Whereas small backhanders and bribes were the norm in the Met, with sergeants accepting £5 notes to look the other way when a minor charge was dropped, I soon learned that my managing director routinely inflated invoices and issued false receipts in much the same way that the company buyer demanded £500 to place a large purchase. Despite this disagreeable atmosphere I survived for a year, but when the promised company car failed to materialise I jumped ship, and joined another venture, Lamson Paragon Business Systems, which more suited my limited business talents.
LPBS was a pioneer in the new field of electronic automation and computerisation, and I was selected to spend a year mastering this new management tool that promised to transform the way business was conducted. Some of my training was undertaken abroad, and my specialist area of expertise turned out to be retail entertainment, and soon I was cultivating my designated territory, the owners of West End night clubs, in the hope of persuading them to invest in electronic systems that would enable them to exercise greater control in a trade notorious for ‘stock shrinkage’ and the mishandling of cash. I undertook surveys of the needs of the prospective clients, designed a suitable system for them and then supervised its installation. My task at LPBS was to promote the use of automated tills and other equipment that allowed them to keep track of where their money was going and monitor the performance of their managers and transactions, and in doing so I found myself working mainly in the evenings and at night. However, at the weekends I usually stayed with my parents in Hampshire, and it was on one of these occasions that I met June Price, a nursing sister working at the nearby Farnborough Hospital. After a long courtship I found myself under pressure from my father to marry her as our first child, Nicholas, was on the way. Over the following three years that our marriage survived Lisette and Joanna followed quickly. June’s family were landowners in Shropshire, with a large estate outside Shrewsbury, so there was plenty of support for June when we decided to part, perhaps victims of a City of London life that really suited neither of us, or maybe because I was the wrong husband. It was only after we had married that I had discovered she had been engaged previously to no less than three doctors at the hospital, and had something of a reputation for wanting to find a husband.
Inevitably, as a young man with a flat in Hampstead and instant access to London’s most popular nightspots where I could expect plenty of hospitality and entertainment, I was to discover much about the seamier side of Soho, including the fact that almost all my clients had developed a corrupt relationship with the Clubs Office, the C Division uniformed branch unit at West End Central Police Station in Saville Row, responsible for licensing the many private clubs in the area. Quite simply, the clubs needed to operate without police interference, and the best way to guarantee cooperation was to pay off the police in much the same way that some of the East End gangs extorted protection money from the pubs and snooker halls. Regular weekly payments to the appointed bagman ensured no late night raids, no harassment of customers and no official objections when the liquor license was renewed by the City of Westminster magistrates in Marlborough Street. It was during this period, while I was courting my future wife, that I became friendly with Gilbert Kelland, the head of the Clubs Office, who was later to be appointed Assistant Commissioner, Crime (ACC), and established his reputation by investigating and arresting the Scotland Yard detectives who had developed a relationship with a criminal named Naccacio and some of Soho’s most notorious pornographers. I also came to know the Club Office bagman, a young detective sergeant, John Smith, who much later was to be promoted Deputy Commissioner and receive knighthood.
Perhaps surprisingly, in view of what I had learned in the West End, I decided in 1959 to rejoin the police, whose minor corruption seemed tame compared to what I had witnessed among businessmen and traders in the City. I needed a regular income and as a newly married husband and an expectant father the Met offered security, and I found myself posted to P Division in Beckenham where I was assigned a pleasant police flat overlooking the golf course. Soon I was accepted by the CID and was offered a transfer to the Special Branch at the Yard and to royal protection duties, but I preferred honest coppering in the suburbs. Later I was posted to Z Division in Croydon, and then to M Division in Camberwell with a promotion to the rank of detective sergeant. By now I was a single, disciplined, effective plain-clothes man with a reputation of getting results. I had also passed my sergeant’s exam without any artificial assistance, although I knew that it was perfectly possible, especially if you were ‘on the square’, of sailing through the papers if you had the right contacts. The Met set only two promotion exams, and the papers for both could be obtained in advance through friends or the lodge, and this state of affairs had been in existence for years. It was part of the culture, and the justification was that some people worked so hard they needed some help, and that no harm was done because there was a merit element in the competitive nature of the results. Only the top examinees achieved their promotions, but it did no harm to have influential sponsors. In my case I had the benefit of advice from Commander Flood, who had explained how every ambitious police officer needed a career strategy and good contacts. I had been adopted by a mentor, Sam Goddard, who had been a detective superintendent at Catford and, I suspected, wanted to match me up with his daughter, then a law student. He had been part of Lord Trenchard’s ill-fated, fast-track scheme to introduce an officer corps into the Met, and when his grade had been abolished he had languished in his rank for many years, which had given him a particular perspective on the police greasy pole. He was the first of many to warn me that while there were plenty of colleagues willing to back you while you were perceived to be on the way up, the very same people would stab you in the back if they thought you had become a loser. He was a wise man. Always old school, Goddard had urged me to cultivate potentially useful contacts, keeping in touch with anyone who might later become a source, and I possessed plenty of those through my experience in the City. I renewed friendships I had made at Bow Street, and re-established contact with some of the club and casino operators I had met while working for Lampson Paragon. Everyone knows that it is ‘not what you know, but who you know’ and, as the lawyers say, ‘you do not have to read every book, you only have to know where to look’.
While working in Camberwell I gained a reasonable reputation as an active thief-taker, and I was awaiting a further posting, to C8, the Flying Squad at New Scotland Yard when, on Saturday 29 November 1969 The Times printed a front-page article by Gary Lloyd and Julian D’Arcy Mounter, and an editorial written by the editor, William Rees-Mogg, headlined ‘London Policemen in Bribe Allegations. Tapes Reveal Planted Evidence’ identifying me as one of a group of supposedly corrupt CID officers who had been entrapped by undercover journalists. The newspaper asserted that the other detectives had been taking money in exchange for dropping charges, for being lenient with evidence in court, and for ‘allowing a criminal to work unhindered’. I was identified by name as having admitted on tape to having accepted £150 from a criminal, who was protected by the pseudonym ‘Michael Smith’ and two Yard officers, DI Bernard Robson and Gordon Harris, were said to have received more than £400 in one month from the same man. This one newspaper story, about which I had received no warning, was to influence the rest of my life. Overnight, my life as an ambitious CID officer who was going places, was lost forever, and I would be marked out as a man who had brought shame and embarrassment to an elite force. My world simply crumbled, and instead of making decisions and taking the initiative, I was to go onto the defensive, almost permanently.
I had spent years dealing with the underworld, nicking professional criminals and making good arrests, but overnight I had been accused, judged and condemned. I had been a rising star in an organisation that, thanks to numerous television series, enjoyed one of the best public relations images in the world, but now everything had been turned upside-down. I had made hundreds of good arrests, my evidence had helped convict many criminals and I had received several commendations, but all this had been achieved courtesy of the corrupt firm running London’s CID. To some, the more positive my achievements, the worse their implications.
If the background to The Times’ story was even remotely true, it was obvious the evidence to back the allegations had been obtained illegally, and would have been rejected in any CID office which doubtless would have used it as a basis for a further investigation. While The Times may not have been a down-market tabloid, it had no God-given right to ignore the rules of criminal evidence, and in professional terms this was an unprecedented, very public execution.
The result of this bombshell was my immediate suspension from duty while Commander Roy Yorke ordered an enquiry to be conducted by Detective Chief Superintendent Freddie Lambert. Upon reflection, having recovered from the initial shock, I thought I had little to fear from Lambert’s investigation, but as he was preparing his final report in May 1970, which I had learned was set to clear me of all the allegations, he was taken off the case by Yorke’s replacement, Wallace Virgo. This was a devastating blow as I had absolutely no confidence in Virgo, who was himself later convicted of corruption, and not much more in his close associates the two Ernies, Bond and Millen, and his reputation within the Met was that he had developed too close a relationship with Lord Thomson, the Canadian-born proprietor of The Times. This extraordinarily improbable friendship had started when Virgo had been appointed to investigate the Belfast Telegraph scandal, a case in which Roy Thomson, who had inherited a barony from his father in 1951, had been accused of using improper methods to gain control of Northern Ireland’s principal regional newspaper. Virgo had begun by calling for a copy of Thomson’s RCMP file from Canada, and using that background as justification for a telephone intercept warrant which enabled the lines at his home in Kensington Palace Gardens and his business in Long Acre to be recorded by ‘Tinkerbell’, the Yard’s secret intercept facility in Ebury Bridge Road. Then, as now, such taps cannot be used as evidence in any criminal trial, but the leads they offer can prove invaluable, and this was what had happened with Thomson who had built his expanding business empire by taking control of investment trusts through offers of future lucrative directorships to compliant trustees. This had been his ruthless methodology in Canada where rumours were rife of his approaches to influential shareholders so he could take over nearly fifty provincial newspapers. The precise details of what happened over the Belfast Telegraph, which was owned by a trust where the beneficiary was rumoured to be a five year-old child, are locked away in the High Court where there had been furious litigation in the Court of Protection, but in the end Virgo had cleared Thomson of any misconduct, who had gone on to take control of The Times, then a failing but prestigious title in financial trouble. With Wally Virgo in charge of the decision to accept or reject the claims of a pair of young Times journalists, both still in their twenties, who had only been on the paper for four years, I knew the likely outcome, and my worst fears were realised.
In the West End it was clearly understood that Commander Virgo had carved up the vice scene and licensed all three major players, Bernie Silver, James Humphreys and Jeff Phillips. All had led long criminal careers, but counted senior police officers among their closest friends, dining with them regularly, attending the same Lodge meetings and even going on holiday together. Humphreys’ own criminal record dated back to the end of the war when, aged fifteen, he was convicted of house-breaking and theft of a car, and sent to an Approved School. Since then he had served two prison sentences, for receiving and for theft, and in March 1958 had been described by a judge as ‘a hardened and dangerous criminal’. Upon his release from Dartmoor he had opened his first club, in Old Compton Street, and asserted that he had started to pay off his local CID officer, DS Harry Challoner, who was later to be tried for planting bricks on demonstrators protesting against a visit to London in July 1963 by King Paul and Queen Frederika of Greece, and be declared insane.
By chance I had myself encountered Harry Challoner, because the mental hospital to which he had been sent was Cane Hill, a large establishment on our manor. We were under instructions to drop in on him from time to time to see he was all right, but I never thought there was anything wrong with him. Known as ‘Tanky’, Challenor had served with the Commandos and the SAS during the war, and had been decorated with the Military Medal while operating far behind enemy lines in Nazi-occupied France. At his trial at the Old Bailey in June 1964 the jury had taken less than a minute to declare that he was unfit to plead, but found three other young detectives guilty of perverting the course of justice. Two received four years, and the youngest received three years, but Challenor spent just two years at the Netherne Hospital, in Surrey, and Leavesden. Upon his release he went on a tour of the battlefields in Italy where he had fought during the war, found a job with a firm of solicitors in Norbury and in 1990 wrote his memoirs. According to the Masonic gossip in the Met, Challonor had been given the benefit of advice from Edward Clarke QC, a future Old Bailey judge and leading member of the Sir Edward Clarke Lodge, to which Challenor happened to belong. Whenever Clarke defended police officers, it was noticeable that their pocketbooks always went missing and were unavailable for inspection, which is precisely what happened to Challenor and his subordinates.
The point about Challenor was that he represented my most prolonged contact with a supposedly corrupt officer, and he had achieved considerable notoriety because his case was the first real proof of a problem within the CID, or at least within West End Central.
Challenor had been in a different league to Virgo and his immediate subordinate Bill Moody, and his offence, of planting evidence on a demonstrator, was quite different to taking money off criminals like Humphreys, but I knew that the Met had found a breakdown through overwork a convenient explanation for the lack of any forensic evidence in the suspect’s clothes to support Challoner’s claim that he had found a brick in his pocket. In the aftermath of the demonstrator’s acquittal at Bow Street, on a complete lack of any forensic evidence to show any brick had been anywhere near the defendant’s clothing, Challenor was prosecuted, and an enquiry had been set up by the Home Secretary , conducted by Arthur Evan James QC, at which several of the detective’s earlier arrests had proclaimed their innocence, but in fact only five convictions were quashed as unsafe, and all allegations of assault and taking bribes were rejected.
Challenor’s conviction was a milestone and served to undermine public confidence in the police. It also confirmed rumours, that had circulated for years, that the Met did not quite live up to its reputation. Fortunately Challenor was an eccentric, colourful figure who could easily be portrayed as a war hero who had succumbed to the strain of massive overwork, and had suffered a breakdown. In other words, Challenor had been a one-off, and no wider conclusions could be drawn for an unfortunate lapse. Some of us suspected there was rather more to what had been happening in Soho, the patch covered by West End Central in Savile Row.
Humphreys and his wife Rusty ran the strip clubs in Soho while his rival, Bernie Silver, organised the prostitutes and maintained a string of dirty book shops, and Phillips distributed blue movies. Bill Moody had joined the OPS in 1965, and when he had been appointed its head in February 1969 he had institutionalised the arrangement and extorted protection money from all the key players. Regular, weekly retainers were paid, together with an annual Christmas bonus and a lump sum of £1,000 for each new site opened. Managers that made their contributions were never raided; those that fell behind in their payments had their stock confiscated, which was then ‘recycled’ back into the trade. Humphreys, Phillips and Silver were not only free to expand their vice empires, but were even considered suitable guests for the Flying Squad’s annual dinner, as was another colourful character known as ‘Ron the dustbin’.
The allegations of corruption published by The Times could be traced back to Eddie Brennan, a retired safe-cracker who had graduated into fencing stolen property. Brennan was a highly successful criminal who had the advantage of a partnership with a corrupt locksmith who supplied him with duplicate keys to dozens of commercial premises. Brennan chose the targets and then allocated them to one of several London gangs, leaving the professionals to undertake the robberies in return for the privilege of buying the proceeds at remarkably low prices, thus allowing him a very substantial margin. As Brennan’s fame spread, the Yard heard that he was personally responsible for a veritable crime wave that had swept the capital, and in November 1967 a special operation, code-named COATHANGER was prepared by a team of detectives led by Chief Inspector Irvine of No. 6 Regional Crime Squad. The codename COATHANGER was chosen because much of the crime under investigation concerned stolen clothing, and Detective Inspector Bernie Robson from the Yard’s C9 Department took over operational command in October 1969 when the gangs resumed their activities. Of the eleven detectives working on COATHANGER, only two were from the Met, and the rest had been drawn from provincial forces. Robson personally had arrested twenty-two of the robbers, including the technician responsible for making the duplicate keys, but some of these had been copied and circulated, allowing several other gangs to participate in the raids. In fact, so many keys were being passed around that it was rumoured different gangs had turned up at the same premises to rob them at the same time! On one occasion a gang had arrived just as another was coming out, having left nothing worth stealing.
Robson’s first task was to recruit an informant and his chosen target was a professional named Michael Perry, a twenty-two year-old car dealer with eighteen convictions. Perry lived in Nunhead Lane, Peckham and was generally known to be at the very heart of the ‘skeleton key gang’, and when the two men met early in October 1969 Perry had been found in possession of a case of stolen whisky, and had been charged with dishonestly handling. Under pressure, he had admitted knowing the names of ten members of the gang, and five receivers. He was Robson’s best chance of bringing COATHANGER to a successful conclusion, but five days later he was talking to The Times.
CID officers have many ways of cultivating informants but when time is a luxury there are methods of cutting corners and applying pressure. Sometime called recruitment by ‘the hard way’, the objective is to coerce cooperation through old-fashioned intimidation. In Perry’s case he fell for an old expedient, and he was simply tricked into touching some gelignite which was immediately sealed into an evidence exhibit bag, thus leaving him open to the charge that his fingerprints had been found on a piece of explosive recovered from a crime scene. Once the fingerprint identification had been confirmed, and usually accepted by juries as irrefutable scientific evidence from a forensics expert, the target would be facing a long prison sentence unless he agreed to become a CID ‘snout’. In Perry’s case, he was threatened with eight years inside unless he identified London’s master fence and his key-man, and he confided his predicament to Brennan who offered the story to The Times. However, the version peddled by Brennan omitted the true background to COATHANGER and centred on the allegation that a young man had been the victim of a scheme run by two Yard detectives who had planted evidence on him and then threatened to charge him with possession unless they were paid a large sum of cash. This rather sanitised tale of extortion was accepted without question by the newspaper which assigned two journalists to collaborate with Perry who, under their direction, began calling local CID officers with the offer of information.
Perry was suspected as the leader of a gang of young criminals known, after the television series, as ‘the likely lads’ who exploited a contact in a locksmith business. They would drive up to the midlands, visit sometimes several clothing stores in one evening, and empty them, using duplicate keys and wearing white coats to allay suspicion and avoid leaving forensic evidence. Over the past two years they had raided more than a hundred shops, had left no clues, and had stolen more than a million pounds of property. They never forced an entry, and the single common denominator to their crime spree was the complete absence of any usable forensic evidence such as fingerprints, hair or fibres. However, we had heard from informants of Perry’s involvement, but had not been able to prove anything because the likely lads, shrewdly, had been working off our patch. We knew they were all driving around in big cars with pockets full of cash, but we had not spotted them in an actual robbery. We kept them under observation for weeks, and when we had identified most of the gang members we sent a report to the Yard which circulated their details to some of the forces in the midlands that had been plagued by the well-planned and executed raids. For our part, we continued the surveillance in the hope of catching them at home after one of their escapades.
The catalyst was a robbery on 22 September 1969 at the Nuneaton & Atherstone Co-op Society in which a large consignment of cigarettes were stolen, and two days later the Warwickshire detectives descended on Peckham to arrest Perry, and we received a request for assistance which implied that they thought these hardened young south London career criminals would crack at the first sight of a search warrant and an interrogation. The midlands officers wanted our cooperation in arresting all the suspects simultaneously, but the DI at Peckham knew that such tactics would waste six weeks of our time. His solution was to send the visitors to Camberwell with the suggestion that they apply for a search warrant from a local Justice of the Peace who was always willing to sign anything we put in front of him, irrespective of the supporting evidence. As I was later to discover, this particular exercise had proved very profitable for the detectives involved, as the raid resulted in the recovery of a large quantity of cigarettes, only a proportion of which ended up in the property store as evidence. Such diversions were quite routine, but this rather minor episode was to come back to haunt all concerned.
In spite of the successful raid, the visitors really had no evidence against the likely lads, only a strong suspicion, but we were to humour them. Even the Yard, which had put the likely lads under surveillance in the hope of catching them unloading their gear at their receivers, had failed in their task, but all this promised to change when we received a call from Perry offering information.
My first encounter with Perry occurred following his call to our office. Although we had not met previously, I had known his mother, a convicted shoplifter from Woolwich and it was through this link that he picked me as a suitable target. Always willing to recruit a new source, and being under no pressure to achieve any particular results because I was unconnected with the Yard’s COATHANGER operation, I met Perry and made the standard ‘soft’ pitch, that his cooperation with me would result in a measure of protection for him should he come to the attention of the police. This was an old technique, much favoured by my mentor, Ken Drury who was later to command the Flying Squad, and had built a solid reputation while a DI on the Regional Crime Squad I had served on at St Mary Cray, Orpington. Perry seemed agreeable to the suggestion, but when I called for his file I learned that he had plenty of form, and was even suspected of having broken into the tobacconists directly underneath his own flat, which he shared with a man named Robert Laming. Both men were also under investigation concerning a missing schoolgirl who was found to be living with them. In short, they were really nasty villains, and at a later meeting I was concerned that his reason for calling me to a rendezvous was his claim to me that two detectives had planted evidence on him, and he had named Robson and Harris. I had passed this awkward news on to DI Jim Sylvester at Peckham, whom I knew had served with Robson at Chelsea, and would be able to warn them. Six weeks after my meeting with Perry The Times ran their scoop that DI Robson, his assistant ‘Bomber’ Harris and myself, had been meeting Perry regularly to extort small sums of money from him.
The evidence supporting the allegations, which was delivered to New Scotland Yard at 10pm on the night prior to publication, consisted of a long witness statement from Perry and a tape recording, and this was enough for the C1 Night Duty Officer, Ken Brett, to telephone the Assistant Commissioner (Crime) Peter Brodie at home. He ordered Commander Yorke to start an immediate, overnight investigation to be conducted by Fred Lambert, and his assistant, Sergeant Basil ‘Baz’ Haddrell whom I had known as a fellow officer at St Mary Cray, ready for a top-level meeting early on Saturday morning. Lambert had been on call that evening, but was in a potentially awkward position because he had served with Harris at Brixton and later had worked together on the Flying Squad, and had got to know his family. I later learned that Lambert informed Yorke that he had also served with Robson, but Yorke had merely replied that he had also known both Robson and Harris. Lambert was ‘to get on with it and do a good job’, but he was unhappy with his assignment, which was to last six months.
Within an hour of these events I was telephoned at home to let me know what had happened, and as I had worked on several disciplinary enquiries I knew the precautions that had to be taken. I had played a very peripheral role in the Richardson ‘Torture Gang’ case, which had put away London’s most dangerous gangsters since the Kray brothers, and that enquiry had led to ninety allegations of corruption against the officers who had built the prosecution’s case. I had not been one of the team that had investigated Richardson’s lucrative rackets, which including running the car parks at London Airport, but coincidentally I had known Eddie Richardson years earlier when we had both spent Saturday nights at dances held at the Streatham ice rink. Like hundreds of other CID officers, I had taken a few witness statements and followed up some local enquiries concerning the Richardson enquiry, but truly my contribution had been negligible.
Almost immediately after my initial warning I received a call from a Daily Express journalist who read me an extract from the first edition of the next morning’s Times, and I had to suppress a gasp and pretend this was all in a day’s work, while declining to comment. The headline alone made my heart race: ‘LONDON POLICEMEN IN BRIBE ALLEGATIONS. TAPES REVEAL PLANTED EVIDENCE’.
Disturbing evidence of bribery and corruption among certain London detectives was handed by The Times to Scotland Yard last night. We have, we believe, proved that at least three detectives are taking large sums of money in exchange for dropping charges, for being lenient with evidence offered in court. And for allowing a criminal to work unhindered. Our investigations into these men convince us that their cases are not isolated. The total haul of this detective Sergeant John Symonds of Camberwell, and two others, Detective Inspector Bernard Robson of Scotland Yard’s C (Division and Detective Sergeant Gordon Harris, a Regional Crime Squad officer on detachment from Brighton to Scotland Yard, was more than £400 in the past month from one man alone.
I told the Express journalist I had no comment to make, and quickly jumped in my car to pick a copy of the first edition from an all-night newspaper stand in Fleet Street. I skimmed through several paragraphs about Robson and Harris until I reached what were claimed to be extracts of conversations between me and a small-time professional criminal whom I had supposedly met in south London pub car parks. These meetings had been photographed and tape-recorded, and apparently I had advised him: “Don’t forget always to let me know straight away if you need anything because I know people everywhere, because I am in a little firm in a firm, alright?”
In the cold light of day, and taken out of context, the conversation, mixed with every kind of expletive, sounded ghastly, but that is the way you talked to such people. Furthermore, if you were an energetic thief-taker, you would have to endure allegations of that kind as an occupational hazard. That, of course, did not mean that such claims were not investigated to the fullest possible extent, so first I contacted my family solicitor to alert him, and then I searched my own house from top to bottom for any incriminating evidence, such as chemically impregnated banknotes that might have been planted on me, before driving to my office at Camberwell to check my desk. Accompanied by the station sergeant I also went through the prisoners’ property store and examined all the valuables in the safe to make certain that everything logged under my name was properly accounted for. I had heard of so many examples of officers being ‘fitted up’ with compromising evidence that I wanted to be absolutely certain that I was not about to fall into the same trap. My final precaution was to take the key from behind my desk and visit a small locked broom cupboard in an outbuilding that was marked ‘cleaners’ but contained the CID’s secret cache of fit-up exhibits. This was a collection of knives, guns, drugs and masks that were occasionally deployed when a reluctant informant needed some persuasion. In my experience they were the essential tools of the CID officer’s trade, but their discovery during an official investigation would cause nothing but trouble so I carried the lot to my car and drove them to Peckham police station where a colleague willingly accepted them. Finally I took my car to a late night garage and put it on the ramp to examine the underside of the vehicle. Once again, this was a necessary precaution because I had heard of small, magnetised containers packed with banknotes being concealed beneath the engine block. Only when I had completed the most detailed search inside and outside the car did I feel entirely confident about facing Lambert’s investigation which doubtless would begin early the following morning.
It may sound odd that I should have gone to such lengths if I was truly innocent of taking money from Michael Perry, but I had good reason to be anxious. I reckoned that no newspaper would publish such allegations unless there was a verifiable paper-trail, and in this case an absolutely essential component would have been a stash of dirty money. I knew that none existed, but it would not take much effort to find a way of planting some on me, my car, in my desk, or even in my garden shed. By checking all the obvious hiding places, any subsequent discovery would have had to have been based on a plant made after the newspaper had hit the streets, and I would be in the clear.
For a newspaper to behave in this way was, in those days, really quite extraordinary, and for the upmarket Times to indulge in such tactics was unprecedented. Why had the newspaper not taken Perry’s allegations straight to the Commissioner, Sir John Waldron, who was universally respected? Whatever his loyalty to the force, Waldron would had been ruthless in his pursuit of corruption. Even more inexplicable was the newspaper’s willingness to collude with a professional criminal and print a story which, by its nature, presumed guilt. In these uncharted waters I knew that I was in deep trouble. The Met employed 3,250 detectives, but it was my name in the headlines.
On the next morning I went in to my office as usual and awaited my fate, but as I read the front page of The Times again, and read allegations against a total of fifteen colleagues in south London my alarm grew. I had been lumped together with Robson and Harris, and I found it extraordinarily reckless that they had apparently continued to meet Perry after I had warned them. However, one call to DI Sylvester at Peckham established that he had not said anything to Robson, but had conveyed a message to Harris, who later denied he had ever received it. Suddenly Ken Drury’s famous ‘soft’ recruitment pitch looked rather less impressive as it appeared in transcript form in the newspaper’s impassive print, and I realised I would be bound to be tied in with Robson and Harris. As I waited for the inevitable I carefully went through my paperwork, comparing the entries in the CID duty book with my own diary and pocketbook and, after attending a prearranged meeting with another informant unconnected with COATHANGER, finally went home and called in sick to give me some extra time to consider my increasingly precarious position.
By the following morning the situation had changed markedly, and Victor Lissack arrived early, having been despatched from the Yard, with a request that I issue libel proceedings in the High Court instantly so as to prevent any further revelations in The Times. A writ had been drawn up by a prominent lawyer, the ex-MP Edward Gardiner QC, and this was served later the same day, just as I learned that there were some major problems with the Times’ story. To my relief I heard that there was no reference to any money in the transcript of my conversation with Perry, and there was considerable doubt about the ‘continuity of handling’ in respect of the tapes which had been left around on desks at the The Times, played at office parties and even taken home by journalists, thereby mixing up the originals with the copies. Worse, it emerged that the journalists had given money to Perry to hand to the police, which smelt of entrapment, but had failed to take the obvious precaution of searching Perry properly after his meeting to see if he had kept the cash. Combined with the illegal use of a wireless transmitter to record the detectives’ conversation remotely and the illegal recordings of telephone conversations from Perry’s mother’s flat, the case seemed to boil down to the allegations made in Perry’s uncorroborated witness statement. Certainly he had been equipped with a small Grundig tape-recorder as a back-up, but he also had the ability to switch it on and off, which he had done. Furthermore, apart from Peter Jay, the Economics Correspondent, Brennan had been the only other person involved in the episode, apparently employed as a consultant, because the newspaper was unwilling to take any advice from the ex-police officer who worked as The Times’s chief of security for fear of a leak back to the Yard. In short, Perry’s evidence looked very dubious and when a check was made with the Bank of England on the serial numbers of the banknotes allegedly handed to me in October, it turned out that they had not printed nor placed in circulation until six weeks later. This was an important point because The Times journalists insisted they had looked in Perry’s pockets to establish that he had not kept the £50 himself but, crucially, they had failed to search his car. I knew I had not taken the notes, so the obvious answer was that Perry had hidden them somewhere in his car, but they had not thought to search that too.
It was on Lissack’s advice that I made a fateful decision, to immediately start work on a lengthy statement, what I would later call my dossier, in which I detailed the kind of practices required for an efficient CID office to obtain convictions, and named some, but by no means all, of the detectives who cut corners. This was an exercise in self-preservation, and my instructions to Lissack was to keep it in his safe and not show it to anyone unless something happened to me. This was to be my insurance policy, or so I had thought, but I had put my trust in the wrong man.
Lambert’s preliminary report on The Times’ allegations was delivered to the Commissioner on Monday,1 December 1969, and on the following Thursday the Yard announced that Robson, Harris and myself were suspended from duty. It seemed that the tapes were far from conclusive evidence of anything, except perhaps some unwise and colourful remarks made by me. I was told later that when colleagues had listened to the tapes they had laughed because over the years they had all heard the same thing. As I had learned at Ken Drury’s knee, there is a method to gaining the confidence of a professional criminal, and part of the technique is to assure him that you are ‘alright’, and that he will be too if he works with you, to mutual benefit. The crook has to believe that he can have a little license to do his bits and pieces where he can be protected, in return for information and bodies. Whether a detective ever really gives the promised measure of protection is an entirely different matter, but it is accepted that he is going to try and acquire the protection without compromising anyone else, while you are intent on gaining the information without delivering on the rest of the bargain. It is a game that has gone on for years, and all the tapes showed was the extent to which I had learned my trade, and the number of times one could insert swearwords into a conversation. They were not to be listened to by the faint-hearted, nor the middle classes over their breakfasts, nor gentlemen in the clubs in St James’s, but they did reflect life in south London’s criminal fraternity.
Another potential source of embarrassment was a disparaging comment about provincial police officers, and I knew such comments would not endear me to any ‘old swede’ brought in to conduct an investigation of my case. The Met culturally had always been fairly contemptuous of country coppers and in one of the taped conversations with Perry I had gone through the usual routine of building up my own status as a man of influence within the CID, describing myself as ‘a firm within a firm’, using the jargon Perry would understand, so he would know that I was not a person to be manipulated or messed about. I wanted results from him and plain language was called for, although I erred when I slipped into an explanation of how I would not be able to exercise any influence outside the Met. Naturally, such observations, though reflecting the opinions of colleagues, would be bound to irritate provincial officers. I suppose it could also be said that the tapes were an embarrassment to the Yard because, if played at a trial and combined with my explanation, it would show that the Met routinely conned the criminal classes into becoming informants. Somehow this was not a message the Yard wanted to broadcast, or the public wanted to be told. However, even if our conversation might have been a little strong for some tastes, the tapes showed nothing that was directly incriminating, and far from betraying the sound of notes rustling, there was not even a single word recorded about any money, and definitely no threats. With the pay-off notes discredited, and doubt cast on the ‘iffy’ tapes, and nothing awkward in the recording, I really thought I was off the hook, and rightly so.
The impending litigation quickly eliminated further stories in The Times, and the cases against the other twelve suspended officers soon collapsed, leaving a few relatively minor disciplinary matters, and Robson, Harris and me to face the music. However, as the Lambert enquiry progressed, his focus turned on The Times and there was talk of charges being brought in respect of Perry’s deployment as an agent provocateur. This was excellent news, but it did not last long as the Home Secretary, James Callaghan MP, announced that he was to order an outside force to conduct a further investigation. This brought angry protests from the Commissioner, Sir John Waldron, who insisted that Callaghan had no power to interfere with his force which enjoyed autonomy under the Metropolitan Police Act, and when the ineffectual Frank Williamson, then HM Inspector of Constabulary (Crime) and formerly the Chief Constable of Cumbria, was appointed to advise on the matter, helped by a team drawn from the Midlands, the new enquiry ran into the sand, unable to interview any officers from the Met. The conclusion was that Lambert submitted his report, clearing me, and recommending that I be allowed to return to duty. As for Williamson, he retired prematurely at the end of December 1971 and never received the knighthood that is usually granted to HM Inspectors. Within the Met the view was that Williamson, with his austere Plymouth Brethren background and crusading zeal, had been entirely the wrong man for the job. He could see no reason for any police officer to socialise with criminals, whereas it had long been accepted in the CID that the only way to catch thieves was to go for an occasional drink with them. It was a fundamental difference in attitude, and one that broke Williamson, or at least earned him the contempt of the Met which understood what needed to be done to fight crime effectively.
Before he left Williamson did get a couple of scalps, but the case were absurdly trivial. Two uniformed constables at Peckham, Paul Watson and David Lovett, were tried at the Old Bailey for having claimed to have arrested Michael Perry in September 1969 on suspicion of having stolen a van. In fact four other officers had made the arrest, but in those days it was routine in a straightforward case for a nominee to take the case to court, especially when a guilty plea was likely. However, in Perry’s case, which went to trial in May 1970, it emerged during cross-examination that Watson and Lovett had not been the officers who had taken Perry into custody, so they were themselves arrested. The judge, Mr Justice Neil McKinnon, gave them a conditional discharge and recommended the two men, who had excellent records and were described as ‘absolutely dedicated’ to the job, should be allowed to stay on the force, but a disciplinary tribunal held a few days later required them to resign, a sure sign of the new climate in the Met.
This, however, was not the end of the matter, for in May 1970 Lambert was suddenly removed from the enquiry by Virgo, told to take early retirement on medical grounds and replaced by DCS Alfred ‘Bill’ Moody, whom I had known as a sergeant at Croydon. I would have described myself as an acquaintance rather than a friend, and the only social events we met at were connected with boxing, for we were both ‘pugs’, which tended to blur the disparity in our ranks. I had been the light heavyweight champion of all three services, and Moody had won the Met’s middleweight title.
Lambert’s sudden removal from the scene had been prompted by a mysterious, unannounced visit to Tintagel House by the DAC, Dick Chitty, where there had been a furious row with Lambert, who had threatened to throw his senior out of his office. Lambert had been under incredible strain and had been appointed to the investigation more by accident than design. His marriage had collapsed and he was personally very distressed at having to investigate men he knew and liked, so he had seized the opportunity of a full pension after twenty-four years’ service, having submitted a claim that he had been handicapped by severe depression. He went on permanent sick leave in September 1970 and was out of the force by March the following year. Naturally, I was dismayed by this development because of what I knew about Moody, who had exploited his membership of the Freemasons to manoeuvre himself into the Obscene Publications Squad (OPS), a notorious centre of corruption at the Yard known as ‘the Dirty Squad’. Often called ‘Punchy’ because of his renown for suddenly hitting people in the face without warning, Moody had moved to the OPS as a Detective Inspector through his membership of the same Freemasonry lodge as the two Ernies, and had taken two detective constables, Mike Smith and Ernie Culver, with him from Croydon. At the Yard, the OPS was famed for adding £20 to the weekly wages of every member of the Squad, with an additional bonus of up to £100 each Friday, money known as the ‘whack’ which came from pay-outs made by the very pornographers the OPS was intended to put out of business. Some of the officers who went to the OPS were corrupt already, but some people believed that the very nature of the work, spending hours watching the most appalling, degrading filth, was highly corrosive. Certainly I had one good friend who worked on the Dirty Squad and found his home life transformed. Previously strong-minded, he had been profoundly affected by the material he had been obliged to handle, and had himself acquired some of the bizarre perversions he had witnessed, which resulted in his wife, repelled by his behaviour, walking out on him. One of the cellars at Scotland Yard had been converted into a viewing room, almost a private cinema, and here friends of the OPS team could watch the latest seizures. I had been a very occasional visitor, drawn by curiosity but acutely aware of the very addictive nature of the filth which included the most horrifying ‘snuff’ movies, child pornography and other material treasured by the aficionados.
In theory Moody’s job had been to stamp out pornography, or at least suppress its distribution and availability so it did not fall into the path of people who did not want it. In reality he controlled the trade in a way which enriched himself, his squad and his superiors at the Yard. As a shareholder with porn merchants like Silver, Mason and Humphreys, he had a vested interest in eliminating out the non-paying opposition. He would have argued that that newcomers to the market (in which the demand was insatiable) often displayed a degree of recklessness that threatened the entire racket. For instance, some of those trying to establish themselves sent direct-mail shots to potential customers, exercises which inevitably led to complaints, and an opportunity for the OPS to visit a new studio or shop and drive them out of business, unless of course they could be taken aboard, in return for a percentage of the takings. Incredibly, huge sums of cash were counted openly on OPS desks when Moody’s men were dividing up the weekly payments. Such stories came my way from Ernie Culver who saw these events first-hand, and may have been responsible for an invitation for me to join the OPS. This I had turned down because there was a chance I would be asked to join Ken Drury on the Flying Squad, which was rather more my style. When word circulated that I had declined the OPS there was widespread disbelief, for such a posting was usually followed by a new car, then a new house, and certainly plenty of smart clothes and expensive Italian shoes.
For Moody, who had never been on a Special Operations training course, to be assigned Lambert’s role was very disquieting, and strongly suggested that there was influence being exerted from a senior level. There were thirty DCSs at the Yard at that time, and I had drawn the one I knew to have the most to hide. Although not ostentatiously corrupt, he owned two sports cars, a Triumph and a Lancia, the latter bought from another notorious Soho pornographer, George Vinn. When Moody took over Lambert’s office at Tintagel House he also installed DS Cyril Jones, who had worked with him in the OPS, and in 1976 was to be sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment for corruption.
Some might think that if a corrupt officer was appointed to investigate an allegation of corruption he would be inclined to protect his own, but on the contrary I knew in my bones that such a person would deliberately sacrifice some of his own kind in order to divert suspicion from himself, not unlike the old story of the poacher-turned-gamekeeper. My gut instinct was not far wrong. One of my close neighbours, with whom I occasionally shared my dog-walks, was an old friend who had been assigned to the enquiry, and he told me that he was very, very worried. This coincided with similar reports I heard from other friends who had their contacts on the team and had heard that the attitude towards me was changing.
There was also another reason why I had ever reason to fear Superintendent Moody, who was later to be convicted of corruption and sentenced to twelve years’ imprisonment, for he had a strong but undisclosed link to Michael Perry. Some months earlier Perry and Roy Brooks, a wealthy Peckham street trader, had been identified by an informant in Nuneaton named Kirtin as having participated in a local shop-breaking. Kirtin had been a London criminal who had moved to Nuneaton when he had married a local girl, and when he had been cut out of his proceeds of the robbery, he had offered the police the names of his co-conspirators. Based on Kirtin’s information, the Warwickshire police had gone looking for Brooks and Perry, but when they had failed to find them, an official request to question them had been passed to DI Jim Sylvester. He in turn assigned Ian Harley and a young local DC named Hill to make the arrest, but after they had been arrested Brooks threw soup over a police officer in the cells and escaped. When I heard about this incident I could not help chuckling, for Brooks was a well-known character on the manor and the idea that he could have waltzed out of the custody area after assaulting a uniformed gaoler was absurd. I never found out the real story, but doubtless money had changed hands and the tale of the escape had been circulated as a cover.
Perry, however, was arrested, to be taken to Nuneaton for further questioning by the Warwickshire detectives. My only connection was that by chance Ian Harley had asked me to take over the case that very afternoon because he wanted to go to his daughter’s birthday party. Unfortunately, when the bumpkins came down to see Perry I learned they really had no evidence apart from the word of Kirtin, the informant. Harley was never my partner, and at that time my ‘CID aide’ was a young Welsh officer, Taffy Holmes, who was, years later, to be appointed master of his lodge, and commit suicide during the investigation into the notorious underworld kingpin and murderer Kenneth Noye. I explain this only to demonstrate that my connection with Harley was far from close, and on that particular afternoon I had been doing him a favour by helping out the men from Warwickshire and seeing them off safely with their prisoner.
When the Warwickshire police arrived, and they disclosed the weakness of their case, I explained that their plan to confront Perry in the cells and extract a confession from him would never work as he was a hardened criminal. Instead, I suggested the detectives pretend they possessed much more evidence, perhaps some fingerprints, and behave as though Perry had been charged. This was a standard tactic in the Met but seemed quite novel to the bumpkins who had assumed Perry would crack as soon as they challenged him. I played a small part in this harmless deception by telling Perry confidentially that he was to be taken up to Nuneaton because there was strong evidence against him, and I recommended he plead guilty to a lesser offence under the Theft Act. Perry listened to the advice and, so it seemed to me, was persuaded that I was doing him a favour. Of course, the reverse was the truth.
Perry was taken up to Warwickshire where he soon forgot my advice and denied everything because, as I subsequently learned, he had been tipped off already by Ian Harley, when he had been brought in to the police station. As a result, Perry was released and was quickly back in circulation in Peckham.
During the course of those investigations Brooks produced an alibi for the time of the robbery by a man described as a pillar of the community and a Justice of the Peace in Peckham. Actually this seedy man was a JP and a criminal, Frank Holbert, known as ‘Frankie the Barber’, who also happened to work on the side for Moody as his bagman, collecting contributions from Bernie Silver, the king of West End pornographers, and his competitor John Mason. Frankie was a classic intermediary, a part often played by publicans and bookmakers who acted as middlemen between the police and criminals, trusted by both sides. Although he had no criminal convictions (which would have disqualified him from sitting on the bench) he had plenty of contacts and often held money while a deal was being transacted. Frequently this involved a bribe ensure a bail application went unopposed, when the criminal would only authorise Frankie to release his money once the police had kept their side of the bargain. It was an arrangement that suited all concerned, and was a daily occurrence throughout London. If some unforeseen event took place, such as an unhelpful judge intervening, the disappointed party would be entitled to a refund, and Frankie would simply return the cash, albeit with his commission deducted. He also acted as a ‘cut-out’, passing wads of notes from criminals to particular officers, which avoided the necessity of a detective having to meet someone who might be under surveillance. There were, of course, plenty of others in the same ‘middling game’, among them ‘Peg-leg’ Birchmore and ‘Red-faced’ Tommy in Southwalk, but in Peckham it was Frankie who was the bridge between the underworld and the rest. How he was ever appointed to the bench was a mystery, but doubtless it was another Masonic fix assisted by bent coppers.
In his role as a police bagman Frankie had also operated in the West End where he had gathered a good deal of evidence against Moody, so when the Nuneaton burglary looked like getting serious Wally Virgo had despatched Moody to conduct the interview with the supposedly respectable Peckham JP for the Warwick’s police, and then travel to Nuneaton and speak to the officers involved in the case. This was really the turning-point for the investigation because, as Moody must have realised, Frankie represented the weakest link in the chain, and if he was questioned by any of Williamson’s men he would be bound to implicate others. He had given a bogus alibi to Brooks, and he had also signed the search warrant for the premises where the stolen cigarettes had been found. A proportion of these, of course, had wound up with the police for resale, and there were plenty of other matters to worry Moody if Frankie thought he was in danger of being stripped of his status and maybe even banged up for perverting the course of justice. He would be bound to say almost anything to stay out of prison, and the general view at the Yard, and in my own sergeant’s unit at Camberwell was that he would crack if Williamson got hold of him.
Accordingly, Moody verified the Brooks alibi and proceeded to undermine the information from Kirtin who was, after all, only interested in a reward. In spite of the fact that Moody assaulted one of the Nuneaton policemen, which was the subject of a complaint to the Met at Chief Constable level, Moody succeeded in stopping the case against Perry’s co-conspirator, and the case was dropped. Not surprisingly, I had strong reservations about the wisdom of allowing either Virgo or Moody’s OPS men anywhere near any case that involved Perry, although I was encouraged when I was passed a message through Mike Smith, whom I had known at Croydon, offering ‘fraternal greetings’ and the news that Lambert had been removed because a decision had been taken that the Times staff should be ‘dropped out’, and Lambert had been unwilling to take the hint. The canteen gossip was that Lord Thomson’s first experiment with high-profile journalism, intended to attract new readers to a title with falling circulation figures and a reputation for dull reporting, had proved a disaster and the newspaper simply could not afford to lose a potentially hideously expensive libel action, nor be seen to withdraw the allegations of corruption at the heart of the Met.
Moody’s supposedly changed attitude was a strange development and I talked it over with Robson at a lunch at his club, the Royal Automobile Club, in Pall Mall. On this occasion we simply met for drinks and then sat down to lunch, but the RAC had a certain reputation at the Yard, where senior officers were known to like the swimming pool and steam bath. It was just a short stroll across Green Park, and men dressed only in a towel have little opportunity to conceal a listening device. It was an ideal venue for holding sensitive discussions, but my conversation with Robson required no such precautions.
Robson had served in the Royal Navy during the war, had commanded a Motor Torpedo Boat, and was an experienced Regional Crime Squad officer, but he was worried by leaks he had heard from inside Moody’s enquiry. There was talk that the Times staff had all been re-interviewed by his men, rumours of pressure from Callaghan, who for years had been the Police Federation’s influential Parliamentary adviser, to help his son-in-law Peter Jay, and even speculation that some new evidence had been found concerning Robson, supposedly from a colleague who had been put under pressure to make allegations against him. Only later was he to discover that it was his trusted partner, ‘Bomber’ Harris, who had been persuaded to turn against him and make a highly incriminating witness statement.
The problem with such news was that we were all vulnerable to allegations of minor corruption which to a degree was endemic across London, and certainly not restricted to the Yard. Most CID offices maintained a ‘share-out’ regime in which profits from various unofficial enterprises were distributed according to a well-established protocol which reflected seniority. The protection worked in two directions, with subordinates ensuring that any cash went up the ladder to senior management onside, as well as passing it around at lower level to maintain cohesion. I later heard that a young probationer detective constable named Munro had approached Moody and claimed that I had been responsible for supervising the CID office’s share-out in Camberwell. Fortunately he was not backed by anybody else at Camberwell and when word spread of his allegations he became the subject of threats, and even a beating, and was transferred elsewhere. Finally, when Moody himself faced criminal conspiracy charges in 1977, it was the same Munro who gave evidence against him and he was sentenced to twelve years’ imprisonment. Virgo also received the same sentence, but his solicitor was the impressive Victor Lissack, and the conviction was quashed on appeal in March 1978.
In most cases corrupt officers took elaborate measures to cover themselves, and invariably appointed an intermediary, often a pub landlord, to hold any illicit payments until a deal had been completed. The proposition that I would have engaged in taking small sums from Perry seemed to me to be quite laughable when I was well aware that the going rate for a ‘bung’ to somebody of my rank and standing was at least a ‘monkey’, or £500.
The truth was that almost every CID officer had seen examples of corruption, maybe participated in a ‘whack’ or at least turned a blind eye to what others were doing. Grotesque as this may sound now, it was a way of life in those days in which the underworld enjoyed an easy working relationship with the forces of law and order. The West End’s clubs, clip-joints, blue movie cinemas, striptease bars and drinking dens were making vast profits and the owners, more subtle than the earlier generation of Maltese hoodlums and street-fighters who had dominated Soho since the war, were altogether more pragmatic and knew how vulnerable the poorly paid coppers were. The notorious Messina brothers had been replaced by ‘Big Frank’ Mifsud and his partner Bernie Silver who were on their way to establishing a monopoly on peddling vice in Soho, and by 1968 owned two thirds of the clubs in the area. Similarly, the pornographers pursued a lucrative trade but needed to ensure some continuity of supply, and paying off the police was regarded by them as an entirely acceptable cost of conducting their business. An indication of the extent to which the CID tolerated corruption can be seen from the disastrous decision of the Old Harrovian ACC, Peter Brodie, to give evidence for the defendants in what became known as ‘the Detectives’ Trial’. This ensured the disapproval of the new Commissioner, (Sir) Robert Mark, who took over in April 1972 and had been brought down to the capital to clean up the force, and described Brodie’s CID as ‘the most routinely corrupt organisation in London’. He was quite right, but I was not keen to be the first to pay the price, especially when I appeared to be the quarry of a man who demonstrably was one of the most corrupt of the lot.
Initially the news on the jungle drums was quite encouraging, and it seemed that Lambert, acting on advice from Richard du Cann QC, had recommended that no charges should be brought against me and six others, but that Robson and Harris should be prosecuted. We were to be returned to our duties, which would have amounted to a complete clearance, but then I heard of a conference held at the Home Office, attended by Moody and John Matthew QC, chaired by the Assistant DPP, a former barrister who had been placed in charge of supervising any prosecutions, at which a statement from Ian Harley had been produced, and this had served to draw attention away from him, and focus on me. Suddenly the fiasco over Perry’s arrest and interrogation in Nuneaton had not been the result of a casual, indiscreet remark from Harley to his prisoner, but an example of corruption, with Perry claiming that he had paid me for having got him off the Nuneaton charges. I was incredulous at this turn of events because I had played no part in the decision, taken in Warwickshire, to free Perry. On the contrary, if anyone had exercised improper influence over the case it had been Moody who had been so keen to protect Frankie the Barber! Even worse, I had heard whispers about the Assistant DPP who had a reputation as a paedophile and regular visitor to a dirty book shop in Spring Street, Paddington, and certainly had attended several of the regular, Friday night film shows screened by the Dirty Squad in their second floor offices at the Yard. Clearly he had had enjoyed a close relationship with Moody, and when Harley passed the blame for the Nuneaton episode on to me, I began to worry for the first time. According to the whispers, Matthew and the Assistant DPP had recommended that I should go to trial, even though all the others at the crucial meeting had expressed the view that there was insufficient evidence to justify bringing any charges. However, it had been a hostile report from Moody that had persuaded the ADPP, and he in turn had convinced Matthew. But how could someone like Matthew be turned around by Moody? While the ADPP’s interest in hardcore porn was well-known in the Yard, Matthew’s wish for a closer relationship with the police was also a fact. He had often invited senior officers to his home and, knowing Moody, I thought it likely that he would have let him know that he had often been spotted in some of London’s more notorious homosexual clubs. A man like Moody would not have not ignored such an opportunity to apply pressure on someone when the leverage was in his grasp.
Whatever the explanation for Matthew’s conversion, I soon I heard that people who had already signed statements clearing me were being re-interviewed, and encouraged or pressured to make new statements casting suspicion on me. Some original statements were being destroyed altogether, and with Moody in control I feared the worst. New detectives, drawn from outside forces, were deployed in south London to review my past cases to see if they could smell any corruption, and among the villains the word went around that anything against Symonds would prove beneficial, Naturally this kind of incentive inspired plenty of offers from assistance, including a few from some old lags on remand awaiting trial. Far from having been fitted up by squads on which I had worked, these were criminals who had benefited from having dozens of crimes overlooked entirely in return for a guilty plea. One man I recall was facing only one charge, with a further forty ‘taken into account’, yet he was now willing to make a statement implying that there was something improper in the ‘TICs’. According to his tale, I had been drunk in Camberwell High Road one evening in November 1969 and had solicited £5 from him. The story was complete nonsense, but the fabricator was rewarded with probation when he should have been facing two years inside.
I also heard that Moody had altered a statement made by Perry to prove ‘an intention of threat’. Quite simply, for any charge against me to stick, Perry had to demonstrate a direct threat from me, and this was achieved by the insertion of a single word, ‘if’, in manuscript into Perry’s original statement. I was to get copies of both versions, and I was told that the amendment had been added by Moody, in front of others, in the DPP’s office. So how could Moody get away with such behaviour? One answer might be the widespread belief that he had possession of a list, compiled by the dirty bookshops and porn parlours, of their regular customers and the subscribers to some of the filthier magazines. Whether true or not, many believed that Moody exercised influence far beyond the Yard because of his knowledge of the personal proclivities of the highest in the land.
Moody’s tampering of Perry’s witness statement was not the only irregularity that occurred during the enquiry, and one of the most egregious transgressions was the mysterious loss of the evidence book. This folder was then central to any criminal case and logged each exhibit and stamped and numbered every statement. The evidence books are treated with great care because of their importance, so the disappearance, soon after Moody’s take-over, was an extraordinary event. Later some of the earliest statements, which supposedly had been irretrievably lost, were sent to me by anonymous well-wishers, and those taken from staff on The Times proved critical when I sought to prove that their tapes had been mishandled in the newspaper’s offices.
By the time I had realised the degree of Moody’s treachery I had been very loyal to the firm. Loyalty is very important within a corrupt police force, and was not unlike the American ‘buddy’’ system where you have to be able to rely absolutely on your colleagues. They expect you to put your head on the block for them, and you expect them to do the same. We were all corrupt to an extent, but here was a man who was so corrupt that he was prepared to fit up a fellow officer. As the truth dawned on me I wondered why I had drawn the short straw. Was this a ritual sacrifice, or was there more to it? Lambert and Yorke had been replaced on the enquiry by Moody and Virgo, and such completely inappropriate manoeuvres suggested the informed connivance of the Yard’s top commander, Dick Chitty, and maybe the DAC, John du Rose. Could they really have been compromised by Moody? There had always been a suspicion that Moody and Virgo enjoyed a measure of protection right at the top, and the lengths they had taken to prevent Williamson or his men from interviewing Frankie Holbert certainly suggested there were other very senior officers with much to lose in any widespread, external investigation into the Met’s corruption. Williamson had been bamboozled into limiting his provincial officers to pursuing non-Met leads, leaving the key players in the hands of a pair of arguably the most dishonest men ever employed by the Yard, who clearly wanted to close down what had become known as ‘the Nuneaton aspect’. The options open to me were limited, and although I sent word to Moody that I had received almost weekly updates on what had been happening in the OPS< I was reluctant to threaten him. This was an officer who was so powerful and so confident that on Masonic ladies nights he would openly flaunt his friendships with the most notorious pornographers, fraudsters, crooked bookies and their wives. Only someone who knew he was immune could behave in such a manner.
The only crumb of comfort for me was the decision, taken in January 1971, to try me separately from Robson and Harris. This strategy had been the subject of much discussion with my lawyers who felt that the case against them was much stronger and therefore we should either be tried together and get the tapes disallowed, or have my trial first. The worst option was for my trial to follow their conviction, and I was always certain they would be found guilty. Although The Times had lumped the three of us together, our cases were truly quite different and completely unrelated, apart from the link of Perry. Robson had certainly planted gelignite on Perry, and Harris had been very active on the side, but all I could be accused of, or so I thought, was my rather silly recruitment spiel which really could not be taken seriously.
Initially the prosecution had wanted all three of us to appear at the Bailey together, and have all twenty-four tapes played, one after another, which had suited me, but that position was to change. In truth there was little to connect me with this pair from the Yard, apart from the dubious role of Michael Perry, and I was not committed for trial, to face just eight charges, until March 1971, a full fifteen months after publication of the story in The Times. Even the most jaundiced of bystanders could not fail to see how unfair this delay was on the defendants, and within a month one of the charges, of having obtained £10 from an ex-boxer, Roy Thomas, was withdrawn.
This episode illustrated the way the climate had changed at the Yard, and the lengths to which the country bumpkins would go to nail me. The strategy, of preferring a whole raft of charges and then dropping most of them, was one I knew well, and was intended to be highly prejudicial. Thomas, known as ‘Tasty Tom’, was a black, one-eyed bouncer at a club in Sydenham, and when he heard that there would be favours for anyone supplying information about me he volunteered the allegation that he had given me £10 corruptly. The story was a complete fabrication as became clear when it took five officers to persuade him to come to court to give evidence at the committal proceedings. As soon as he went into the witness box he withdrew his statement, saying he was wrong in the head, and the charge was dropped. This was, for me, quite a significant development because although I had always been confident that there was no real evidence for a conviction, I was concerned that I might fall victim to the kind of behaviour I was all too familiar with, namely people going to prison for offences they had not committed. Could that really happen to me? I was becoming increasingly anxious about my chances of an acquittal, and after two and a half years the strain was beginning to show. I had endured all the rumours of a fit-up, and had received a couple of death threats, and had nearly been beguiled by the advice from one group of well-wishers who urged me to plead guilty to a charge that had a maximum sentence of two years. They pointed out helpfully that I had not been arrested, but instead had received a summons to answer the £50 charge. I could expect credit for a guilty plea, and a short sentence which would be served in a cushy open prison where I could do plenty of reading, and there was the promise that I would be looked after upon my release. Furthermore. My conviction on such a petty charge would be expunged with a few years under the terms of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. To make sure I truly understood what was on offer, Moody sent one of his pornographers, John Mason, down to my cottage in Orpington to guarantee me a job managing one of his shops once I had served my sentence. He even offered to set me up with premises in Sevenoaks before my trial so I could be occupied while I was suspended. There were several problems with Mason’s offer, not the least of which is the geographical fact that Sevenoaks is a little off the Met’s ground, and therefore Moody’s proposal was probably completely bogus. Although he had not realised it, Mason’s embroidery of Moody’s suggestion had back-fired, and served only to alert me to the danger I was in.
Later, an alternative suggestion was put to me, that I should apply for an ill-health pension on the grounds that I was mad, a procedure known as ‘doing a Challoner’. I had paid into a pension scheme for twenty years and was assured that, at the age of thirty-seven, I could easily claim to have succumbed to the strain of my long suspension. I rejected this proposal on the grounds that I was not willing to involve myself in any fakery, and anyway to declare myself insane was the last resort of the guilty man, and I knew I had not committed the crime I was charged with. If I was to pretend to be a lunatic, I would be discredited forever.
Although I had asked several times for meetings with Moody, I only saw him on one occasion, during my formal interview at Tintagel House. On the advice of my solicitor, Victor Lissack, who sat beside me, I declined to answer any of the questions, and during a break in these rather one-sided, fruitless proceedings, I visited the gents where I was joined by Moody who told me I was ‘doing well’ and that I should ‘keep it going like that’. Thus he was encouraging me to refuse to answer his questions! At that point I really lost it, called him a bastard, and accused him of doing the dirty on me. “If I go down, I’ll take you with me” I said with venom, which certainly took him aback. For a moment there was the bizarre scene of a detective sergeant on the brink of ruin threatening an apparently untouchable chief superintendent, yet he looked really worried. I then stormed out, saying not another word. In retrospect, I think I was probably quite lucky, as Moody was always quick with his fists, although he may have thought the better of mixing it with a younger man who also knew his way around the boxing ring.
During this period my relationship with Lissack deteriorated through a lack of trust. Initially, when he had been quick to act on my behalf, and had come highly recommended by the Yard, his links to senior officers had been an advantage, but as the situation had changed, and I increasingly saw many of my former colleagues as the adversary, I began to see Lissack in a rather different light. He had been one of the regular attendees at the police boxing evenings, and he unquestionably had the very best connections. He and a few other trusted solicitors had built a very lucrative practices based almost entirely on police ‘private’ business, which encompassed divorce and house conveyancing for individual officers, as well as litigation and criminal work. But was all this influence-peddling, from a small office in Covent Garden conveniently opposite Bow street nick, being translated into influence on my behalf? It certainly did not look like it to me, and shortly before the committal proceedings, at a pre-trial hearing at Wells Street Magistrates Court, I decided to sack him when he insisted on representing me without counsel, and find another solicitor. The crunch had come when the other defendants were represented by QCs and juniors, but I was not and Lissack insisted I could not have Sir Edward Gardiner. A very public row ensued, and Lissack dramatically threw down his file and stormed out of the court, telling the magistrate that he had just been fired by his client. Under normal circumstances to switch horses mid-stream would have been sheer folly, but my strategy was ‘to look on the other side of the fence’, in the police ‘black book’ for someone considered to be hostile to the Met. This unofficial folder, held in the safe of every police station, was a list of lawyers who were considered by the police to be unreliable and with a long record of complaints. This did not mean they were actually bent, in which case they might be useful to the CID, but rather that they could not be relied upon to cooperate, took on unpopular causes and were suspected of recording their telephone conversations. They were, in the main, left-wing, anti-establishment and generally the kind of people I would never want to be associated with, but needs must, and top of the list was Ben Birnberg, who had an office on the poor side of London Bridge. My decision to hire him to represent him was one of the best I ever made, and I never regretted it. I told him that he came highly recommended because he topped the list in the black book, and he worked extraordinarily hard to prepare himself for the imminent committal proceedings. When this preliminary hearing took place he had completely mastered his brief because he had worked day and night to prepare my defence, and when eventually I was committed, it was to answer a single charge of accepting a puny £150. Birnberg was not surprised by my disclosure about the black book, and later he raised Cain about the scandal, leading to the Tard scrapping the system.
The strain of preparing my defence, resisting the pressure and being on suspension took its toll, and over those two years I lost six stone in weight. My health was collapsing and I had a brief, not very restorative stay at the Met’s nursing home in Denmark Hill with hepatitis. This was to be followed by a period at the convalescent home in Hove, but the senior management stepped in to exclude me, as though my corruption might contaminate the other patients. Finally, I accepted my doctor’s advice to take long holiday and decided to accompany my girlfriend Barbara to visit her father’s war grave in Tunisia, instead of going to the Met’s convalescent home by the seaside. A soldier in the Scots Guards, he had been killed at Tobruk just before she was born, and she had promised herself a pilgrimage to North Africa. I drove us down to Algeciras in a motor caravan, receiving a friendly wave goodbye at Dover from (Sir) Peter Imbert, the future Commissioner who was then the Special Branch duty DI at the departure ramp, and I soon found myself I found myself at the Sundance Village, a holiday resort near Rabat in Morocco, enjoying the sunshine and eating large quantities of oranges, as prescribed by my doctor.
I had never intended to flee the country, and I had several good reasons for remaining in England. I was recently divorced, had three young children, and my mother, now a widow, was of an age when it would not have been fait for me to ask her to look after them. Yet that is exactly what I found I had to do, albeit with the greatest reluctance. My relationship with the Yard had deteriorated to the point that I knew my life was in danger. Lissack had obviously spread the word that I had prepared a dossier on the activities of named detectives, and of course I had threatened Moody, which probably had been unwise. Whilst I would never have been intimidated by some thug approaching me in the street with an axe, promising to do me in, as happened, the veiled hints from men in suits, couched in Masonic language, was far more sinister. ‘The craft’ had turned against me, and this development was of far greater concern to me than being confronted by a group of hired muscle outside a pub in Kent where I had an appointment to meet a contact. On that occasion they made the mistake of failing to knock me out with their first blow, on the back of my head, and I rounded on them to deliver a good pasting, on a scale that the pub’s regulars still talk about it. This was no coincidental encounter for one of my assailants spoke in a Glaswegian accent and called me ‘Jimmy’, a voice and name I recognised from one of several anonymous calls I had received.
The extraordinary influence of Freemasonry on the Met cannot be underestimated, and within the police the ‘Jockafia’ was especially potent. Whereas the masons in England have a minimum age of twenty-one for membership, the sons of masons in Scotland can join their father’s lodge at nineteen, thus making some Scots policemen ‘Jocksonic’, enjoying a two year advantage over their English contemporaries, receiving the benefit of accelerated promotion based entirely on their links with the lodge. Certainly nobody in the Met ever wondered why there were a quite disproportionate number of Scots in senior positions.
In those days of back-room deals and unspoken influence, ijt was not unknown for witnesses to disappear, and I had crossed entirely the wrong people. Furthermore, I could expect no help even from the straight officers I knew at the Yard because I had become the victim of a whispering campaign. I shall never forget the incredible news from Robson that Harris had been to see Dick Chitty and had alleged that I, as a former army officer with competition experience, was a crack shot and owned a weapon with a night scope. Supposedly I was preparing to shoot Michael Perry with a sniper’s rifle from a position in a block of flats opposite his mother’s home, and Robson was to be my getaway driver. Apparently Harris had been approached by us to act as look-out and let us know when our target was in the vicinity. I scoffed at the suggestion, later put to me by Lambert’s intermediary, Mike Smith, although I may have been unwise when I added that “the thought had never occurred to me, but if anyone was going to get shot, it would be that bastard Harris! This off-the-cuff remark unfortunately betrayed the fact, which would have been relayed to Lambert, that I had been warned that an attempt had been made by Harris to negotiate a deal and turn Queen’s Evidence. None of his tale about a murder plot was true, but in those difficult times my comment about wanting to bump off Harris may have been taken seriously, and certainly proved that I was receiving information from inside Lambert’s inquiry. In reality, I was confident that Harris had nothing incriminating to say about me, which was why he had been obliged to invent a cock-and-bull assassination story. If I had planned to kill Perry I certainly would not have confided in Harris, whom I hardly knew. Anyway, in peaceful Morocco these were but unpleasant memories, and I was content to recover my health and prepare myself for my trial, now set for July because the prosecution had been granted even more time to examine the fourteen remaining dodgy tapes relevant to my case.
Rather less enjoyable were the English newspaper reports of the Old Bailey trial of Harris and Robson, and their gaol sentence on 3 March 1972 of six and seven years respectively. The trial lasted seven weeks and their defence counsel, (Sir) James Comyn QC, used four experts to undermine the authenticity of the tapes on which Perry’s supposedly incriminating conversations had been recorded. The strategy was to discredit the recordings and explain the behaviour of the two officers as the necessary conduct of two excellent thief-takers. Intimidation, blackmail and threats were, they claimed, part of the rough-and-tumble of dealing with the underworld, and Perry had only been threatened with being charged with possession of gelignite, so no harm had been done and a potentially valuable informant with direct knowledge of many crimes had been recruited. As for the talk of money, the references had been to payments that would be made by the detectives to Perry for information, not to cash extorted from him. Unfortunately the jury seemed shocked by Robson’s admission that he had used the gelignite to entrap Perry, and did not recognise this tactic as what might nowadays be called ‘noble cause’ corruption. Perry was a hardened, professional criminal, and while unorthodox (and illegal), the method of acquiring his fingerprints on the explosive had proved a powerful encouragement to wavering informants. As for the tapes, four independent experts testified that all but one of the tapes were copies, and they showed distinct signs of having been edited. Even the prosecution’s principal engineer acknowledged that the tapes had been interfered with, so the only expert willing to confirm their authenticity was a phonetics specialist from a Home Office laboratory who testified that he thought they were genuine. However, as his salary was paid by the Home Office, he could hardly be described as independent or impartial.
I knew the tapes had been tampered with because at one point in my conversation with Perry we had both joked about a man who had been hanging around nearby with a camera lens sticking out of his coat. Pointing to him, I had asked Perry “Is he one of ours or one of yours?” We had both thought this quite funny, but the entire exchange had been deleted from the tape. This, combined with concerns about the ‘continuity of handling’, should have been enough to sink the prosecution.
The obvious conclusion to be drawn from this evidence was that someone had tampered with the tapes, and when I sat in the public gallery, taking notes, as James Comyn opened for the defence, I was surprised to see that this very senior silk appeared to be pulling his punches, and made no criticism of the conduct of the newspaper. There was no mention of the illegal use of a telephone tap, no criticism of the illegal recordings, and no full frontal assault on the integrity of the journalists. Naturally, as this performance was likely to be a rehearsal of my own forthcoming prosecution I was aghast at the strategy and reported every detail to my solicitor and barrister. Their explanation was hardly comforting. Apparently Comyn had volunteered to join the defence team pro bono, and his offer had been accepted with enthusiasm by Robson and Harris, although they had been worried by his advice that any direct attack on The Times would be counter-productive. I was mystified by this, and even more alarmed when I heard a possible explanation. Comyn lived in County Meath in Ireland, and was a near neighbour of Lord Thomson. Without being unduly conspiratorial, it occurred to me that it would have been in the interests of the proprietor of The Times, supposedly ‘the Top people’s paper’ to ensure that the newspaper escaped any criticism, and what better way than to exercise some influence over the defence?
The trial cost an estimated half million pounds, and resulted in two ‘efficient and conscientious’ officers receiving long prison sentences for a measly £275 in bribes and blackmail. Robson had made twenty-two arrests in operation COATHANGER alone, Harris had received ten commendations. Perry, on the other hand, was soon back at the Bailey, to be convicted of forging bankers’ drafts to steal 100,000 cigarettes, which earned him a sentence of eighteen months, on to which was added a suspended sentence of two years which he had received for the Peckham van theft. His co-defendant was James Laming, brother of Robert and the only other person to have supported Perry’s allegations.
In June 1973 Robson and Harris took their case to the Court of Appeal, claiming that the judge, Mr Justice Sebag Shaw, had erred when he had allowed the jury to retain copies of the disputed tape transcripts throughout the trial. This decision had been plainly prejudicial to the defendants, but the Appeal Court judges were not in the mood to find against one of their colleagues, and rejected the appeal.
With the conviction of Robson and Harris the mood in London changed dramatically. The CID was despondent that a man with Perry’s form could put away two good detectives, and what chance would they have in prison? They had received the most savage of sentences, and I Knew I could expect much of the same. The climate of public opinion had swung against the Yard, and even before the end of the trial a report of Commander Ken Drury were published in the People, relaxing on a two week holiday in Famagusta, Cyprus, with the porn merchant and strip-club owner Jimmy Humphreys. Nor was this the only scandal to hid the Yard, for the elite Drug Squad was itself to be busted by Customs & Excise, with its chief, Vic Kellaher, and five of his subordinates being charged with perjury and perverting the course of justice. Finally, in November 1973, Kellaher would be acquitted, but three of his detectives were convicted of perjury and imprisoned.
As for the Dirty Squad, Mark ordered an entirely new clean-up to be conducted by a specially-formed team, the Anti-Corruption Squad which operated in parallel with the feared ‘rubber heels’ of A10. Headed by DAC Gilbert Kelland, it prosecuted fifteen officers and obtained convictions against thirteen of them who went to prison for a total of 96 years. Altogether about forty detectives were investigated, and more than half wisely opted to leave the force straightaway rather than face disciplinary charges. Kelland’s principal witness was Jimmy Humphreys, who was imprisoned for eight years on an assault charge, and his very detailed diary which listed most of his contacts with corrupt CID officers. His wife, Rusty, was imprisoned for running a brothel in Greek Street, and overnight his empire and influence vanished.
Once Kelland had acquired Humphreys’ diary, some pages of his proposed autobiography and his testimony taken in a prison cell, Soho was raided by a new Serious Crimes Squad, headed by DCS Albert Wickstead, who worked not from the Yard, where there was a fear of contamination from the Flying Squad, but from Limehouse police station. Wickstead had spent his career in the East End and had gone about his business with an almost religious zeal. Forty tons of porn was recovered on their first raids in Soho where the managers protested that they had already paid their dues to the Dirty Squad. Bernie Silver, convicted of living off immoral earnings for the past eighteen years, went down for six years, and his enforcer, Mifsud, was convicted of jury tampering. As for their police associates, the blood-letting was truly terrible. Drury and Virgo, who had retired from the force, were arrested at their homes, and Moody, who had taken a medical pension, was also taken into custody. This was astonishing, for Virgo had been the Met’s longest-serving officer and arguably one of the most powerful men on the force. At the subsequent Old Bailey trials, no less than seventeen pornographers gave evidence against the detectives, as did four former members of the OPS. After the Drugs Squad and the Dirty Squad had been hit, it was the turn of the elite Flying Squad, and its former commander, Ken Drury, went down for eight years and DI Adam Ingram for four.
I had always admired Ken Drury, one of the Yard’s great thief-takers, although I had been aware of his involvement in corruption, although his activities seemed to me to be relatively harmless compared to Moody and the others. I had come to know him when we had both been working shifts together, and we often went up to the West End in the evenings. He was impressed by my contacts in the clubs, which dated back to my time in Lampson Paragon, while I had watched how he had handled his informants. I owed him much, including my success in the Sergeant’s Examination. I had told him that I intended to take a fortnight off to study for the test and he had advised me to use the time with my children, or in the garden, explaining that he would drop the questions round to me a few days before the exam was scheduled. ‘A couple of hours to revise and you’ll be okay’ he had predicted, and he was right. I had come near top of the list and was eligible for a command course at the Met’s staff college at Bramshill. Drury revealed that the papers were set by a couple of superintendents at the yard who well understood that men on specialist squads did not have the time to study, so they distributed a limited number of ‘short revision lists’ to favoured candidates. Thanks to Drury’s intervention, I had become on the chosen few, known as being ‘in the swim’. The alternatives were to be ‘on the square’ which involved a separate system of fixing the results, or years of fruitless study.
When I had worked for Drury he had often taken a commission from his sources who had received payments from the Met’s Informants’ Fund. He had considered it his right to take a ‘whack’ from individuals who had received cash from the police on his recommendation, and he had also skimmed the top off the rewards paid by the insurance companies. Officially police officers were ineligible for this cash, but Drury and many other people of his rank considered that the system was unfair and they were simply redressing the balance. As an observer of some of these transactions, I was in no position to raise any objection, unless I wanted my career prospects to go into tailspin.
Clearly it was open season on the Met, and on 27 March my counsel received a letter in which I explained that ‘I am not at all happy about the justice of following them with the publicity about wicked detectives’. I offered to surrender if my trial could be delayed to let the feeding frenzy die down, but the response was an arrest warrant. The new reforming Commissioner, Robert Mark, had taken control at the Yard and within days had completely dismantled and reorganised its nine specialist CID squads. As an example, all the fourteen detectives of the Dirty Squad were reassigned, and the entire office turned over to uniformed officers.
Unable to serve under Mark, Brodie took early retirement and the new ACC was Colin Woods, the head of the traffic division who had never spent a day as a Met detective. Wally Virgo was shuffled to one side, and a new anti-corruption unit, designated A10, was created in the administration branch, instead of the crime branch, and headed by Commander Ray Anning, a uniformed officer. Over the following months 82 officers were dismissed, and a further 301 resigned while under investigation. Mark’s vendetta against the CID included the transfer of hundreds of detectives into uniform, and the termination of the CID as a separate career path. Henceforth uniformed officers could switch straight into the CID and detectives were required to serve part of their time in uniformed posts. It was the end of an era, but it was not an environment I really wanted to return to, at least for a while.
As I sat in the sun near Agadir, reading how dozens of London detectives were facing long prison sentences, I knew that I had made a lucky escape. The judge, Sir Sebag Shaw, threw the book at Robson and Harris, just as my barrister, Michael Sherrard, had predicted. I had been warned that the only hope was to undermine the evidence presented by the Times journalists, but this was disallowed at an early stage, during the pretrial committal proceedings. One of the crucial submissions, extremely relevant to my case, concerned the authenticity of the tape-recordings. A scientist had undermined their value by giving expert evidence for the defence that the recordings had not been continuous, and therefore could have been edited, but the judge refused the application to have them excluded. When I reported this dismal news to my brief, Michael Sherrard QC, at his chambers in the Middle Temple the same afternoon, and his junior, Brian Capstick, they looked pretty glum and I knew what I was in for. Both were experienced lawyers, set for brilliant careers at the bar, and their long faces spoke volumes. We were joined by my solicitor and his assistant, Harriet Harman, who took the notes, but there was not much for her to do. Considering the massive publicity given to bent coppers, and the judge’s inclusion of very dubious tapes, what chance did I have?
My trial was set for April 1972, but in my absence I was sacked by the Met’s disciplinary board and identified publicly for the first time as a fugitive. Almost worse, I heard the news that a television interview I had given in London at the request of my solicitor, Ben Birnberg, in which I had confirmed police maltreatment of some of his clients, had been broadcast. I had believed there was no danger of the film, Radical Lawyer, going out until after my trial, but its premature release really meant that I had burned all my bridges in England. The programme, made by a producer named Fitzgerald, was intended to be a profile of the anti-establishment solicitor, and his claims of institutionalised racism and the victimisation of his black clients would have been nothing more that unsubstantiated assertions if I had not appeared too, as a serving detective, to confirm his allegations. I gave what was presented on camera as an authoritative, inside view from the Met of a generally hostile attitude to black criminals. Whereas the Yard might have been able to shrug off the charges of discrimination as being without foundation, my contribution served to substantiate the worst of them, and obviously caused acute embarrassment for the Met’s senior management. The messages I received suggested that the climate of opinion in London, already hostile, had now become positively dangerous.
A planned month’s holiday in the sun was beginning to look rather more permanent, and I took the necessary precautions, the first being a new passport. The second was a lengthy document in which I described my own experiences in the Met, and named dozens of my colleagues who, by the standards that had been applied to me in London, were equally corrupt, if not much more so, I had little difficulty in preparing this dossier because I had prepared an original version in London and entrusted it to my solicitor, Victor Lissack. Much later I was to discover that Lissack had sent a copy of this long document to the Yard and if, as I suspect, it was seen by Moody, it would go a long way towards explaining his antipathy towards me. With that statement in circulation, it have become a priority to keep me as far away as possible from the Yard.
Obtaining a genuine passport in a false name is relatively easy, and the procedure was revealed many years ago by Frederick Forsyth in his thriller The Day of the Jackal. My adaptation of Forsyth’s version was to use the name of an acquaintance who was roughly my age, and I knew had never been abroad. Nor, because of his job, was he likely to apply for a passport himself so I felt almost as safe as if I had used the name of someone who had died so young they were unlikely to have applied for a passport. John Freeman had absolutely no knowledge of what I was up to, but with the help of a friend in England I had no difficulty in acquiring the treasured blue document containing my photograph. Thenceforth, I was an almost legitimate John Freeman, and had my freedom of movement restored. Although travel back to England was theoretically possible, I was discouraged from doing so by DCS Moody, with whom I remained in loose contact via an intermediary, Ian Harley, who was a serving detective sergeant and played a difficult game with considerable skill, as it was to turn out, to my disadvantage. At one moment Harley himself had been under investigation, but had been cleared, and while he personally supplied the guarantee for my vehicle carnet, allowing me to use drive my vehicle across frontiers without any restrictions or deposits, he was also reporting my activities and intentions to Moody, who gave the clearest impression that he did not want me back in England. Indeed, Harley had bunged me £2,000 from the Dirty Squad to persuade me to leave in the first place, and had arranged for some spare parts for my motor caravan, a new model made by Ford and then unavailable outside England, to be shipped to Morocco.
I had not been at Sundance long when a vague acquaintance, a Lebanese Arab known to me as Marcel, introduced me to someone I called ‘Gold Tooth’, who promised to study my dossier of police corruption and put me in touch with people who would be interested in pursuing my story. Supposedly Gold Tooth was a French journalist but I presumed that, like most French foreign correspondents, he was probably also a part-time agent of the French intelligence service. Undeterred, I seized this opportunity because although I had sent a copy of my dossier to some selected public figures, such as Lord Longford, nothing seemed to have happened, so I was quite ready to accept any help from any quarter, including the French, although I would have drawn the line at the Soviets. It simply never occurred to me that Gold Tooth was a KGB officer, as he turned out to be, or that Marcel was one of his agents. Anyway, in the meantime I was offered work as a mercenary by the owner of the Sundance Village, a former pilot who had flown relief missions into Biafra. His resort had become a magnet for other mercenaries, and my first job was at Kitwe in Zambia, to train local soldiers on former British Army 25-pounders. This was the excitement I had craved, and proved a useful distraction to what might have been the very disagreeable alternative in London. My fellow mercenaries were soldiers of fortune drawn from across the globe, but I gravitated towards a group of eight with whom I work as part of a team. Among them was ‘Brummie’, a former gunner that I had served with at Bradbury Lines. He subsequently had joined the 22nd Special Air Service regiment simply to stay in Hereford, where his girlfriend had lived, but he knew his trade well and was a influential voice among us when we discussed various proposals for future assignments. The original leader of this group had disappeared, having taken the deposit for a mercenary job, and I had been elected their leader.
The first hint that Marcel was not entirely what he seemed was the proposal put to me that I should travel to England and find Oleg Lyalin, the KGB officer who had defected to MI5 in August 1971. A proficient marksman and parachutist, Lyalin worked as a ‘Line F’ officer in the ‘Department V’ which had been created in 1953 following embarrassing disclosures about assassinations conducted by the KGB’s notorious Thirteenth Department, which was promptly closed down and renamed. Aged thirty-four, Lyalin’s cover was that of a low-ranking official in the RAZNO import-export office, but had been caught conducting a clandestine affair with his attractive blonde secretary, Irina Teplyakova, by a joint SIS/Security Service unit, and he had been persuaded to remain at his post in the trade delegation and compromise the rezidentura’s entire order-of-battle. Six months later, at the end of August 1971, he had been stopped by a police patrol car in the Tottenham Court Road and charged with drunk driving. Aware of the dire consequences this incident would have on his career, Lyalin made an emergency call to his MI5 handler who arranged for Special Branch detectives to rescue the spy from their uniformed colleagues. This was not quite what MI5 had planned for Lyalin, but he would have been useless as a source if he had been returned to Moscow in disgrace so he was resettled in a safe-house to undergo many weeks of debriefing.
Lyalin’s evidence had been used by the British government to launch Operation BOOT and expel ninety Soviet intelligence professionals from London, and ban a further fifteen on leave from re-entry, among them the KGB rezident, Yuri Voronin. The Foreign Office also took the opportunity to impose a limit on the number of diplomats the Soviets could send as replacements. It was a blow from which the KGB took years to recover and effectively eliminated several dozens of KGB and GRU professionals from the espionage game permanently, among them Richardas Vaygauskas, the Lithuanian-born KGB deputy rezident operating under consular cover in London who had been cultivating Lord Kagan, one of Harold Wilson’s closest confidants. Born in Lithuania, Kagan was an industrialist and the owner of the Gannex raincoat company who had been knighted by Wilson in 1970, and then elevated to the peerage in the prime minister’s notorious resignation honours in 1976. He had been the subject of an intensive MI5 investigation which had monitored his meetings with Vaykauskas and another KGB officer from the London rezidentura, Boris Titov, but ultimately Kagan had been imprisoned, not for espionage, but a company and tax fraud.
Lyalin also identified various commercial positions in London, in the Moscow Narodny Bank, the Soviet Film Agency and the UMO plant–hire business, which were reserved for KGB use. Furthermore, Lyalin had identified his principal agent, Sirioj Abdoolcader, a clerk in the Greater London Council’s motor licensing department who had access to details of MI5’s fleet of surveillance vehicles. Recruited originally by the KGB in 1967, Abdoolcader was arrested and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment, and two other co-conspirators, a pair of young Greek Cypriot tailors in touch with Moscow by radio, were also detained. Constantinos Martianos and his brother-in-law Kyriacos Costi received four and six years’ respectively, having admitted working for a contact known to them as ALEX, who was, of course, Lyalin, who had prepared tasks for them in the event of a war.
Lyalin also revealed details of the KGB’s war contingency plans which included sabotage schemes and targets across the country, ranging from the early warning radar station at Fylingdale, the dispersal sites for the RAF’s V-bomber fleet, and a scheme to flood the London Underground system. Lyalin was also able to provide insights into Department V’s plans for similar attacks in other European capitals and Washington DC. Allegedly the disclosure of this material so embarrassed the KGB’s chairman, Yuri Andropov, that he ordered Department to be closed down immediately.
The episode had been an unprecedented disaster for both the GRU and the KGB, and as a result Lyalin was a marked man. The threat was a serious one for Moscow had a long history of exacting retribution from traitors. Sometimes the murders were made to look like suicides, but as often as not the execution would not be disguised, so as to send a clear message to others contemplating defection to the west. Lyalin, of course, had been resettled with a new identity, and was under constant police and MI5 guard, but Marcel evidently thought I was the man to penetrate his security and make the hit. This was an offer I readily declined, having gone through the motions of consulting my group of mercenaries, although I had no doubt I would have been able to use my contacts to locate the target. I was under no illusions about being a wanted man in London and even if I had the protection of an authentic British passport to slip through immigration controls, I would be running a huge risk once I reached London and starting calling on old friends to track down Lyalin.
The offer of a contract on Lyalin was my first real encounter with the murky world of espionage, and it was a useful lesson in my appreciation of how ruthless the KGB could be. Lyalin had offended his masters and his assassination was a top priority, but it was not a mission that either Brummie nor I were prepared to undertake. Instead of shooting Lyalin, I took on another mercenary job, a relatively risk-free reconnaissance in Chad, where in my somewhat weakened condition I contracted malaria. Initially I seemed to recover from this recurring disease, and within a few weeks, moving between our bases at Kitwe in Zambia and Sale in Morocco, I was well enough to develop a partnership in Ghana with Dr George Busby, a physican who had qualified in England and had established himself with the leaders of the military junta running the country. This involved setting up an import-export business named Meggs, the initials of his five children, and although the work was undemanding, I fell ill again and my condition began to deteriorate, handicapping my ability to live off my wits.
When I fell ill in August 1973 Marcel arranged for me to fly to Bulgaria to recuperate, all expenses paid, at the holiday resorts of Burgos and Slunchenbryag, on the Black Sea. It did not take me long to realise that I was being treated much better than ordinary tourists, and I was being cultivated by a Russian from Siberia whom I knew as Nick, but whose real name was, I discovered much later, was Viktor Georgivitch Budanov. He was to be my constant companion for the next six years, but at that time he insisted that his only interest was to help me recuperate. In reality, of course, he was encouraging me to write a book about my experiences in London, with the none-too-subtle intention of compiling a dossier on police officers I could identify as corrupt, and maybe open to offers from his colleagues. We were installed in a seaside villa and it was here that Nick questioned me as I worked on my draft dossier. Although I had intended to keep the names of some of my friends and supporters out of the document, I found it hard to avoid naming them to Nick who was very persistent and presumably was under instructions to test my bona-fides at every opportunity to see if I was concealing anything. The result was that Nick extracted almost everything from me, including the identity of Ian Harley whom I then believed to have been my staunchest ally. These conversations had seemed at the time to be completely natural and informal, but I realised later that the rooms must have been wired for sound, and every word I said recorded. There was also something slightly odd about the extent of Nick’s knowledge that, at the time, I had not been able to put my finger on.
Tall, blond and good-looking, Nick spoke fluent English and in on of our many conversations mentioned that he was married to a doctor, and that he had been expelled from London in 1971, along with the rest of the KGB professionals at the Trade Delegation and embassy. He eventually retired with the rank of colonel, and a decade of so later was involved in the interrogation of Oleg Gordievsky, the KGB officer recruited by SIS in Copenhagen who was exfiltrated from Moscow so brilliantly in August 1985. Gordievsky’s lengthy collaboration with SIS, which dated back to his recruitment in Copenhagen in 1973, had been betrayed to the KGB molehunters by the CIA turncoat Aldrich Ames, and he had been recalled to Moscow from his post in London where he was the rezident-designate. With only the denunciation from Ames to work on, Gordievsky had been accused of treachery, and Budanov had been selected to conduct the investigation, probably because of his counter-intelligence experience, but maybe also because of his knowledge of England. Whatever the reason, Gordievsky had good cause to fear Budanov whom I knew to be a skilled counter-intelligence expert.
Later I was to learn from Gordievsky that the KGB had decreed that the local police apparatus in any western country should become a priority target for the local rezidentura, and doubtless Nick’s interest in me, at that time, was to research any opportunities in London. What better agent could one have, in terms of managing a spy-ring in London, than an experienced, bent police officer with full access to the Police National Computer, the Criminal Records Office, and maybe the specialist squads in the Yard such as Special Branch? Nor was this, some pie-in-the-spy fantasy. It was well-known that the Soviets had run several police officers as agents after the 1919 police strike, and had even penetrated the Special Branch.
I was to recover my health and enjoy myself in Bulgaria, and in no time at all I began a passionate affair with Nina Ebert, a pretty German woman whom I met at the Kukeri beach bar, who was on holiday on the Black Sea, sharing a room with a friend who happened to be a travel agent and coach party courier. During one of our long moonlight walks, she confided to me that her husband, who worked for a German organisation lobbying for East-West reunification, had told her that there was a rumour circulating in Bonn that papers in Chancellor Willi Brandt’s private office had reached Moscow. Naturally I was surprised to be told this, and I assumed that Nina, her supposedly indiscreet husband and her tale about Willi Brandt was some kind of weird test dreamed up by Nick to assess my reliability. In these circumstances, thinking my bona-fides were under scrutiny, I played along with what I perceived as a rather unsubtle game and reported Nina’s story to Nick who showed convincing enthusiasm. Indeed, after he had passed the information up the food-chain I was instructed to pursue Nina with greater urgency to learn more, which was not so easy because, at that time, I had met Anka Mladinova, whose father was, she told me, the chief prosecutor, a self-taught lawyer who had started his career on the railways. A very attractive blonde, Anka worked as a nurse at a government hospital and later she was to become the private nurse of the Bulgarian president, Todor Zhivkov, the longest-surviving Communist leader. After his death, following the collapse of Communism, she went to live in his secret apartment in Bavaria. I had little doubt that Anka had been planted on me by the KDS, the feared security apparatus, to test my story and assess whether I might be some kind of hostile agent, but the reality was that I had cut my ties with England and needed to start a new life. Candidly, I was indifferent to whether Anka was spying on me, as she was fabulously attractive and was obviously well-connected with the regime’s decision-makers. The KGB and the KDS may have thought I was being manipulated, but life in Sofia, even in my assigned apartment in a militia barracks, was a lot more comfortable than the alternative, working as a mercenary in some mosquito-ridden corner of Africa. The other option, of a return to London, hardly bore thinking about.
The assignment, which I accepted in September 1973, was first to write to Nina announcing my imminent, unexpected arrival, and then to go to West Germany and contact her in Bonn. This I did, and after a pleasant interlude in my hotel where we renewed our friendship with genuine passion, I suggested that she come with me to Berlin where I had some business to attend to. Actually, Nick had instructed me to bring her to Berlin where the KGB would find it easier to monitor our conversations and apparently had made the appropriate technical arrangements in a designated hotel. There she confided to me, when I raised the sensitive subject, that the Office for the Protection of the Constitution’, the West German security apparatus based in Cologne (BfV) was narrowing on two possible sources in the Chancellor’s private office. One was a secretary, and the other was a political apparatchik, an SDP official named Gunter Guillaume. The only problem for me in hearing this news was Nina’s assertion that the original tip to the BfV had come from the British Secret Intelligence Service. This placed me in a considerable dilemma because my arrangement with the KGB was that I should not be asked to compromise British interests. I would be happy to assist them in every other field, but I was not prepared to work against my country. If SIS had discovered there was a spy at the heart of the German government, the implication was that SIS had either penetrated the HVA, the foreign intelligence branch of the East German Stasi, or the KGB, or maybe had broken some of their codes. Alternatively, I rationalised that the most likely source of information would have been a defector, so my only role would be to confirm information that the KGB probably had received already from other sources. As everyone knows, thieves are caught, not by brilliant Sherlock Holmes-like powers of deduction, but by grasses and rewards. It is much the same in the world of espionage, where most spies are caught, not by brilliant counter-espionage procedures, but by a betrayal from a defector, and if the HVA or the KGB had suffered such a loss, they would be bound to be aware of it, and presumably had taken the appropriate precautions to safeguard any agents in the field that might be compromised. Using this logic it followed that my credibility might depend on passing back Nina’s tip, and while this would probably enhance my reputation, it would probably not damage SIS or British interests. Accordingly, I promptly tipped off Nick that Guillaume was the subject of a current investigation, and it was only later, after I had passed on this disturbing news, that I learned Guillaume was rather more than a lowly party official. He was a close friend and one of three personal assistants to the German Chancellor, for whom he worked in his private office, and he was also a spy, a long-term mole run personally by Markus Wolf, the legendary chief of the East German HVA, who had recruited him, and his wife Christel, eighteen years earlier.
Guillaume had arrived in the Federal Republic as a refugee in 1956, four years after he had joined the East German army as a loyal Communist Party member and had served as an officer with the rank of captain. He had also been trained as an agent, and when he settled in Frankfurt, supposedly as an authentic refugee, he had joined the SDP as a voluntary worker before becoming a full-time party functionary. In 1970 he had expressed the wish to become a civil servant in Bonn and, having sailed through a security check which failed to reveal his service as an officer in the East German army, had been appointed to the economic and social affairs staff of the Chancellery. Soon afterwards Brandt had picked him to act as his link to the SDP, and he maintained an office both in the party’s headquarters and in the Palais Schomburg. For the next three years Guillaume enjoyed access to the very highest classifications of secret information and passed it back to Wolf who shared it with Moscow. As well as material about the FRG’s foreign policy and relations with NATO, Guillaume passed on details of Brandt’s rather exotic extra-marital affairs which, at that time, were completely unknown to the public. The spy’s run of luck ended when suspicions were raised about the existence of a top-level mole with direct access to Brandt, and the BfV had launched an investigation which turned out to be not quite discreet enough, with word of it leaking to me through Nina. Exactly how the BfV got on to Guillaume remains a matter of speculation, and much of what has been written about the case, including by Markus Wolf, has suggested that the BfV had initiated an investigation after a study had been conducted of illicit East-West communications and found traces of an illegal codenamed GEORG who had completed several missions in the 1950s. Allegedly a detailed analysis of contemporary decrypted East German wireless traffic had revealed a message, dating back to April 1957, in which a source known as ‘G.G.’ had been sent birthday greetings. Supposedly his clue had led he BfV molehunters to conduct a lengthy trawl for anyone with the same birthday, and eventually the field had narrowed to Guillaume’s son Pierre. ‘G.G.’ was somehow linked to the missions undertaken by GEORG, and both agents were tentatively identified as Guillaume who had been placed under intensive surveillance.
Personally, I have my doubts about this version of events, for two reasons. Firstly there is scarcely a single example in the history of espionage in which a spy has been caught by unprompted sleuthing or that frequent cover story, the vigilance of colleagues. In most cases there is a straightforward tip-off from a defector who uses his knowledge for resettlement in the Florida sunshine with a swimming-pool and a generous pension plan. Secondly, there was the information I had acquired from Nina who had suggested that the BfV had been working on advice from the British. She had no reason to lie, and this was at such an early stage that it was most unlikely to have been part of an elaborate cover story. Indeed, if it was a cover story it must have been a bad one because it has never appeared anywhere else.
What is known definitely is that Gunter Nollau, the BfV’s counter-intelligence chief briefed his Interior Minister, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, on 29 May 1973 and informed him that Guillaume was the subject of an investigation. Wolf was probably told about this much later by his star mole in the BfV, Klaus Kuron (who had offered to spy for the HVA in 1982, and continued undetected until the collapse of East Germany in 1989), but instead of moving Guillaume away from access, no action was taken, and this inertia led to Nollau’s subsequent resignation. Thus, much to everybody’s embarrassment, Guillaume was allowed to continue spying for eleven months before he was finally confronted, and even allowed to accompany Brandt on his holiday to his hideaway retreat at Hamas in Norway. During these final months Christel reported that she thought she was being watched but Wolf had not taken much notice of this warning, on the assumption that agents often develop a healthy degree of paranoia, and he had failed to extract his two agents before finally they were confronted by the BfV. He was also influenced, so he admitted later, by Christel’s new job as an aide to Georg Leber, Brandt’s Defence Minister.
Whatever the source of the initial tip, Guillaume came under intensive surveillance, which he also spotted, and was arrested by the BfV early in the morning on 24 April 1974, thus provoking a major political scandal that led to Brandt’s resignation just twelve days later. When the police had burst into his house, Guilaume had not attempted to deny he was a spy, but instead had identified himself proudly as an officer and citizen of the GDR, and demanded the appropriate, respectful treatment!
Fortunately, my warning had come too late to prevent Guillaume’s arrest, but the fact that I had been able to obtain this information must have impressed Nick and his masters. As for Guillaume, he was sentenced to thirteen years’ imprisonment in Rheinbach prison, outside Bonn, and Christel received eight. Suffering from kidney disease, he was released in October 1981 in a spy-swap, and returned as a hero to East Germany, where he died in April 1995. According to KGB gossip, Leonid Brezhnev had been angered by the KGB’s failure to pull Guillaume out of Bonn in time, and Markus Wolf had been summoned to Moscow to be reprimanded by the General-Secretary himself, in his office in the Kremlin. Indeed, Wolf himself later admitted that the entire affair had been ‘unfortunate’, not least because it had destroyed Willy Brandt’s political career, and he had been responsible for developing Ostpolitik, a policy of détente that had been greatly welcomed by the Soviet Bloc. Brandt’s initiative had led to diplomatic recognition of the GDR, and the signing of the Four-Power Treaty which had preserved West Berlin as a permanent, separate entity, both key objectives of the Communists. By ruining Brandt, the Soviet Bloc had played into the hands of the anti-Socialist hardliners and terminated détente, which the Kremlin had been so anxious to encourage. The extent to which the KGB had participated in the Guillaume affair is unknown, but according to the KGB rezident in Karlshorst, Sergei Kondrashev, the information from the spy codenamed HANSEN was ‘of such extraordinary importance’ that the KGB’s Chairman, Yuri Andropov often passed it personally straight to Andrei Gromyko, Brezhnev’s foreign minister. An officer messenger then waited for him to read the material, ‘information of the best quality on the situation in Germany and on discussions with the Western powers’, and returned it to the KGB’s headquarters. After Guillaume’s exposure Brezhnev had written a personal note to Brandt denying any personal knowledge of the espionage, but few had believed him because he too must have been one of his recipients and beneficiaries.
Certainly, in political terms, Guillaume was in a position to reassure the Soviet bloc that détente was not a ruse, and supply crucial reports in 1973, when a potentially damaging political split had developed over policy between President Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger on one side, and Washington DC’s European partners in NATO on the other. Such reliable information, in large quantities from a trusted source with proven, virtually unrestricted access, is the dream of every spy-master, but Wolf’s failure to act on my warning and the source was terminated, later forcing him to acknowledge that the episode had been “an own goal,, a bad one”. By then, however, Wolf’s almost mythological reputation had been established, and in January 1974 he had been awarded the GDR’s most coveted decoration, the Karl Marx medal, while his minister, Erich Miekle, had been appointed to full membership of the Politburo.
Upon my return to Sofia I was met at the airport by the Soviet ambassador, General Sheventenko, who took me to a luxury flat in the centre of the city, formerly occupied by the ex-leader of the Greek Communist Party, and told to make it my own, as this was a reward for what I had accomplished for the KGB. It was a modern block, probably built just before the war, and my neighbour was an exceptionally tall woman, a former member of a handball team, who managed Radio Bulgaria’s English transmissions and compiled a weekly broadcast, not unlike Alastair Cooke’s Letter from America. Her husband, who was even taller, spent much of the year on an engineering project in Nigeria, so he was around very little. She told me a little of my apartment’s former occupant, which explained why it was decorated with relief wall maps of Greece.
It was at this point that it was explained to me that the KGB had more plans for me, back in Africa. I had been given a warm welcome, but I was keen to returned to Rabat to be reunited with Barbara and meet my baby son Alex. My limited task, as I then saw it, had come to an end, and I was back in Africa, in good health and available to resume my work as a mercenary. However, this was not quite what the KGB had in mind for me, and my new role, as explained to me in Sofia, was to travel to Zambia and then Tanzania where, ostensibly, I was to manage a photographic safari business, the Selous Safari Park at Oyster Bay owned by an expatriate Briton, John Bailey. In reality I was taking instructions from a tall thin Russian who was supervising the construction of the new embassy in Lusaka, to cultivate vulnerable American diplomats and gain their confidence in the hope of recruiting them as sources. One of my missions had been to penetrate a British radio relay station outside Lusaka and report on any prospect of recruiting a source among the operators who were mainly ex-Royal Navy. Another mission was to Tanzania to report on the Chinese railways, and a supposedly secret airfield at Morogoro where I found a job with Humphrey Luckhurst as the manager of the Selous Safari Lodge until the beginning of the rainy season. This did not last long, and I planned to move to an island to help run a game fishing business, but a well-timed invitation to Moscow interrupted, just as I had been robbed of a large quantity of cash during a visit to the Bambino Club in Lusaka. Suddenly very short of money, an all expenses paid trip to Moscow sounded attractive.
It was during this period, as I travelled across Africa talent-spotting likely targets that Nick visited me with a special message of encouragement: my information about Guillaume had proved absolutely authentic, and I had been congratulated by Leonid Brezhnev himself. Nick wanted me to come back to Moscow immediately, but I had too much work to do, and instead asked Nick to wait for a couple of weeks. Instead, Nick went swimming in the Indian Ocean where he encountered hundreds of Portuguese Men O’War and was badly stung. I am amazed he survived this experience, but he assured me that he was a bear hunter from Siberia, and could survive anything!
As I was preparing to travel to Moscow I went to see the KGB rezident in Dar-es-Salaam who asked me to make contact with an American woman, the collector of shells who went beachcombing every day, and was married to the local Pan Am representative. According to the rezident, he was also suspected of being a CIA officer working under non-official cover, and my task was to befriend her and find out as much as I could about his real job.
To make the encounter plausible I borrowed a book on shells, published by the oil company, from Luckhurst and pretended to be another collector so I could have an excuse to bump into her. Sure enough, according to plan, I ambled along the beach the next afternoon and spotted the woman carrying a wicker basket searching the sand for useful specimens. Within minutes we were chatting, although my knowledge of the subject was soon exhausted we continued to walk together, and she gently chastised me for using a plastic bag to collect shells because some contained dangerous toxins and their spikes could easily puncture the plastic, and my skin. Apparently this was a common hazard for shell collectors in the tropics, but she seemed unconcerned at my lack of professionalism. It seemed that my rather flimsy cover as an amateur had worked, and she invited me back to her house for a drink. Wishing to take my assignment slowly, I declined, but instead took her out to lunch at a nearby beach restaurant the following day, and afterwards we returned to her home where she took me up to her bedroom to show me her collection of shells. She also made it obvious that she was interested in more than my sparkling conversation and pretty soon we were writhing in bed, ripping each other’s clothes off and indulging in some passionate love-making. By the early evening, when I left her asleep with a gentle kiss on her cheek, I slipped quietly out of the house, none the wiser about her husband’s occupation. I had intended to move onto stage two of my mission the next day, but events overtook me.
This episode resulted in her visiting Humphrey Luckhurst the next morning, sporting a black eye, and she asked him to tip me off that her husband had found out about our tryst and was after me. As a precaution I moved out of my hotel and stayed with Gloria, my English girlfriend who worked for the United Nations, and kept away from the lovely beachcomber. There was a curious sequel to this because when I finally left Dar-es-Salaam for Ethiopia a group of Americans got on the same plane who seemed quite hostile towards me. They all gave me what I took to be threatening glances and, fearing some ugly incident, I decided not to leave the plane with them when we landed. Sure enough, the US ambassador’s limousine drew up beside the aircraft and I realised the Americans were probably planning to snatch me as I came down the steps and maybe bundle me into the car. This may not be the kind of behaviour one might expect at an international airport, but even in those days all sorts of strange things happened in Addis Ababa. Fortunately, at that moment a group of Soviets turned up to escort me into the city, and the Americans were left scowling on the tarmac, apparently infuriated at having lost their chance to abduct me, or worse. I was dropped at my hotel, where I checked in, and then left a chalk mark on the wall outside as a signal to the local KGB. Doubtless they knew already of my arrival, but this procedure was to indicate my readiness for a rendezvous. According to my contact, whom I met the following day, the commendation I had received over the Guillaume affair had resulted in an invitation to Moscow, and my first step in my journey to the Soviet Union was an exchange of passports. I surrendered John Freeman’s passport and received one in the name of Eddie Herbert, together with an Aeroflot ticket, which I used to board a flight to Sheremetyevo. When the plane pulled to a halt and the doors opened I was welcomed by Nick’s big, smiling face, and a very impressive welcoming, uniformed committee at the bottom of the steps who gave me a smart salute. I was ushered through the airport controls, avoiding all the usual formalities, and as I only had cabin luggage with me, we walked straight through the terminal, with our military escort alongside until I was in the back of a limousine. It seemed I was some kind of a hero, for this was the kind of reception that I had seen Ken Drury have at the Yard. The official car took us down an empty, central lane of the highway and soon I had my first sight of Moscow. My first impression was of a very well organised city, though ‘regulated’ might be a more appropriate term. We passed huge buildings, set well back from the wide boulevards, and I was struck by the contrast of London and its higgledy-piggledy houses crowding in on the narrow roads. As I was gazing at Stalin’s wedding-cake skyscrapers Nick leaned over and said ‘We’re almost there’, as if he thought I had finally arrived at my ideological home.
We rolled up at a huge hotel, the Rossiya, overlooking St Basil’s Cathedral and the Kremlin, and as I stepped out of the car I was treated as a VIP, with the manager rushing forward to welcome me, help me register, and show me up to a magnificent suite. The lavish experience was so unreal that I began to get nervous, thinking that they must be up to something, and it would not last. Would it be like Bulgaria, where I had been given a night in luxury, followed by a month in the relative slum of the Struga? I decided to enjoy myself, and over the next few days I was given a whirlwind tour of all the major tourist sites, including a shuffle past old Lenin in his mausoleum. There was no waiting for hours in a queue outside, and we went straight to the front. At one point, when I mentioned how cold it was, I was presented with a fur hat of the kind worn only by generals and important politicians. Initially I was a little nervous about wearing it because I worried that it might be swapped ot swiped whenever I checked it in, but I soon learned that its quality gave it a ‘swipe-me-not’ status. Protected by the respect its owner must command in this oppressed society, it was untouchable.
The highlight of my visit to Moscow was a magnificent banquet that took place in the Rossiya’s rooftop restaurant, guarded by uniformed KGB men at the entrance, where there was a large gathering of intelligence professionals, entertained by a band. Nick showed me the impressive night view from a huge picture window, and then showed me to my table for dinner. I soon gained the impression that this was some kind of initiation ceremony, not unlike some of the Masonic meetings I had attended in London. However, this was a state function, and I was escorted around the tables to be introduced everyone before they tucked in to the magnificent spread laid before us? Was this a regular event, or one thrown for my benefit? Either way, I enjoyed the apparently unlimited quantities of vodka, caviar, and salmon, interrupted only by frequent toasts and the constant appearance of senior officers at our table who were keen to make themselves known to me, with Nick interpreting in between mouthfuls. These, I presumed, were KGB management types from the Lubyanka who rarely left Moscow, and they were welcoming me into a fraternity. Among the dignitaries, completely unknown to me at the time, was Georgi Tsinev, the KGB’s First Deputy Chairman, and Brezhnev’s brother-in-law. No longer on probation, I was now aboard. It was not unlike a mafia celebration, in which I was being introduced to ‘the firm’, but the difference was that I was the golden boy with a commendation from Brezhnev himself, and everyone present was aware of it. The fact that this was, in my opinion, sheer beginner’s luck, as I had bumped into Nina entirely accidentally, with no planning involved, was apparently irrelevant. I had scored a considerable coup for the KGB and this was my reward. An invitation to Moscow was, so I was informed, a rare and signal honour for a field agent, and when I realised I was being feted as a star, and began to act the part. Certainly I looked the role, being relatively young, much fitter than I had been for years, deeply tanned by an African sun, and probably the embodiment of the white hunter, just in from the bush. With the KGB so used to dealing with homosexuals like Guy Burgess and Anthony Blunt, I must have appeared as a refreshing change, and few could doubt my heterosexual credentials. I had succeeded on all my assignments in Africa, and even in the single episode in Cotonou where my target had appeared reluctant; Kate had delivered the goods in the end. That particular experience had resulted in warnings being circulated to all KGB rezidenturas, alerting them to the possibility that the CIA had adopted the tactic of employing hookers to entrap its adversaries.
The banquet, evidently thrown in my honour, had the desired impact on me. For the past couple of years I had been a fugitive, looking over my shoulder, operating under a false identity and living on my wits. Now I was being feted by Moscow’s most senior intelligence officers and toasted as a hero. Nothing like this could ever have happened in England, either in the army or the police, both hidebound rigid structures handicapped by a class system and snobbery. Yet here I was, surrounded by the top of the tree, celebrating the quality of information contained in my dossier. This was the same information that had become so dangerous for me in London, and later would be ridiculed and rejected by that other supposed British elite, the Security Service. Of course, as I was to learn, the KGB had been beguiled, like so many others, into thinking that Scotland Yard was incorruptible. It had never occurred to them that there was an opportunity here to be exploited, and that the Metropolitan Police was just as vulnerable to penetration as any other branch of the British establishment. I simply told the truth about London’s CID, and the KGB soon came to realise the accuracy of my dossier on corruption, especially when Detective Sergeant Nobby Pilcher went down for four years in October 1973, and two of his detective constables had received eighteen months. We had been at training school together, and had both served at Bow Street, and Nobby had featured in my dossier, written long before he had faced any charges. Put bluntly, the police could be bought as easily as anyone else, and probably with rather less of an investment. Nor were these few prosecutions an indication of the willingness of the Yard to clean the Augean stables. In reality the Met had wanted to perpetuate the myth of the single bad apple, and pretend that an isolated case of corruption had been rooted out and eliminated, with the implication that Nobby’s example had no wider implications for the rest of the force. There was a logic in this, for the alternative meant getting rid of most of the Met’s three thousand detectives and starting again, which would be hard, if not impossible to contemplate. My view was that once an officer had taken the smallest bung, perhaps from a Covent Garden street porter, he would take a bribe from almost anyone, which left the system wide open to exploitation by the KGB if it moved fast enough. However, as I was to learn from Nick, I had rather overwhelmed the KGB’s analysts, and had provided them with far too many personalities to study and too much information to absorb. There had been no argument with my general interpretation, but I had been so productive that I had choked the system, and it had been unable to process all my material, let alone recommend particular courses of action. The impact of my dossier had been such that a team of specialists were to be gathered to consider the matter further.
On the day after the dinner I had another unusual experience. Nick turned up without warning to take me out to lunch, and accompanied me to a restaurant that appeared to be closed. He spoke a few magic words for us to get in, but after we had ordered some food he left me quite alone. There was just one other person in the restaurant, sitting diagonally opposite me, wearing distinctive glasses, who looked vaguely familiar. He turned and addressed me in quite good English, saying “that was a very good you did over Brandt”. I made some non-committal reply and thanked him for the compliment, but he did not introduce himself, and soon afterwards wiped his mouth with his napkin and left. When Nick turned up I asked him about the stranger who, I remarked, looked a little like his boss Yuri Andropov, and he replied with a smile “that was the Chairman”. So now I had been congratulated by the head of the KGB, the man who in 1982 would succeed Brezhnev as General-Secretary of the Communist Party.
Over the next few days I was debriefed by Nick and other KGB officers who wanted to hear about my adventures in Dar-es-Salaam, and were also keen to learn my view on particular personalities in London. This went far beyond my knowledge of corruption at the Yard, and included brief personality profiles of numerous other people, including MPs, whose names had been mentioned to me by members of the Dirty Squad. I was, at the time, quite bitter about how the establishment had worked against me, so I was quite strident in my opinions, although I doubt I compromised any single individual to the extent that they might have become a target for blackmail. It was just that the KGB, isolated in Moscow and heavily reliant on the limited reporting from the rezidentura in London, wanted to know how the country worked, and I was happy to give my somewhat jaundiced perspective. As well as getting this off my chest, I was enjoying the attention, which included an entire new wardrobe. I had arrived in Moscow with very little, so I was escorted to the hard currency shops to buy suits, ties, sports trousers, shoes and a fur-lined leather coat. I was not only licensed to kill, I was now dressed to kill!
Doubtless the psychologists would claim that I was a classic case of an attention-seeker, craving approval and approbation, but more likely the KGB recognised that all I needed was for my material needs to be taken care of, and to be treated with a degree of respect, or certainly the decency that I had not found in the Met. Flatter me, and I’m yours. Tell me you’re going to make my wildest dreams come true and I’ll do your bidding. Treat me like an idiot and I’ll bring the entire house down, myself along with it. Of course Marcel and Gold Tooth had probably submitted a psychological profile on me before I ever reached Moscow, as the Russians are keen on learning about what makes their sources tick, but now I was available for close-up scrutiny and could be examined as closely as any laboratory guinea-pig. Was I who I claimed to be? Could I still be working for a British secret service? Did I have what it takes to be a good spy or an outstanding lover? I knew that the KGB’s psychiatrists were thorough, and how much weight they attached to the underlying character and motivation of their agents. I was to learn that in the so-called ‘golden age’ of the legendary illegals in the pre-war era. The very best recruitments had been accomplished by Arnold Deutsch, once the NKVD illegal rezident in London who had successfully pitched Kim Philby, Guy Burgess and Anthony Blunt. His true profession? He had been a Vienna-trained psychologist who had worked under academic cover at London University. The very first task he had set each of his agents was to prepare a lengthy autobiography, disclosing their inner-most secret feelings and desires, which he had adapted into a psychological profile. It had been by adopting such methods that the Soviets had achieved such impressive results by penetrating the west’s most secret establishments.
My adherence to the KGB seemed entirely natural, at least to me. I was joining a new firm, gaining my colours, my wings, my whistle and mt arm-band, but this was not school, the army of the police. Hitherto I had been a half-hearted part-timer, a useful one-day-a-week fellow claiming expenses and medical aid, but now I was becoming known, had gained the trust of the KGB and was to be trained. The KGB itself was transforming from an exploitive, opportunistic manipulator into a considerate, even caring corporate employer, apparently concerned about career paths.
It was while I was still living in the suite in the Hotel Rossiya that I was introduced to General Oleg Kalugin who took me out to a splendid lunch in an oak-panelled private room above the Arbat restaurant. This was my first encounter with Kalugin proved to be a turning-point in my espionage career, for he was a sophisticated, cosmopolitan First Chief Directorate (FCD) operator who had spent a decade in the United States, first as a Fulbright Scholar studying journalism at Columbia University, and then as press attaché in the Soviet embassy in Moscow. Kalugin was the consummate professional who had handled some of the KGB’s best sources in America, and in February 1970 had returned to Moscow to be deputy chief of foreign counter-intelligence. His reputation was based on his role as case officer, over three years, for Chief Warrant Officer John A. Walker, a US Navy specialist assigned to the Atlantic Fleet’s submarine force headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia. As a watch officer in the message centre Walker possessed a top secret clearance and enjoyed access to huge quantities of cryptographic material, which in December 1967 he had started to sell to the KGB following a ‘walk-in’ visit to the Soviet embassy in Washington DC. Walker had been interviewed by a KGB security officer, Yakov Lukasevics, and Kalugin’s rezident, Boris Solomatin for two hours, and both had consulted Kalugin, the ‘Line PR’ political intelligence chief who had been impressed by a key-card for the KL-47 cipher machine that Walker had offered them for $1,000. Convinced that Walker was an authentic source, Kalugin had supervised the entire case until his return to Moscow in triumph.
Until his arrest in 1985 John Walker headed the most successful Soviet spy-ring ever to operate in the United States, and after his retirement from the US Navy had recruited his brother and son to maintain the supply of classified material. The breach of security was so great that the Soviets were estimated to have read more than a million of the US Navy’s most secret messages, and jeopardised the exact location of the entire submarine fleet. The person who received much of the credit for this ongoing intelligence bonanza was Oleg Kalugin, who returned to Moscow a hero, although only the Chairman, Yuri Andropov, and a few of the most senior KGB officers knew the details of his coup or why he had been decorated with the coveted Order of the Red Star. As if his handling had not been sufficient proof of Kalugin’s skills, he had also run a source inside the National Security Agency, the very same Robert Lipka who was, years later, to be betrayed by the Soviet defector Vasili Mitrokhin.
With the rank of lieutenant-colonel and subordinate only to the FCD Chief Aleksandr Sakharovsky, Kalugin had embarked on a project that really had very little prospect of success, but had been inspired by the embarrassing defection of Oleg Lyalin in London. A KGB post-mortem had established that Lyalin had manifested plenty of signs of unreliability before his defection, and both the rezident and his counter-intelligence adviser had been negligent, covering up for Lyalin when he had been discovered to have been conducting affairs with the wives of his colleagues. Kalugin’s solution, as he had suggested to Valery Boyarov of the KGB’s counter-intelligence branch, had been to attract some western defectors to Moscow, but a little research had revealed that the few who had come to live in the Soviet Union were far from favoured citizens. Perhaps the most famous of all had been Kim Philby, then living in alcoholic isolation and in miserable circumstances at his tiny flat. Kalugin had been determined to befriend Philby and transform his circumstances, and at about the same moment I had turned up, not exactly a defector, but certainly someone with a detailed knowledge of life in London, and with plenty of contacts. We both hit it off together, and became firm friends, perhaps because I had rather more to offer in current operational terms than either Philby or his fellow Cambridge conspirator, Donald Maclean, who was then in poor health, suffering from kidney failure, with whom he was at daggers drawn because Melinda Maclean had run off with Philby. Maclean was then working for a foreign policy institute and really had very little to do with the KGB, whereas Philby had been cultivated by Kalugin as he was a very poor advertisement for defection to Moscow. All the stories about Philby holding the rank of general and going to work at the KGB’s headquarters were complete bunkum, and the truth was that he sat at home in an alcoholic, occasionally suicidal stupor, trying to tune his radio to the BBC World Service. Until Kalugin had decided to exploit his undoubted talents, Philby had been a wasting asset, but the reality he had been completely out of touch with life in the west since he fled from Beirut in January 1963. Indeed, he had not really lived in London since 1956, when he moved to the Lebanon, so he was actually about twenty years out of date in terms of what he could offer the KGB about life in London.
Apart from George Blake, who had escaped from Wormwood Scrubs in 1966, having been imprisoned in 1961, the English defector community in Moscow was pretty thin on the ground, and really represented a burden to the KGB, and definitely not regarded as an asset. A former Met detective, on the other hand, knew his way around London as none of the others could ever hope to. Evidently Kalugin realised my potential, and it was not long before there was a clear purpose behind the KGB’s cultivation and flattery. From the gossip I was privy to, I was aware that I was associating with one of Dzerzhinsky Square’s few real stars. Aged forty, Kalugin had been promoted to be the organisation’s youngest general in 1974, and headed Directorate K, a self-contained, elite branch within the FCD that employed some seven hundred officers, divided into eight departments, the first of which was dedicated to penetrating the CIA. In a departure from the KGB orthodoxy, Kalugin had been authorised to adopt aggressive, counter-intelligence tactics to mount hostile operations against the KGB, using separate, dedicated reporting channels isolated from the usual FCD traffic, and therefore immune from betrayal, for the sole purpose of attracting and retaining spies of Kim Philby’s quality. It was this effective strategy that enabled the KGB’s Rem Krasilnikov, of the Second Chief Directorate, to exploit the leads to spies offered by Ames and Hanssen, without alerting the Americans. One of Kalugin’s successors in the Washington DC rezidentura was to be Viktor Cherkashin, a counter-intelligence specialist who, a little later, became the beneficiary of the windfall from these two self-recruited spies, one in the CIA, the other in the FBI. Once this information reached Moscow it was to be handled by Krassilnikov who, when I was in Moscow, had been chief of the SCD’s Second (British) Department before he had been transferred to run the First (North American) Department. Krassilnikov’s task was to identify and neutralise the spies incriminated by Cherkashin without compromising his two valued sources.
In the years that followed, I was to become one of Kalugin’s main agents, deployed against the unsuspecting wives of CIA personnel. Naturally I was never told exactly what Kalugin knew about me, but it was common-sense that as a counter-intelligence expert he must have wondered about where my allegiances lay, and whether I had been planted onto the KGB by SIS. He had certainly read the account I had written of my experiences in London, and the circumstances in which I had been obliged to start a new life in Africa, but he must have wondered about some of the inconsistencies. Why, he once asked me, if I was on the run from the police, had I been able to maintain contact with Bill Moody? It was a fair question, and it was quite hard to persuade an outsider with no knowledge of the hideous events then still unfolding in London, that although Moody had been the senior officer on the investigation team, he himself had much to lose if I had turned up and told all I knew about what he and his colleagues at the Yard had been up to for years. Kalugin told me that he had been astonished by my revelations of institutionalised corruption at every level of Scotland Yard, but his uneducated viewpoint, whilst widely shared, had been completely unrealistic and owed more to television propaganda than fact. It was true, historically, that the Met’s CID possessed far more technical and forensic resources than the county forces, especially before the amalgamation of the smaller provincial constabularies, and that the Murder Squad was often called in by inexperienced detectives to solve difficult crimes. These events enhanced the Yard’s reputation and made New Scotland Yard a building universally recognised, even if the Commissioner’s Office had long since moved to its present home, the bleak, soulless office block half a mile away in Victoria.
I had to explain to Kalugin that there were two sides to the Yard. One was seen by the public, which expected and generally received fair treatment from arguably the best police force in the world. The other perspective was that of the underworld, and a handful of bent lawyers, who understood that the CID kept professional criminals under control by the use of informants. Those sources came from the criminal fraternity and occasionally unorthodox methods had to be used to make a recruitment or ensure a conviction. Innocent members of the public had nothing to fear from such tactics because they were only applied against known villains, Moody, of course, had branched out on his own, with Wally Virgo, to make a business out of their duties and, as I saw it, I had been caught in the middle. The CID had almost nothing whatever to do with the intelligence services, and my continuing link with Harley, after my arrival in North Africa, was simply a matter of self-preservation, not evidence of any SIS operation. As I was to hear later, my connection with Harley had been discovered by the KGB in Rabat after a search had been made of my motor caravan which had revealed several letters from Harley, letting me know what was happening in London. After all, I had detailed in my original account how Harley had given me money to keep me in Morocco, and I would hardly have mentioned that if there was any sinister interpretation to it. Kalugin appeared to accept my assurances, which were on the level, and the issue was never raised again, probably because his cryptographic experts had failed to detect any signs of a hidden code. Doubtless the rezidentura in London had been asked to keep Moscow informed of developments in the much publicised clean-out at the Yard, and the KGB must have known quite enough about SIS’s operations to know that not even the most imaginative Wykehamist could have dreamed up such an elaborate scenario simply in the hope of ingratiating me with their opponents. Kalugin accepted me as a Met officer on the run, without any intelligence ties, and he was right to do so because that was precisely what I was. Indeed, initially he had considered sending me back to London to make contact with possible sources inside the police, but he soon changed his mind when I pointed out the flaws in such a plan. As it turned out, he had plenty of other ideas for me. In any event, he had been tremendously impressed by the way the information in my dossier turned out to be all too dreadfully true.
My initiation into the KGB followed a long holiday with Nick in the Soviet Union, to Leningrad, Armenia, Azerbaijan and a tour of Eastern Bloc countries, all paid for by my new employers who entirely understood the one condition I had imposed on our new relationship: I would be happy to work for them, but would not act against British targets or against British interests. Clearly, from the number of lengthy interviews I attended and the training I was given, the KGB had other ideas, and I underwent a course of seduction techniques provided by some very experienced women who clearly knew what they were talking about.
At that time I had never heard of a ‘Romeo spy’, and nor had many others, but evidently this was the mission that had been chosen for me. The leading exponent of this rather specialised field of espionage, involving the world’s two oldest professions and somewhat akin to a male Mata Hari, was Markus Wolf, and he had successfully penetrated Konrad Adenauer’s chancellery with an agent codenamed FELIX who pretended to be a sales representative marketing beauty products to hairdressers, and had seduced NORMA, one of the Chancellor’s less attractive secretaries. Their relationship had lasted for years until the BfV had started to take an interest in FELIX and he had been withdrawn to safety in East Berlin. Typically, Wolf had been able to exploit the situation by learning from FELIX of another potentially vulnerable secretary who worked for Hans Globke, Adenauer’s Secretary of State. She was promptly targeted by Wolf’s star Romeo, Hans Stöhler, and proved to be an excellent source, to the point that she was herself recruited as a spy and codenamed GUDRUN. She had continued to supply valuable information until Stöhler, a former Luftwaffe pilot whose cover was that of an estate agent, fell ill and was brought home to die. After his death GUDRUN, who thought she had been working for the KGB, gave up espionage, perhaps proving that she had been truly smitten by Stöhler and had only really spied for him. In this case Stöhler had pretended to be Russian, but Wolf often recruited under a ‘false flag’ which was a demanding role for any handler, and one relatively susceptible to discovery where someone masqueraded as a national of a foreign country. Ideally the HVA needed to deploy authentic, suitable foreigners to play such parts, but they were a commodity in short supply in the GDR.
Wolf’s skill at exploiting the vulnerabilities of women earned him a unique reputation, especially as his agents worked for love, not money, although when I was in Moscow only the KGB knew the full extent of the HVA’s operations. He recruited Gabrielle Gast, a BND analyst who had fallen for Karl-Heinz Schneider while she had been completing her doctorate in Karl-Marx-Stadt in 1968. Under his guidance she had applied for a job with the BND at its headquarters in Pullach and by 1987 was deputy chief of the BND’s Soviet Bloc political branch, and a dedicated covert to Communism. Three years later she was betrayed by a senior HVA officer anxious to ingratiate himself with the Federal Republic, who knew only that Wolf had been running a woman inside the BND for years, and she had adopted a handicapped child, but this was enough for the BfV to identify Gast and she was imprisoned.
While I was in Moscow Wolf was also handling Dagmar Kahlig-Scheffler, a twenty-seven year-old blonde divorcee and another of Stöhler’s conquests who in December 1975 had gone to work in Chancellor Helmut Schmidt’s private office, but was caught a couple of years later when her HVA controller, Peter Goslar, came under BfV surveillance. Goslar’s home had been searched and among the papers found had been Schmidt’s notes of a conversation with James Callaghan about his recent discussions with President Jimmy Carter. Goslar was then watched as he collected more information from Dagmar and, under interrogation, she revealed she had fallen for Stöhler while on holiday in Bulgaria with her seven year-old daughter, and she was sentenced to four years and five months’ imprisonment for espionage. It later emerged that Wolf had gone to considerable lengths to encourage the agent he knew by the codename INGE, even to the point of arranging a ‘Potemkin wedding’ for her. She believed that her marriage in East Berlin to Stöhler had been valid, but in fact the entire ceremony had been staged by the HVA, complete with a bogus pastor. Her commitment to Stöhler, whom she had known as Herbert Richter, was so complete that she had even agreed to send her daughter to a boarding school in Switzerland so she could devote more time to him, and to espionage.
Kahlig-Scheffler always knew that her lover was an East German, although she thought he was an engineer and not an HVA officer, whereas Helge Berger, a buxom secretary in the Foreign Ministry, believed that the handsome ‘Peter Krause’ she met in Bonn in 1966 was a South African working for the British SIS. This was a classic false flag operation, complete with a senior ‘British’ officer who flew in to Frankfurt to debrief her. Actually, he was a former Wehrmacht prisoner of war who spoke very fluent English and persuaded her to supply her boyfriend with thousands of copies of classified documents over the next six years until she was arrested and sentenced to four and a half years’ imprisonment.
Wolf’s best false flag operator was Roland Gandt who persuaded a German secretary at SHAPE, at Fontainbleau, that he was a Danish intelligence officer operating in France under journalistic cover. Accepting that Roland was a national of another NATO country, Margerete fell for him in Vienna but, as a devout Roman Catholic, insisted that she should confess her espionage to a priest. Ever the master of improvisation, Wolf had arranged for a bogus priest to hear her confession at a remote Jutland church, and give her an equally worthless absolution.
The false flag was a flexible technique which could be tailored to suit any individual target, and depended largely on the skill of the Romeo. In the example of Dietmar Schumacher, another of Wolf’s stars, he had kept up the pretence of being a peace activist named Olaf for the twelve years of his relationship with an English secretary, Helen Anderson. Codenamed MARY, she had been persuaded by her lover to stay in Germany and obtain a job at a US Army base in West Berlin where she stole classified NATO documents for him. She was only arrested in March 1992 when Schumacher’s HVA controller, Karl-Henz Michalek, confessed, compromising Schumacher who was revealed as a man with a wife, Margarite, in East Germany, and a son. Because Anderson was able to demonstrate that she had no idea her lover had been a Communist spy, she was sentenced to just two weeks’ community service before she settled down in Arbroath, while Schumacher received a suspended prison term of twelve months.
Another of Wolf’s Romeos, Herbert Schöter, started an affair with Gerda Osterreider, a slender nineteen year-old student who was on a languages course at the Alliance Francaise in Paris. When she returned to Bonn in 1966 she got a job as a cipher clerk in the Foreign Office and gave her lover the original teletype tape on which incoming diplomatic telegrams were printed. Five years later she was posted to Warsaw where, in Schöter’s absence, she had taken up with a German journalist to whom she had confessed her espionage, and when he reported her she was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment.
Like Berger, some of these agents were appalled to discover how they had been duped, while others remained loyal, and in these circumstances Wolf sometimes managed to obtain their early release in a spy-swap. This happened to Renate Lutze, a secretary in the Ministry of Defence who married her Romeo, Lothar, in September 1972, and was arrested with him at their Bonn apartment in June 1976. She was sentenced to six years, he to twelve, but later they were freed in an exchange negotiated by Wolf.
The women who spied for the HVA seem to have been motivated primarily by their almost blind devotion to their lovers, a common denominator that Wolf perceived as more important than ideology or nationality. At the time, few appreciated the potential of the Romeo, and it was only when the HVA’s archives fell into western hands, and Rainer Rupp was sentenced to twelve years’ imprisonment, that the scale of the operation was fully grasped. Rupp’s English wife Ann, codenamed TURQUOISE, had worked at NATO’s headquarters and had willingly spied for her HVA husband, whose name had appeared in a file marked TOPAZ. She received a twenty-two month suspended prison sentence in 1994. Wolf’s other agents included Ingrid Garbe, a member of the FRG’s mission at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels; Ursel Lorenzen, who worked in NATO’s general secretariat; Imelda Verrept, a Belgian secretary in NATO; Inge Goliach, who had penetrated the CDU; Christel Broszey, secretary to the CDU’s deputy leader Kurt Biedenkopf; Helga Rödiger, a secretary in the FRG’s Ministry of Finance; and Ursula Höfs, a secretary in the CDP. All these agents had been persuaded to spy by their Romeo lovers, but the BfV failed to grasp Wolf’s strategy until 1979 when the new BfV president, Dr Richard Meier, belatedly introduced a new vetting procedure, codenamed Operation REGISTRATION, to screen the partners of single women holding sensitive posts. This innovation precipitated the hasty withdrawal of several agents and their lovers, but the principle had been well established. Given the right circumstances, a well-groomed, presentable man could achieve access to important secrets using vulnerable women as surrogates. Wolf had proved the strategy was effective, and the KGB had been looking for suitable candidates when I had turned up. As it was explained to me by Nick, I was not to develop any long-term relationships with my target women, but rather was to act as a reconnaissance, soften them up for others, making the initial approach to see if they would be compliant. After I had bedded them and established the extent of their access to information of interest to the KGB, I was to move on. According to Nick, there was no shortage of suitable candidates waiting for my attention.
My encounters with Nina had demonstrated that I was quite inexperienced sexually, and had little idea of any sophisticated technique, and even less of foreplay, so the KGB had decided to rectify the situation.
A blonde, good-looking tour guide, whom I met casually in the hotel bar, offered to take me to the famous Moscow Zoo and soon Katinka and I were going everywhere on the metro, visiting all the city’s famous tourist attractions. She was a typical Russian, blonde with soft, velvet blue eyes, beautiful high cheek-bones, good body and reasonable English. She had what you might call English skin, clear and transparent like alabaster, wonderful to the touch. Her rosy cheeks blushed naturally and she had the look of those long-legged peasant girls, originally of German extraction, from the area around the Volga.
Katinka eventually came to my room after dinner, and on our second night together she began to give me some guidance on bedroom manners, as though our first night together had been some kind of assessment. Actually, this was precisely what it had been, although I gained the impression, from a couple of remarks she made, that she had seen my performance with Nina. This could only have happened if our trysts had been filmed, and therefore served to confirm my suspicion that the hotel room we had shared in Berlin had been wired for vision as well as sound.
My orthodox, repressed approach to sex, which in my youth had consisted of fumbles behind the rugby club, had never extended to oral sex, and my new teacher revealed to me that there should be much more to love-making than jumping on a woman and reaching a climax as quickly as possible. Over the next few days, after I had attended numerous lectures on secret writing, communications and other tradecraft, she took me in hand in my hotel bedroom and gave me a very practical grasp of how to bring a woman to orgasm, and help her experience multiple climaxes. She was so skilful that it took me some time to realize that she was a KGB officer, and was undertaking an assignment to improve my performance, albeit with obvious enthusiasm. She regarded sex as an art, and educated me to understand and appreciate the very physical needs of women. Her subtlety and tact were so considerate that I did not instantly appreciate that no foreigner could entertain a Soviet in his hotel room without the consent, if not the active planning of my KGB friends. Such contacts were strictly forbidden and there were hotel employees on every floor ensure the rules were obeyed. By definition, throughout the Cold War, any visit to a floor reserved to foreign visitors by a local Russian had to have been authorised by the KGB.
On our first night together we had enjoyed our lovemaking and Katinka had appeared entirely satisfied with my performance, although in retrospect I now realise I had made very little effort at foreplay, for on our second night she had asked me whether there was a fire in the building. What’s the hurry? Why rush? She started to take control and, while I found this mildly disconcerting, but recalled the doggerel version of the advice given to Prince Albert before he bedded Victoria: ‘Don’t diddle without a fiddle, fiddle before you diddle, and the more you fiddle the better you diddle’.
Once I had begun intercourse Katinka again urged me to go slowly and not rush to a climax, and at one point when I had reached a gallop she gave my penis a small pinch which had the effect she desired without losing my erection. Coitus could be extended, she insisted, if I made the mental application and diverted your thoughts briefly.
On our third and fourth nights I was performing to Katinka’s exacting standards, on night four bring her to a genuine climax, and thereby learned how to recognise the genuine article, in contrast to the fake variety so often play-acted by women. On the fifth night
Prior to my encounter with Katinka my attitude to love-making had been very pedestrian and, as I was to soon acknowledge, completely selfish. I learned that it was really a matter of good manners to ensure that one’s partner should have at least one orgasm before the man gains his. I also came to realise that there are many different ways of bringing a woman to a climax, as they are all quite different, but if one does not have time for lengthy experimentation the solution is to create the right atmosphere, and then exercise one’s skills at cunnilingus. Quite simply, very few women can resist a gentle massage of their clitoris by a man’s tongue. Getting to that stage, however, is also a matter of technique.
Under Katinka’s tuition I developed what can only be described as an art of seduction, which at the outset involved mild flirtation, a lot of eye contact and a few gentle hand squeezes. This was then followed by a very casual kiss on any area of open skin. Katinka explained about the sensitivity of women’s arms, so that even a gentle, lingering brush of one’s lips across a forearm, when the opportunity arose, could set the hormones rushing. I had been more used to a rushed fumble behind the bushes and a struggle with a bra strap, but I was made to see that the unthreatening gradual approach was far more stimulating to a woman. It turned out that although hitherto I had not fully appreciated the advantages of Katinka’s strategy, it made sense and was complemented by some of my natural instincts. I had been taught from an early age to get to my feet whenever a lady entered the room, and my instinctive use of drawing-room manners always made a favourable impression, especially in foreign women who tend to notice men holding doors open for them, or inviting ladies to walk through a doorway first. Even my service in the Metropolitan Police had not erased my memory of the good manners required in the officers’ mess, and I was able to play on expectations of how a gentleman should behave.
I suppose I had been too busy, embarrassed or inhibited to read the Kama Sutra, Masters & Johnson, or any of the literature on sexual behaviour, but Katinka gave me a wonderful course on the female anatomy and what are now referred to rather clinically as erogenous zones, starting with the ears, neck and then the rest of the body. Under her guidance I learned that there was indeed such a phenomenon as a nipple orgasm, and that many women can be brought to experience a special kind of climax simply by gentle manipulation and sucking of an erect nipple. Of course, this does not occur in all women, and I had noticed, for example, that African women had very little feeling in their nipples. On the other hand, others can only reach a climax with the help of continuous, sometimes not so gentle nipple-pinching, as I was to discover within a year when I was in South Africa, hitting on a thirty-something American librarian in a cultural centre sponsored by the Agency for International Development. She had demanded some rough treatment to her nipples and had turned up at my hotel the following day, with quite bruised nipples, to have them massaged and caressed back to their usual sensitivity. This had not been my idea of giving, or receiving pleasure or sexual gratification, but I made the sacrifice. Everything I had been told by my truly gifted instructor turned out to be true, including the more esoteric information that at the time I rather thought she had made up.
All the breast is hyper-sensitive to touch, and women love a gradual, zig-zag manoeuvre before the tongue finally finds its objective. Combined with a whispered admiration for her breast, this tactic eliminates any apprehension and creates confidence. One way to prevent a woman from achieving an orgasm is to undermine her confidence as the process is as much mental as it is physical. Women spend a long time wondering about their own breasts, and comparing them to those of their friends, so a few murmured words of admiration go a long way. I soon came to believe that with a little encouragement most women are very keen to show off their bodies and play to an appreciative audience. My sole task, at the initial stage, as Katinka explained, was to instil that confidence in my partner and gain their trust. All women have different special erogenous zones, and in the right circumstances they are usually willing to confide what really turns them on, although shyness and social inhibitions often prevent this vital information from being communicated. These are her secret points, usually only discussed in women’s magazines, but often imparted to Muslim men, especially in Pakistan, at an early age.
On the issue of oral sex, I was a complete novice, and truthfully I really had not had any experience of going down on a woman. According to Katinka, this was the really crucial dimension to love-making. Also, much the same tactics were required as before. The slow, diversionary kisses of the tummy and inner thighs, gradually licking and kissing one’s way up to one partner’s knickers. More tantalising and teasing should follow before finally, almost imperceptibly, pulling the gusset aside and letting one’s tongue caress the rim of the labia, scarcely touching it, while simultaneously working at a nipple with one’s thumb and forefinger.
The really delicate part of my training concerned the manipulation of the clitoris, that mysterious part of the female anatomy about which I had been completely ignorant until Katinka’s expert tuition. It may be that some women have a ‘G-spot’ in the wall of their vagina, but there is no guarantee that ordinary intercourse will either stimulate it or even have any impact on it at all. However, there can be no doubting the powerful effect of a tongue flickering over and around the clitoris. Just a few moments of this treatment will cause the lips of the labia swell, and this is a good moment to probe the vagina itself, either with a finger or a tongue. Within a minute the attention should return to the now extremely sensitive area around the clitoris, and a rhythmic circular motion of the tongue will start the little tremors or vibrations that suggest a climax is close. The final push over the end can be achieved either by a very gentle introduction of a tooth, or the tongue just faintly touching the tip of the now extended clit.
A clitoral orgasm brought on by gentle cunnilingus has an effect that lasts for several seconds and doubtless there is an elaborate medical explanation for the physiological changes that occur as the tension and pheronomes are released, but some moments of quiet, with some kissing to the breast and neck will have a definite psychological effect, and the whole experience will change the nature of the relationship. After the first couple of orgasms more experimentation will establish particular preferences, and some women adore their entire external genitalia to be taken into a man’s mouth and gently manipulated. Others prefer a gentle bite as the climax approaches, but everyone has their own favourite, and the secret is to induce a state of ecstasy where usual inhibitions are abandoned. I learned that many women never experience an orgasm from a man, but those that do can develop a physical, as well as a mental dependence on their partner, which is the moment when the Romeo spy can make his needs known.
The climax itself is, for a woman, a moment of great significance because something is happening within almost ever fibre of the body over which they have almost no control. She has reached an erotic state where she is on the point of giving up her entire self, ready for takeover. You, the man, is the person supervising this phenomenon, and thus the man acquires considerable influence, if not mental power. The man has taken a position of importance in his partner’s emotional life, and having delivered her to a place of complete satisfaction, she is very likely to want to repeat the experience, and it was to be my task to exploit their minds too. Under Katinka’s gentle tutelage I felt as though I had been transformed into a 200mph sports car, cruising in a 30mph limit, and I was anxious to put my training to the test.
When I returned to Moscow after a visit to Leningrad I encountered a second teacher, a olive-skinned, black-eyed oriental beauty from Kazakhstan in Soviet central Asia with body curves that would have inspired Rodin. We met casually, and in retrospect I suspect she was probably a professional because she took a cool, detached businesslike approach to our relationship and taught me some interesting new techniques, including one using hot wax, which I never found an opportunity to use in the field, and another using ice cubes. A veritable encyclopaedia of sex, she had explained about the necessity od mastering the urgencies of one’s own body and how to apply heat and cold to the sex organs. First of all she dampened my ardour by preparing a kind of ice poultice, of crushed ice wrapped in a towel, and doused me with it, then using her mouth and tongue over the area that had been so cold. The difference in temperature proved astonishingly exciting, especially when she repeated the exercise, and I did the same to her. Taking really sensitive parts of the body from below freezing to 98.4 degrees has tremendous erotic potential, and is entirely risk free. She also showed me how to apply ice to her nipples, then moving my lips to them, causing them to spring up stiff and instantly erect. Forever afterwards, whenever a woman has asked a waiter for more ice, I have had to suppress my amusement, but have occasionally allowed my giggles to be an opportunity to explain my mirth and indulge in a little flirtation.
Her other pleasure, in anal sex, she claimed was shared by fifty percent of women, and at her insistence I obliged her frequently, although I was hesitant to do so, accepting that this was another sacrifice I would have to make to please the KGB. My Kazakhstani teacher also introduced me to bondage, telling me that many women, herself included, gained huge pleasure from being restrained, either lightly with their hands tied loosely, or manacled with chains as though they had been enslaved. I was never particularly enthralled with this fetish, but I took the view that if the KGB wanted to send me across the world at their expense, the lady being bedded was entitled to whatever she wanted, and it was my responsibility to satisfy her needs. It was essential, my tutor explained, that the ties or rope around a woman’s wrists must always be sufficiently loose to allow her to slip of them should she feel the need to do so. She also revealed that many women will already have scarves or restraining devices handy, and in the middle of love-making may call out ‘top drawer’, to indicate where they are kept. In such circumstances I should express no surprise, but take it all in my stride. Her final piece of advice was to avoid being tied up myself in case ‘Yankee bandits’ burst through the door when I was bound to the bedposts!
I only lasted a couple of weeks with my new teacher, by which time she had judged me proficient. Either that, or I was enjoying my work too much! The final test had been an earth-shattering, simultaneous clitoral and vaginal orgasm which had engulfed my teacher. “Fascinating” I had remarked, feigning detachment. “Thank you, darlink” she had replied. Goodness knows where she had learned her trade but Miss Kazakhstan certainly knew how to put it to good use and even inducted me into masochism and the joys of hot candle wax, inflicting just enough pain to heighten one’s pleasure, but leaving no permanent skin damage. I never had to use this technique on my targets, and on the couple of occasions I lit a candle thinking a woman might like it, I found she would go all gooey and romantic instead!
During the day I was given training by a KGB retiree, introduced to me as ARTHUR, whom I met in a safe-house near the KGB headquarters at Yasenevo. He told me that he had operated in the United States, and when he mentioned he had been arrested and exchanged in a spy-swap, I thought perhaps he might have been the legendary Rudolf Abel, but in fact he had died in 1971, so his precise identity remains a mystery to me. Whoever he was, he looked a little like my grandfather, albeit without his broken nose, being short and bald. He spoke perfect English with a slight American accent and I recall that he said he came from the city that had been the capital of Russia before Ivan the Terrible. I recall that he put particular emphasis on the use of hats, claiming that witnesses always remember a trilby or a straw hat, rather than the person wearing it. He was enthusiastic about disguises, advocating the use of false beards and moustaches, and the application of skin darkeners. He also recommended wearing glasses and scarves which could be discarded on a train so one’s appearance is completely altered by the time one alights, and gave other tips on how to elude clandestine surveillance. Such counter-surveillance measures are all tricks of the trade, and ARTHUR knew them all.
The use of aliases and cover names, even among members of the same organisation, while odd to the outsider, is standard practice within almost all intelligence communities, and is intended to protect the professionals when they undertake assignments abroad. Similarly, their reports will be sourced to a codename, almost certainly unknown to the person involved, and this measure is also designed to avoid compromising the individual concerned. Accordingly, it took me some time to learn that ‘Nick’s’ real first-name was Viktor, and that I appeared in the KGB’s files as SCOT. Such matters are entirely routine for insiders, but I only grasped the implications after weeks of indoctrination and training.
As well as training me to satisfy women, I underwent an intensive course on surveillance and counter-surveillance techniques, and we practised in the streets of Moscow but, whenever I was sure I had shaken off my tail, someone unexpectedly touched my shoulder to show they still had me in sight. I never saw more than half a dozen of my opponents, but the KGB must have deployed far more.
At that stage, of course, I had never heard the expressions ‘Romeo spy’ or ‘Red Casanova’, and it would be some years before such tabloid terms came into my vocabulary, but it was not long before I realised that this was what the KGB had in mind for me. Despite my complete naiveté regarding women, I had always known that I was considered physically attractive by the opposite sex. This state of affairs had dated back to my childhood when a neighbour, Mary Potts, had stalked me on my way home from school, and she had become such a nuisance that I had altered my route to avoid going past her house, a precaution that was made all the more difficult because she only lived two doors away, and seemed to be permanently on the look-out for me. Stalking is the modern term, but it is entirely appropriate to what I experienced, albeit on a non-threatening level.
My first practical test was set by the Second Chief Directorate, having been lent to them by the FCD, which I found to be very generous employers, always flush with roubles. The difference between the two branches of the organisation was considerable, with my colleagues in the FCD being an elite, behaving like gentlemen, and reminding me of my days as an army officer. In contrast, the Second Chief Directorate was run by men very reminiscent of some of the thugs I had encountered in the Yard’s specialist squads. I soon learned that many of them wanted to join the FCD and took correspondence language courses to improve their chances of switching over to the KGB’s most prestigious branch, foreign intelligence. Like the FCD, the Second Chief Directorate was sub-divided into geographical branches, with its Second Department covering Britain, Canada and Australasia. The First Department, of course, was aimed against ‘the Main Adversary’, the CIA. The division of responsibilities meant that targets such as John Vassall, compromised by SCD personnel in Moscow, were handled upon their return home by FCD case officers attached to the local rezidentura, so it was quite a novelty for SCD officers to travel abroad. Usually when they did so it was in connection with a recruitment made in Moscow, or perhaps on temporary duty to provide security for a delegation overseas. It was on just such an assignment to Geneva in February 1964 that Yuri Nosenko had defected to the CIA and revealed the scale of the SCD’s technical operations against foreign diplomatic missions in Moscow. On that occasion, guided by Nosenko’s detailed information, US State Department ‘sweepers’ had found and removed more than sixty listening devices installed in the fabric of the US Embassy. Nosenko had previously approached the CIA in Geneva in June 1962, when his lurid tales of homosexual entrapment in Moscow had convinced his debriefers of his authenticity, and led them to pass on to MI5 a tip about a British victim of the Second Department of the SCD who had been blackmailed into espionage, and was quickly identified as John Vassall.
It was only after I had agreed to help the SCD that I learned from my new handler, who looked like the boxer Jack Dempsey, of their interest in the British embassy and its staff. Hitherto I had regarded the KGB as a gigantic monolith, and had paid no attention to its various sub-divisions, but I quickly learned that the SCD ruled Moscow and took a close interest in all the foreign embassies in the capital. They appeared to have almost unlimited resources to devote to surveillance, licensed the hookers who trawled the hotels in search of foreign clients, and even provided the locally-employed staff who could be found in almost every diplomatic mission. Every businessman, tourist, diplomat and foreign student came under the SCD’s scrutiny, and many were selected for special attention by the KGB’s expert watchers of the Seventh Directorate. The objective was to identify the professional intelligence officers engaged in hostile operations, break the commercial or diplomatic covers of case officers seeking to communicate with their spies in the capital, and run offensive operations against potentially profitable targets. These activities ranged from the casual ‘dangle’ where a Soviet approached a candidate and offered to supply tempting information, to the elaborate honey traps, using ‘swallows’ or ‘ravens’ to blackmail the unwary. In the not so recent past I was aware of the case of Commander Anthony Courtney, a Tory MP who had been filmed in action, through a two-way mirror in his room in the Ukrainia, with a local beauty, Zinaida Volkova, his Intourist guide, and then threatened with exposure if he failed to cooperate, and the wretched John Vassall who had fallen for a handsome young skier and caught on camera in flagrante delicto. Whereas Courtney had resisted the rather crude attempt to coerce him, but had lost his wife and his Harrow East Parliamentary constituency as a result when some compromising photos were circulated in London, Vassall had succumbed to the KGB’s pressure and had agreed to pass his contacts secret documents from the British embassy where he worked as the naval attaché’s clerk. Indeed, Vassall had proved an excellent investment for the FCD because he had continued to spy undetected for the next seven years until his arrest in September 1962. The SCD’s methodology was to survey the embassy, spot the SIS station commander posing as a diplomat, look for a security man from MI5, and then watch the rest of the staff for any opportunities. To assist in achieving its objectives the SCD tapped all the phone lines, monitored any wireless traffic, placed bugs in all the walls, floors and furniture, and ensured that only its own UPDK personnel were allowed to work as cleaners, maids, guides, drivers, interpreters, telephonists and administrative staff. Although supposedly a semi-independent state agency, the UPDK was a monopoly wholly controlled by the SCD which selected and vetted its personnel and chose who would work where. According to one of the rumours I heard, the SCD even ran its own sex training school at Verkhonoye, near Kazan, for its agents. For many years the SCD had been headed by the notorious General Oleg Gribanov whose successes included blackmailing the long-serving French ambassador, Maurice Dejean, who had been seduced by a KGB ‘swallow’, and his air attaché, Colonel Louis Guibaud. Stories had circulated in Moscow about a French diplomat who had been so delighted by the blackmail photos pictures by the KGB’s hidden cameraman that allegedly he had asked for extra copies, but in reality Dejean had succumbed to the coercion, whereas Guibaud eventually had committed suicide. It had been the defection in London of a KGB co-optee, the playwright Yuti Krotkov, in September 1963, that had alerted the west to the fact that Vassall’s experience had not been an isolated incident. He had played a part in the Dejean affair, introducing the ambassador to his seductress, and according to him, even Dejean’s beautiful wife had been the victim of a separate attempt to seduce her. Thus the French embassy had been the focus of the SCD’s malign attention and, under the new management of General Grigori F. Grigorenko, the British were about to get more of the same treatment.
As for the British Embassy itself, it was accommodated in an elegant mansion, owned in Czarist times by a wealthy merchant, on the Moscow River, overlooking the Kremlin on the opposite bank. The building itself was an architectural gem, but it was totally unsuited to be an embassy, apart from its prestigious position. The fabric was poorly maintained, and was so riddled with bugs that the Foreign Office security branch had installed a ‘bubble’, a transparent sound-proof box made of perspex in which sensitive conversations could be held without fear of being overheard, or intercepted by the kind of sophisticated electronic eavesdropping devices that the visiting ‘sweepers’ would discover from time to time. No sooner had a microphone been discovered and removed, a replacement was installed by one of the many locally-employed UPDK staff. As for its geographic location, it was an easy target for the KGB because it was a low structure, dwarfed by other buildings nearby from which the KGB could monitor its radio traffic. Thus, despite its wonderful appearance and outlook, the site was, from an espionage viewpoint, a security disaster. Better still, for the KGB, there was only one entrance and exit, so all arrivals and departures could be logged easily.
Quite apart from the success achieved in 1955 with Vassall, the SCD had entrapped the ambassador, Sir Geoffrey Harrison, in 1968, who had fallen for Galya, his enticingly attractive Russian maid, thoughtfully supplied by the UPDK. An experienced career diplomat who had served previously as ambassador in Brazil and Iran, Sir Geoffrey had bedded Galya in his private apartment while his wife was away and, when he realised his folly, had been withdrawn hastily to London and replaced before any pressure had been applied to him. His indiscretion had been hushed up, but it had wrecked the end of what otherwise would have been a faultless career. Far from discouraged by this episode, the SCD’s Second Department, then headed by Rem Krassilnikov, had completed a study of the current ambassador, Sir Terence Garvey, and his staff of forty diplomats, and found what it hoped were a few vulnerabilities.
Krassilnikov had a full head of snow-while hair and looked, as his nickname of ‘the professor’ suggested, more like a genial academic. He had learned his trade in the First Chief Directorate, in Canada and Beirut, and had been responsible for running a mole inside the RCMP Security service, James Morrison, codenamed FRIEND. Although fired from the RCMP for fraud, Morrison was the subject of a lengthy molehunt codenamed LONG KNIFE but, thanks to Krassilnikov’s consummate skill as a spymaster, was not caught until he made a televised confession years later. However, Krassilnikov’s advancement within the FCD had been handicapped by his Jewish parentage, and when he had been denied a rezidentura of his own he had switched to the SCD where he had been coached by Philby and Blake on the techniques employed by his British adversaries. Rem was himself the son of a Soviet intelligence officer, and his first name was an acronym for the Russian phrase ‘world revolution’. His devotion to the Party can be judged by the fact that his wife was named Ninel – ‘Lenin’ spelt backwards! Altogether, Krassilnikov was a shrewd old bird who knew just what he wanted from the British.
My target, I was informed, was a woman, codenamed VERA, and my task, in January 1975, was to establish whether VERA was a genuinely a lonely figure, or whether she had some more sinister role. One evening she had made a reservation at the Opera, and my instructions were to approach her during the interval in the bar, masquerading as a French Canadian professor of organic chemistry who was visiting Moscow for an academic conference. We started to chat and I realised she was a very decent young lady, a junior diplomat on her first overseas posting. I walked her back to her apartment building, and agreed to meet me again. We soon got to know each other quite well, and during one of our dates I bought her an amber bracelet, paid for by the SCD. She was slim, with a good figure and it was not long before she was inviting me back to her flat, but I deliberately kept my distance because I had no wish to take advantage of her, whatever the wishes of the SCD, and I grew to like her as a social equal who did not deserve to be exploited. Certainly she was vulnerable and isolated, but that was all the more reason to treat her with respect. My only difficulty was explaining all this to the SCD who saw such people as opportunities, targets and victims, not unlike the hard men from the Yard, and my remedy was to extract myself in a manner that the Soviets would recognise as final, by telling them that VERA was a virgin, and absolutely determined to remain so until she was married.
I was uncomfortable working with what I referred to contemptuously as ‘the Second Division’ and my discontent mounted when I heard about some of the other projects they had in mind for me. One suggestion was that I should mingle with groups of English tourists to verify precisely who they were. At the time Dzerzhinsky Square supposedly was being inundated with offers to spy from visitors. According to the SCD, almost every tour group included someone who would try and establish contact with the KGB and volunteer ro become an agent. Allegedly the numbers had grown to such levels that they had become unmanageable and the SCD was anxious to weep out the suspected agents provocateurs before any time was wasted on them. Were they decoys or truly authentic? I thought it highly unlikely that the KGB was being overwhelmed by wannabe spies, and I certainly saw no role for myself in this exercise. Indeed, the last thing I wanted was to mix with English tourists and risk being recognised. Accordingly, I rejected the idea, as I did the SCD’s alternative project, to help stamp out some of the rampant black-market activity. The SCD complained that illicit money trading and icon smuggling had reached epidemic proportions, and wanted to know whether this was mere opportunism or if it was being run by organised crime. My intended task was to pose as an innocent tourist, hang around the foreign currency bars and infiltrate the gangs, but again I refused the proposal as such operations were too risky for my taste or talents.
After my lengthy vacation with Nick I returned to Moscow for more tradecraft training, and then was given some unarmed combat training from a harmless-looking man named Andrei who told me how to kill someone by squeezing their Adam’s Apple, and blocking their windpipe. He also showed me other lethal techniques, such as pressure to the carotid article to stop the blood supply to the brain, and the use of a plastic bag over the head to suffocate them. My tutor Andrei told me that his father had headed the KGB’s elite Spetnaz special forces, and now lived next-door to Leonid Brezhnev. According to his reputation, he had been sent to Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968 to help round up the counter-revolutionaries suspected of undermining the regime.
Andrei was fluent in English and Chinese, and demonstrated a talent for card-tricks. He also led me to believe that he had been taught at some stage by Kim Philby, a disclosure which followed a discussion we had when Andrei corrected my pronunciation of the word ‘often’. He preferred ‘offen’, a toff’s pronunciation which, he explained, had been recommended by Philby, whom he regarded as a master of the King’s English. I was amused by this episode, wondering how long anyone with such an accent would last in south London’s underworld. Later I would spend a lot of time with Andrei, and even went on an assignment with him, meeting him in Finland. He was always tremendous company, and we travelled across the Baltic together, visiting Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. It was on this trip that he challenged me about my alias of Eddie Herbert, and asked why Nick always called me John. I replied that John was merely a codename, just as Nick was not really Viktor’s true name. Obviously Andrei knew Nick’s true name, and pursued the matter no further. The incident had no adverse impact on our relationship and, soon afterwards, when I expressed some boredom at the constant round of drinks, salt fish, more drinks, visits to battlefields and monasteries in Estonia, he asked the KGB in Riga to provide some female company, and I was supplied with a very attractive Estonian girl to keep me entertained.
Later I was introduced to Valentin, a KGB officer who had served in London but, like Nick, had been expelled. Like the retiree codenamed ARTHUR, he took me through the principles of secret writing, finding dead-drops, surveying for signal sites, and handling money and passports.
Valentin, of course, was not his real name, and I soon learned that he was Vladimir A. Loginov, a former KGB boxing champion who had been a boy soldier during the siege of Leningrad and had witnessed the most terrible of battle scenes. He been sent on an ill-fated mission to Mexico to foment social unrest. That assignment had ended in disaster, so he had learned English for a new posting to London. There he had been declared persona non grata in 1968 when he had been caught hanging around with a colleague near MI5’s secret garage in Barnard Road, Battersea, making a note of the index numbers as the watcher vehicles came in and out. Evidently MI5 had spotted Loginov and had tipped off the police, who had sent a patrol car to arrest the two officials from the Soviet Trade Delegation. According to Loginov, there had been quite a scuffle in which he had floored two of the policemen, but they had taken their revenge when he had been confronted with a whole crowd of their colleagues back at Battersea Police Station who had given him a real seeing to. Despite this incident Loginov bore no grudge, and joked that the KGB rezidentura in London at that time included “Longenough, Strongenough and Goodenough, all characteristics of the Russian penis!”
Valentin accompanied me to his home in Leningrad, a flat overlooking the racetrack, and regaled me with harrowing stories about his experiences during the war. He also introduced me to a subordinate who looked very like Vladimir Putin, who showed me around the city. It was here that we seriously discussed my future, and I decided to throw in my lot with the KGB. Thanks to Nina, or maybe the bald-headed barman in his ridiculous costume who had introduced us, I had become a person in the eyes of the KGB, and its personnel were treating me as a human being. I was no longer a stranger in a foreign land, and not just an interesting encyclopaedia on the subject of police corruption in London. I had achieved some status among the KGB, and when I talked about the future, especially with Nick, he was at pains to set my mind at rest. Money had been sent to my mother, and had been delivered in person in cash. No, Nick could not tell me the precise sum involved, but the payment had been authorised at a very senior level. I had not seen my family for three years, and Nick was willing to arrange for my mother to bring my children out to Morocco so we could discuss our plans. Barbara also received an unexpected cheque for £1,500, thus easing another domestic problem, and allowing her to bring my son Alex to visit me in Morocco. Did she want to join me and live in Africa? As it turned out, she had acquired a new boyfriend in England who was willing to act as father to my son, and had no wish to live abroad, but Nick helped me handle these issues.
While in Rabat with Barbara I was able to solve a little mystery that had bothered me ever since my conversations with Nick at the Black Sea villa. He had seemed to know rather more about me than I had anticipated, and had sprung Ian Harley’s name on me. Upon my return to Morocco I had found that my motor caravan had been removed from the car park where I had left it, and when the owner gave me a description of the two men who had removed it weeks earlier, I immediately recognised Marcel and Gold Tooth. Obviously the two KGB men had taken it to tear it apart, which is what would have been required to find my carefully hidden correspondence with Ian Harley. It would have taken a chain-saw to reveal the caravan’s secrets, and the thought of some of my most valued possessions, including my father’s fishing-rods, being ripped apart by that pair had infuriated me. In fact I was so angry that I had stormed off to the Soviet Embassy in Rabat and made a scene at the gate, demanding to see Gold Tooth, but of course I was refused entry. However, I must have made quite an impact because Nick later chastised me for creating an incident, and warned me to keep away in future from all Soviet diplomatic missions. Better still, he promised the KGB would replace the missing vehicle.
If it had not been for Nina I might have been on my way back to Morocco, sucked dry of my knowledge of police corruption and thrown out to fend for myself, probably ending up in dead on some half-backed mercenary job in a fly-blown corner of Africa. Instead, the KGB had won me over and, by treating me with respect, had gained a potentially valuable asset. Instead of working with an organisation that had taken the attitude: ‘he must have done it so, if there isn’t any evidence let’s fit him up’, I was collaborating with a huge, truly international structure which employed armies of psychiatrists and psychologists, summing everyone up and deciding how best to approach a particular problem, identify their strengths and weaknesses. As I was to find out, the KGB was absolutely thorough in everything it did. The files I read in preparation for pitching a target were compiled with meticulous care and had been drawn from filched medial records, former boyfriends, indiscreet colleagues, open sources and every other kind of databank. They had been to college in Connecticut, had one brother, a family dog and a father whom she had pissed off years earlier. She was bright, in her early twenties, probably naïve, posted to a new embassy, and vulnerable to an approach from me, once I had been briefed. The people I was working with were the cream of the Soviet crop, well-educated, dedicated and a tremendous eye for detail, all determined to leave nothing to chance. When I had been I had been debriefed about police corruption I had anticipated a rather shallow discussion about training, police flats, parties and that other unspoken part of the job. Who was sleeping with whose wives? Divorce was an occupational hazard in the Met and the policy of packing the police families together into block accommodation inevitably led to extra-martial affairs among those working on shifts. I expected the KGB would want to know about how the Met was organised, but I never anticipated the dozens of detailed questionnaires and the interest that would be taken in the backgrounds of particular individuals. Nothing was too trivial to be included in a subject’s file, and by the end of the process I felt as though my brain had been emptied of all memory. The KGB was not just interested in the personalities involved in corruption, but they wanted to understand how the entire system worked. I soon found myself giving what amounted to lectures on the skills required to rig the jury, nobble barristers, influence judges, put in a word with the DPP, negotiate with a defence solicitor, leave a loophole in the evidence for a defendant to wriggle out of, or fortuitously find an especially incriminating piece of evidence at the last moment. Nowadays the police are obliged to disclose exculpatory evidence, but in south London we routinely withheld any awkward witness statement that might benefit the defence. Almost everyone in the criminal justice system, at every level, had an interest in winning convictions and banging up criminals, but on the way there were dozens of opportunities to be exploited, and over the past decade I had come across most of them. These ranged from the unopposed bail application to the tip to the defence counsel, and they were all described in my KGB talks. Bowing to popular demand, I also included a lecture on the role of prostitutes in high society, and described how men from the top draw in England seemed to enjoy the company of ladies of the night.
Once again, my remarks must have resonated with my audience, for the KGB had always been fascinated by the scandal that had rocked the Macmillan government in 1963. The Profumo affair had centred on the clandestine affair conducted by the Secretary of State for War with a beautiful call-girl, and had resulted in the suicide of Stephen Ward, the society osteopath and intermediary who had introduced them. The Soviet interest had focused on the assistant Naval Attaché, Eugene Ivanov, who had also fallen for Christine Keeter, and although the entire business had been the subject of a report written by Lord Denning, many mysteries remained unsolved. Ivanov had been a GRU military intelligence officer, so the KGB had acted as spectators throughout, but had been intrigued when, during the Heath government, two of his ministers, Tony Lambton and Lord Jellicoe, had resigned because of their relationship with a well-known madam, Norma Levy. Not only was I well up to speed on these events, but I was well aware of how Norma had not only been allowed to operate by the police, and knew that her husband had been a Yard informant for years. As might be imagined, the KGB furiously wrote up their notes as I regaled my audience with tales from the underworld and British politics.
The one person I had first-hand knowledge of was, of course, Tom Driberg MP, by now a senior and influential figure in the Labour Party whom I knew to be a predatory homosexual who, it seemed to me, based on my own contact with him at Bow Street, was not only complteley corrupt himself, but had subverted plenty of others, including the MP who ahd come to his rescue after I had arrested him for gross indecency. How difficult would it have been to entrap him while he had been cottaging in some public convenience? I thought I made a strong case for exploiting him and his very extensive social and political connections, but it turned out that the KGB knew all about him, and so did MI5. It seems that Driberg had been recruited as a source inside the Young Communist League at a very early age, in fact while he was still at school, by the Security Service, but Anthony Blunt had revealed his role to the Soviets during the war, and so he had been chucked out of the Communist Party without explanation. Some years later, after the defection of his friend Guy Burgess, Driberg had turned up in Moscow to write Guy Burgess: A Portrait, a short and rather favourable biography of the notorious homosexual, and doubtless the KGB had been given the opportunity then to apply pressure on him. Later it was rumoured that he had collaborated with the Czech intelligence service, so by the time I came on the scene to make my contribution his file in Dzerzinshy Square must have been bulging. Whatever the consequences, I never had any reservations about recommending Driberg for the full KGB treatment, and I remain convinced that he fully deserved whatever blackmail he had to endure, if that is indeed what happened.
It may be that the KGB found my allegations about Moody, Virgo and Drury quite hard to believe, but when this trio was arrested my stock went through the roof. Of course, I had no idea that the Met would ever go after the heart of the corruption in the Yard, but I had been writing anonymous letters to various MPs and others, whenever the opportunity had arisen, to alert people to the scale of the problem. I have no idea if my bombardment of allegations had any effect on the decision to investigate the top level of London’s CID, but I can say that the KGB was hugely impressed when much of what I had detailed in my dossier emerged in court at the end of the inquiries. I had given chapter and verse on dozens of names, so whenever Jimmy Humphreys mentioned someone, the KGB already had many of the details. Indeed, in some ways the KGB was rather better informed about what had been going in at the Yard than the very policemen brought in to investigate the suspect detectives. I was tempted to speculate that perhaps the KGB had hoped to exploit Moody, Virgo and Drury for their own purposes, or maybe the KGB had been disappointed at not having capitalised earlier on what I had told them, but the only result I could discern was that my standing had increased considerably as a consequence of my very prescient, expanded dossier. Clearly my enhanced status meant they were not going to ignore my advice in the future.
During my discussions with Nick we debated where I should be based in between my assignments for the KGB, and we both agreed that Bulgaria was the best option. I could either live elsewhere, and come to Bulgaria for my instructions, or I could live permanently in Sofia, but I was never offered a flat in Moscow. I came to the conclusion that the KGB was anxious to run their operations overseas with the minimal direct links to Dzerzhinsky Square, doubtless because of the need for ‘plausible deniability’ if anything went wrong during one of my more risky enterprises, but was also keen to have me on call, reasonably close by. Living in Africa did not appeal to me, but from what I had seen of Sofia and the Black Sea, Bulgaria had plenty to recommend it. There I would be entirely immune from arrest and as the Soviet ambassador was effectively the most influential person in the entire country, I could live under his protection, but away from the stifling supervision the KGB would have exercised in Moscow. Furthermore, Bulgaria was well positioned from my point of view, with good air links and easy access to Africa and the Middle East. With this plan approved, Nick agreed to arrange for me to meet Barbara in Morocco, and obtain all the required forms for my exit and travel abroad. Ultimately, as he accepted, I wanted to settle in an English-speaking country where I could be reunited with my family, although in the meantime my adrenalin personality craved the excitement of taking on the KGB’s assignments, not to mention the first-class international travel, all expenses paid, with unlimited free medical cover.
Now more confident about my future, Nick set me a task I was not willing to fulfil. Apparently the KGB wanted to penetrate MI5, and wanted me to recommend a suitable candidate who could be indoctrinated while still at university and then sent to infiltrate the organisation. I had stressed, when accepting the KGB’s proposal that I should work against the CIA, that I would not act against British interests, and evidently the KGB did not consider a recommendation as an overt act in way I interpreted it. I probably could have come up with a couple of names, but I was conscious that the Soviets probably had more experience of long-term penetration operations than anyone else. Burgess, Maclean, Philby, Blunt and Cairncross had all been recruited while still up at Cambridge, and the Soviets had been willing to invest long-term and wait for them to climb into positions of influence. While Philby and Cairncross had joined the Secret Intelligence Service, Blunt transferred from the Intelligence Corps to the Security Service, the only known hostile penetration of MI5. Apart from Blunt there had been once case, during the Second World War, of a CPGB member working as a secretary in the registry, but no action had been taken when she had been discovered, and she had been quietly dismissed. What Nick had in mind was a similar exercise, taking a suitable, committed candidate while still at university and grooming him (or her) for a career in the Security Service, encouraging the agent to gain promotion and acquire access to the organisations’ most treasured secrets. Whilst I had little doubt this was probably one way to breach MI5’s security, I was far from convinced the effort would be worthwhile. So much would depend on the chosen individual who, even assuming they sailed through the Positive Vetting screening procedures (as had every post-war spy of any significance), might not be prepared to go the distance, thereby wasting a very hefty investment. In my opinion, which I kept to myself, the KGB would have been better advised to subvert a Special Branch officer who might transfer across in the Security Service. As I was well aware, Met detectives were very susceptible to large bribes, and although the Branch men were somewhat detached from the rest of the Yard, they were all made from the same cloth. Why take years in the hope of placing a suitable candidate close to an MI5 recruiter when a serving Branch officer could be bought for a fraction of the price, and was already in an excellent position from which to manoeuvre himself into the Gower Street headquarters of the Security Service. My solution was to promise to consider the problem and make some suggestions to Nick, but in the event I allowed the project, or at least my participation in it, to run into the sand. This expedient avoided a potentially painful confrontation with my generous sponsors, and may even have served to delay what was in any event going to be a very long-term plan.
It must be wondered whether I harboured any reservations about throwing in my lot with the KGB, and whether I really believed I would be allowed to work on my terms, avoiding compromising British interests. This was, of course, at the height of the Cold War, at a period of particularly high tension when Palestinian terrorism was spreading across Europe and there was a strong suspicion in the west that the Soviets had encouraged, if not actively sponsored atrocities in Germany, Italy and France. When the CIA Chief of Station in Athens, Richard Welch, was murdered two days before Christmas 1975, the dangers faced by CIA men in the field became all too apparent, but from my discussions with Oleg Kalugin it was clear that the KGB had no intention of killing their opponents. On the contrary, they wanted to recruit them as moles and were confident that, with the right preparation, they could attract high-calibre defectors, cultivate new sources and exploit their existing ‘walk-ins’ more efficiently. It seemed that the KGB had received some excellent offers of collaboration from the most unexpected quarters, and the question to be addressed was one of their integrity. Were they on the level when they made their approaches, or were they acting as double agents in elaborate sting operations masterminded by the CIA or some other American counter-intelligence agency? Kalugin’s own experience with Robert Lipka and John Walker showed that it was not exclusively senior personnel who enjoyed the best access to classified information, and in both cases relatively junior men had been entrusted with handling the most sensitive data, even if it was simply to burn it. Those circumstances, of course, were ideal for espionage because it provided an opportunity to steal the original documents with no danger of them ever being missed, thereby prompting an unwelcome investigation.
The shooting of Richard Welch, at his home in Athens, turned out to be the handiwork of a mysterious left-wing, domestic Greek terror group which styled itself ‘November 17’ and immediately, publicly claimed responsibility for his assassination. It seemed that ‘N17’, as it was also known, had identified Welch as the CIA station chief after his name, true role, home address had been published in an Athens newspaper, a disclosure blamed not on the KGB but on a young CIA renegade, Phillip Agee. Beset with divorce and money troubles in Mexico, Agee had approached the Cuban intelligence agency and had gained its sponsorship for an exposé of the CIA in which he named hundreds of CIA officers and their agents. The impact on the clandestine service, where the majority of their personnel posted abroad operated under diplomatic cover, had been devastating, and Welch had been the first such victim. N17, formed in opposition to the American-backed military junta of the Greek colonels, was pledged to rid Greece of all foreign influence and had targeted Welch after Agee’s revelation. The death had shocked the KGB which much preferred to engage its adversary with more subtle tactics, of which I was but one component. Nobody would die as a result of my activities, although a few marriages might suffer, and the KGB might engage in a little blackmail, exploit some greed or indulge some of the other well-established tactics of ‘the great game’.
The person to encourage me in thinking of Sofia as a suitable base was Valentin who confided to me that his career had been wrecked by Oleg Lyalin. He had no hope of any future postings abroad because he was completely compromised by the defector, so no NATO country would ever accept him under diplomatic cover and, even if one did so, his operation usefulness would be zero because he would be bound to attract so much surveillance that he would be completely neutralised. In thse circumstances I represented his ticket to a much coveted overseas assignment. In short, Valentin was desperate to get out of Moscow, and I represented his ticket. We both likes boxing and tennis, and he literally begged me to tell Nick that Sofia was the best solution, and that Valentin should accompany me. It was from Valentin that I finally understood the depth of feeling within the KGB about Lyalin’s betrayal, and learned for the first time that the offer made to me to assassinate him had been entirely unofficial. Apparently Andropov had vetoed a plan to have the defector murdered and the proposal put to me in Morocco had come from an entirely unofficial group of freelancers who had seen their own careers curtailed by their subordinate’s revelations. Lyalin had made some lurid claims about the role of Department V, and this was a topic of considerable, continuing sensitivity. The notorious ‘Thirteenth Department’ had been shut down following the embarrassing revelations of another defector, Bogdan Stashinsky, in 1953, when he had confessed to the assassination of a Ukrainian nationalist leader in West Germany with a precision murder weapon that fired cyanide gas and left almost no trace of its use. Stashinsky’s disclosures had been confirmed by another KGB killer, Nikolai Khoklov, and the awkward, world-wide publicity given to this pair had provided the west with a veritable propaganda coup. All trace of the Thirteenth Department had been eradicated, although the actual technical capability to mount what the KGB had termed ‘wet jobs’ had been covertly transferred to the Line F specialists of Department V. As ell as compromising every KGB officer he had ever come into contact with, and identifying his contemporaries operating under alias in diplomatic posts by looking at western collections of passport photos, Lyalin had committed the unforgivable sin of reopening the whole issue of the KGB’s policy on assassination. The topic was particularly touchy because, unbeknownst to me at the time, Oleg Kalugin had been ordered by Vladimir Kryuchkov to help the Bulgarian intelligence service to kill a dissident, Georgi Markov, who had incurred Todor Zhivkov’s displeasure by making unflattering remarks about him on the BBC World Service’s Bulgarian broadcasts. Reluctantly Kalugin had supplied the Bulgarians with a gun disguised as an umbrella, and this had been used to fire a pellet filled with a lethal dose of ricin into Markov’s leg as he walked across a bridge over the Thames while on his way to work at Bush House. Markov had died soon afterwards, although another attempt, on the life of a Bulgarian defector in Paris, failed narrowly. While Andropov preferred to disassociate the modern KGB from such activities, and had vetoed proposals to kill other defectors, in Australia and Canada, his FCD chief (and future successor as Chairman), Vladimir Kryuchkov had taken a rather more flexible, pragmatic attitude to curry favour in Sofia and had been willing to sanction the Markov hit. Knowledge of this decision had been known to only a very few, but Andropov had argued that if Lyalin had been murdered it would have served to confirm the validity of his allegations. However, this was not a view shared by men such as Valentin who had been caused very considerable inconvenience and disadvantage by Lyalin’s treachery. It was through confidences like these that I was able to begin to understand how the KGB functioned.
After Leningrad we visited Yalta, Sochi and Sevastopol in the Crimea, and then spent three very pleasant days in a private train compartment, complete with our own stewardess, to Sofia. There I was put into the same flat in the middle of a militia block in Struga, in the centre of the city, as I had been in 1973, only on this occasion I was without Anka Mladinova, my girlfriend whom, I now knew, had been planted on me. Valentin was attached to the local Soviet embassy to be close to me, and I was given a job as an editor in the Sofia Press news agency. This suited Valentin who came up with all sorts of ideas to keep us entertained, including our membership of a prestigious film club. At that time the only movies on general release in Bulgaria were stunningly boring documentaries about tractor production, whereas the Party’s film club viewed the films undubbed and acted as a censorship panel to decide whether they were suitable for sub-titles and a wider audience. Not surprisingly, the films we saw were all deemed inappropriate for the rest of the population, but our membership cards gave us access to an important social centre in Sofia, one of the few venues in the capital that served imported drinks and really good coffee. As can be imagined, single men with access to these luxuries were in constant demand in Sofia.
As for my office work, it was ludicrously easy, as I discovered when I was introduced to the head of the Sofia Press’s English section. Foreign broadcasts were jammed so Bulgarians had little opportunity to study the language from native-speakers, and I was amazed to find that the English section consisted of a dozen girls, some of them very good-looking, who were employed in translating Bulgarian texts into English, reliant entirely upon dictionaries, but with absolutely no linguistic skill. The results were quite absurd, and it took almost no effort on my part to transform the nonsense into a reasonably intelligible version. For this trifling task I was offered four hundred Lev a month, which was about four times the salary earned by an experienced editor. The only slight hiccup I experienced at work was as a result of a report submitted by a girl who turned out to the daughter of the Minister of the Interior. She obviously had gained her post through nepotism, and when I criticised her disastrously low performance she complained about the ‘mysterious Englishman’ who was making her life difficult, but when her father went to see the Soviet Ambassador he ordered him to instruct his daughter not to ask any further questions about me! Suitably chastised, the girl had confided to her colleagues that I was indeed an important mystery man with friends in very high places, which then made me the object of considerable, and welcome, attention from them.
One of my friends was Yuri Zarvalanov, the son of one of the two parachute agents who turned Bulgaria over to the Soviets in 1945, and another was Andrei Lukanov. Their fathers had been friends during the 1923 uprising and had fled to Russia where they both had married Russian Jewesses. Andrei was later to become leader of the Communist Party, but was assassinated outside his apartment in Sofia in 1996. Yuri later went to Austria, where he was thought to have hidden a quantity of the Communist Party’s funds, but he died of a brain tumour.
Although my official job was as an editor with the news agency, I was commissioned in the summer of 1975 to prepare programmes for a new channel for tourists on Bulgarian TV. Foreigners had come flooding into the country to enjoy the Black Sea beaches and they made a serious contribution to the economy. To encourage them, the completely unwatchable domestic broadcasts were improved to cater to a more modern audience, and my role, in between missions for the KGB, was to supervise an English language channel. Whenever the KGB needed me, I would be called to a rendezvous, and invariably met Valentin in the park directly opposite the Soviet embassy. Occasionally we went to the nearby Park Hotel which turned out to be a favourite watering-hole for the local Turkish community and, as I later learned, one of the places later used by Mehmet Ali Agca, the terrorist who was to shoot Pope John Paul II in May 1981.
On 24 March 1975, a university friend of my assistant Stoyana Angelov, brought Nellie to my apartment as a fourth for a card game, and somewhat unconvincingly I was introduced as a Bulgarian named Ivan Ivanov, although she realised within a few moments that I was not really a Bulgarian. I was immediately attracted to her, and although my interest was not immediately reciprocated, she told me a little of her background. her father was an academic, a professor of agriculture at the Bulgarian Higher Institute of Agriculture, and her mother was an agronomist and a statistician. She had lived in Cuba in 1964 with her father, and then had studied English philology at Sofia University. After graduation she had married and had a son, and then worked with Intercommerce, the Bulgarian foreign trade organisation. In spite of her initial hesitation, we were soon seeing quite a lot of each other, and she accepted that I had a job with the Communist International movement which required me to travel frequently. It would be a long time before I came even close to telling her the truth about my real background and my work for the KGB. Naturally, I was not keen to share with her the kind of work I had been prepared for, and when I learned the details of another mission, far removed from my Romeo activities, I had another reason not to confide in her. The KGB wanted me to re-establish contact with a couple of my mercenary team and arrange a hit in a West African country. Although I had turned down the Lyalin proposal, I accepted this one because the target was not British, but a local Communist suspected of having sold out to the Americans. In mercenary circles this is known as ‘moving somebody on’ and I had few qualms about undertaking it. Such events are part of the way of life in many African countries, where life is cheap and political power is invariably accompanied by bloodshed. The operation was executed faultlessly, which heightened my standing in the KGB and I was given a further assignment in Ghana, where I already had particularly good connections.
My business partner in Accra had been Dr George Busby, and when the KGB first outlined their problem, I had been able to promise an easy solution, confident that he would put me in touch with the right people. The country was then in the hands of a military junta of five army officers, some of whom had been delivered by my friend the doctor, who had become close to their families. At least one of the left-leaning governments was a fully paid-up KGB agent, but another was suspected of being in contact with the CIA, and maybe planning a coup. In that part of Africa the local state-run radio station was always a prime target in any take-over, for whoever controlled the airwaves could monopolise the country’s communications. Aware that Accra’s transmitters were very vulnerable to a surprise attack, the KGB had wanted to build an alternative station, heavily guarded by Spetsnaz-trained Special Forces, which could act as a back-up if the main broadcaster fell into the hands of an adversary. My task, with an unlimited budget, was to establish and protect an alternative site, and this I accomplished easily with Busby’s help to import the necessary components and to acquire the necessary real estate. This earned me a VIP trip as a reward, ending in my second visit to Moscow where I was reunited with Nick briefly, before returning to the fleshpots of Sofia.
My very first Romeo mission was to South Africa where I was deployed against a woman who worked as a librarian in Pretoria but appeared to have access to the US embassy. Was she a CIA professional, and why was she working for a cultural body? This may appear a rather mundane task, but the implications were considerable because the Peace Corps and the US Agency for International Development were the two American organisations which the CIA was specifically prohibited from using as cover. If really was a CIA officer working under ‘non-official cover’, then the implications were considerable and there was much mischief to be made by the KGB. If, on the other hand, she was innocent, but for some reason enjoyed regular access to the embassy premises, that too was an advantage that could be exploited, depending upon where she was free to roam. The ultimate objective, of course, was to read whatever was in the ambassador’s safe, or to copy material from the coderoom, but lower on the scale were more achievable goals, such as placing a listening device in a conference room used for sensitive discussions, attaching a bug to a telephone, or inside the office of a senior diplomat. Even if a recruited access agent could not achieve any of these ideals, she might be able to pick up gossip or serve to verify information from other sources, such as the exact location of the CIA station within the building, the staff working there, the identity of the Chief of Station and the names of any of the low-echelon cipher clerks working the crypto-equipment. In short, there was much to be accomplished with the cooperation of even the most junior embassy employee.
I received a short briefing about my target, Marianne, and received a signal plan and meeting protocol for establishing contact with the local rezidentura which, in South Africa, where there was no Soviet embassy, was to be an illegal structure headed by an illegal rezident. I was only to make contact, by leaving innocuous chalk marks in particular places on specified days of the week, if I had received instructions to do so, or in the event of an emergency, and if I was to meet a KGB controller I was given a form of words to identify myself, and to confirm his bona-fides. I was also given details of a couple of bank accounts in West Africa to which I could gain access in the event that I needed emergency funds, but otherwise I was to use my common-sense and initiative, follow my quite detailed instructions. A particular signal would indicate that I had arrived safely, and another would show that I had found my target. Reports on my progress would be left at a pre-arranged dead-drop, and whenever I had filled a drop I would leave another signal. This was all standard tradecraft, but South Africa was a hostile environment and I would be vulnerable to arrest by the notorious Bureau of State Security. The risk was low, as the holder of a British passport, but I would be operating in a country run by an efficient, authoritarian security apparatus with very close links to the British and American intelligence agencies. One slip, and my true identity might be established with a single telephone call. Worse, if the South Africans suspected I was working on behalf of the Soviets, I could be in deep trouble, isolated in an interrogation centre for months, if not years, without trial.
It did not take me long to discover that Marianne was just what she appeared to be, a librarian with no CIA connections, although she did appear to have almost unlimited access to the embassy. She had a very healthy, active sexual appetite although initially she preferred to give me oral sex rather than allow full intercourse, but eventually she succumbed. When I established she was neither a diplomat nor a CIA officer I reported my findings to the KGB which doubtless arranged for someone else to take my place and exploit the psychological assessment to which I had contributed. On the rebound from a former lover, she was certainly vulnerable, and perhaps might have been beguiled into lifting the occasional document or ‘ear-wigging’ an indiscreet conversation. That, of course, was not my concern, and I flew home, mission accomplished.
In June 1975 I left for another job in Africa, to target a Chinese diplomat, but I was beaten up by three Chinese bodyguards, and returned on 10 August having contracted malaria. My assignment was to blackmail a Chinese diplomat whom the KGB knew had acquired a black girlfriend. He had apparently had a girlfriend at a previous post in north Africa, and I mailed a letter purporting to come from his ex-girlfriend’s brother, claiming his sister was pregnant, and threatening that unless he co-operated his superiors would be informed, which would immediately end his career. Being reluctant to hand it to him at his embassy, as I had been instructed, I delivered the letter to him at a diplomatic function, but he threw it on the floor and called his bodyguards who hustled me out of the restaurant and gave me a good seeing-to outside.
My other assignment in Dar-es-Salaam was to report on the Chinese troops arriving on the docks, and when I cast my eye over them I was impressed by their discipline. They were marched off the ships and went straight onto the railway line, working alongside the natives. However, while the locals were immune to malaria, the Chinese fell like flies from disease, and I had heard from a friend who ran the crematorium in the town that on average just over one Chinese a day was dying in Tanzania. Instead of being buried in Tanzania, the urns containing their ashes were sent back to China.
Upon my return to Sofia on 10 August I had a new, spacious three-bed roomed flat on the Giorhiou Dimitrov with balconies overlooking the mosque. Here I was joined by Nellie who accepted my proposal of marriage and left her husband to share my life. I had planned to spend Christmas with Nellie but I was sent on a mission to northern Europe with Andrei, and returned from Finland in January 1976. My next mission was in March, also to Western Europe, but discretion prevents me from describing in any detail what took place, so we can move ahead to my adventures in India.
I took Nellie on holiday to the Hotel Granada on the Black Sea in June and upon my return stayed at the Hemus Hotel in Sofia in preparation for my next trip to Moscow, where I was briefed on my new assignment. I was to make a permanent base in an English-speaking country, and the KGB had decided to send me to India, but before establishing myself there as a legitimate businessman, I was to fly to Ethiopia and take a connecting flight to west Africa and develop my cover in Accra and Dakar. My objective was to build a legend as a businessman running an import-export firm, print business cards and open bank accounts in several different cities to fund my new existence in India. There I was to pose as a merchant specialising in trading with various African countries, selling jute sacks from India for the cocoa crop, for the but my real task was to cultivate Sanjay Ghandi.
Over the past two years India had been ruled by Sanjay’s mother, Indira, but her will had been imposed through a state of emergency until her temporary fall from power in 1977, which was to last three years. She had taken draconian powers, imprisoned her political opponents and suspended democracy, but the KGB was concerned about the influence exercised by her son Sanjay. The suspicion in Moscow was that Indira wanted to make her country less reliant on the Soviets who regarded it not exactly as a satellite like members of the Warsaw Pact, but certainly far from non-aligned. India massive army and air force were almost entirely equipped by the Soviets, and the trade between the two countries was enormous. While the KGB was anxious to develop this relationship, there were fears that Indira had other ideas, and my task was to establish myself in New Delhi and cultivate contacts in Sanjay’s circle. Unlike his Cambridge-educated brother Rajiv, the Air India pilot from whom he was estranged, Sanjay had acquired quite a reputation as a playboy with decadent western tastes, and was later to die in an accident while practising aerobatics in his biplane. Evidently the belief in Dzerzhinsky Square was that I was just the person to move in on him. Who was I to disagree with such a judgment?
Before I reached India I was asked by Nick, at the last moment, to undertake a couple of missions in Africa, and the first was in Zaire where my target was the daughter of the local CIA Chief of Station who was of great interest to the KGB because he was believed to exercise considerable influence over President Mobutu. According to my KGB briefing, the CIA officer was also a doctor who treated Mobutu for a variety of sexually-transmitted diseases he had picked up through his many encounters with infected prostitutes. My task was to befriend the CIA man’s daughter, gain access to his household and find out what information I could, especially about his relationship with the president. This turned out to be an easy assignment, for the girl told me that she had occasionally gone to Mobutu’s palace with her father, and had found the president to be a kindly, grand-fatherly figure who patted her on the head and offered her nuggets of gold, the size of jelly babies, from a jar he invariably produced for favoured visitors. These nuggets were in the original state, unrefined, as they had been picked up, and were quite an incentive for her to accompany her father. The reality, of course, was that Mobutu was a monster; responsible for the deaths of thousands of his own people, and on this occasion I felt no reservations about helping to undermine the American grip over him. In the end, however, my activities were limited to pursuing the daughter and writing reports on the other American diplomats to whom she introduced me.
My second mission was in Benin, where there was a girl at the US embassy who was believed to be the CIA Station Chief’s secretary. According to the KGB, this girl had been having an affair with a French nightclub owner in the capital, Cotonou, and was vulnerable. She had already confided in the local KGB rezident, and he had reported this to Moscow. My task had been to cultivate the target and maybe recruit her, so I checked in to the local hotel and made contact with an intermediary to arrange an introduction. The KGB rezident invited me to his home for beetroot soup and what he believed to be a decent bottle of wine, but actually was vinegar. He showed me a picture of my target, Kate, but almost as soon as I got back to my hotel she turned up in my hotel’s swimming-pool. We were soon getting to know each other quite well in my room, and she took a very professional approach to establishing my state of health. A detailed inspection took place and she persuaded me that she was experienced, and maybe even a honey trap. Thus far the American women I had encountered had been quite inexperienced, somewhat inhibited and a little naïve, but Kate was very different, so much so that I was suspicious of her, and I was right to be so.
Kate invited me to a party the following evening and I arranged to pick her up the US embassy. I had rented a car, but when I arrived she was not ready, and I was invited by a black servant, wearing white gloves, in to the embassy to wait for her. As it was air-conditioned I agreed enthusiastically, and accepted a drink from him, but I realise that I am being watched by a surveillance camera. During the Cold War, and maybe today too, all American embassies have a ‘walk-in room’ conveniently close to the entrance lobby were potential defectors can be interviewed. Ostensibly they are ordinary consular interview rooms where visa applicants and others can talk in some privacy, away from the prying eyes of receptionists and other locally-employed staff, but in reality they are equipped with covert video cameras and wired for sound. This expedient allows the CIA to maintain an accurate record of precisely what a ‘walk-in’ is offering, and help judge from his demeanour whether he is authentic. Since, historically, the CIA’s very best information had come entirely fortuitously from these entirely unexpected sources who turned up at diplomatic premises without a prior appointment, these rooms had become an essential component in the collection of secret intelligence. For all of its investment in cultivating and pitching their adversaries, the best spies had been those who had been self-recruited. The problem was discriminating between the decoys and ‘dangles’ employed by the opposition, and this was true for all the participants in the Cold War. While the putative informant was making his pitch his every mannerism was being recorded so as to assist in establishing his bona-fides, verifying his identity and checking on the authenticity of information. Doubtless the room had been sterilised to collect DNA samples, and other forensic evidence. However, tt occurred to me that the CIA now had my fingerprints, had my photographs, and I was isolated on American territory. An American diplomat then appeared to ask me some questions, but I was suitably indignant, claiming to be a white hunter surveying for a safari park in Benin’s Parcs National de Niger W, so-called because the river Niger almost surrounded it, almost as the letter ‘W’.
Fortunately my legend as John Frederick Freeman was watertight, so after a few hours of questions I was released, but I wasted no time in leaving the country before the local CIA station could complete their checks. My passport was an authentic British passport, but if my photo was circulated to Langley, and then maybe to other CIA stations in the region, I could be in trouble. Bulletins known as ‘burn notices’ are occasionally distributed by the CIA to its overseas stations to warn of conmen or agents who have lost their usefulness, and I had no wish to have my details circularised. I simply wanted to to proceed with my main mission, to establish myself as a prosperous businessman in India, exporting jute sacks to Africa from Bangladesh. Coincidentally, the main jute sack factory in Ghana had burnt down shortly before my arrival, so my cover story had quite a topical ring to it as I was supposedly selling a commodity that was now in considerable demand. In addition, I was to buy Atlas bicycles through an agent in Delhi for shipping to Ghana, and negotiate the purchase of chick-peas. To enhance my cover as a successful international trader I rented a penthouse flat in the embassy district of New Delhi, known as the golf links, and close to the Bulgarian embassy, and started to enjoy myself, particularly on the embassy circuit.
My KGB controller in India was the Russian wife of an important Indian steel tycoon, and she ran an ‘illegal’ network across the entire country. Under her instructions I befriended an English woman whom the KGB codenamed JILL, and another target, a member of the Bronfman family that owned the Canadian distillers, Seagrams. However, my first contact with Leonid V. Shebarshin, the embassy’s legal rezident, was as a consequence of running low on funds from a bank account that had been set up in Senegal. There should have been large amount of cash on deposit for me, more than enough for me to buy a house or a local company, but someone had emptied the account, and this made me very nervous, worried that perhaps I had become the victim of a defector. I made a signal requesting a meeting, according to the procedure that had been set up before my departure, and eventually I had a meeting with someone from the local KGB rezidentura. We established each other’s credentials through a series of pre-agreed passwords, and I explained that my bank account in Senegal had been looted. More discussions took place, and finally I was met by the tall, black-haired rezident, Leonid Shebashin, but instead of helping me out financially he gave me several idiotic missions to target Americans, one at the embassy and others at the consulates at Madras, Bombay and Calcutta. I considered this duplication to be too dangerous, and I thought Shebarshin was exploiting me for short-term advantage, placing me in considerable jeopardy. Whilst I was perfectly happy to operate against the Americans, I had not forgotten my experience in Dar-es-Salaam and I knew that I should not push my luck. Shebarshin seemed oblivious to my complaints, and sent me on a job to Katmandhu, to report on the Chinese occupation of Nepal. It was on one of these missions that I met the stunning Hilda Gardner, a vivacious Puerto Rican who was married to an American dentist, but wherever we went she attracted far too much attention. She had been to the Woodstock rock festival where she had danced naked and achieved worldwide fame when her photograph had circulated around the world, making her the embodiment of the free-love culture than sweeping the globe. Although she was of no great operational significance, she provided me with cover and gave me access to some useful contacts. When an American diplomat fell for Hilda I quietly stepped aside and encouraged the relationship, reporting the liaison to the KGB who doubtless found a way to exploit the fact that he was in an adulterous affair. I was not remotely jealous or resentful at losing Hilda, and instead turned the situation to my advantage by seeking advice on my ‘betrayal’ from Jenny, another target and one of Hilda’s acquaintances. This was, of course, the most cold-blooded, hypocritical exploitation of women
My assignment to India had been Kalugin’s idea, but it had proved to be one of his less good ones because Leonid Vladimirovich, who had been in the capital since 1971 when he had been given the assignment of heading the PR (political) line. In 1977 he had been promoted to the post of rezident, but I thought he was completely unqualified to be running a rezidentura. I soon discovered that Shebarshin had been a regular diplomat, a graduate in 1958 of the oriental faculty of Moscow University’s Institute of Foreign Relations, and had served twice in Islamabad, for a total of six years, before he had been co-opted by the rezident, Yakov P. Medyanik, to work with the KGB, and then had attended the Andropov Institute to graduate as a FCD officer.
Little did I know that I had chosen a particularly powerful enemy who was to be appointed Chief of the First Chief Directorate in 1988 when Vladimir Kryuchkov was made the KGB’s chairman. He had spent an unusual, continuous thirteen years in south Asia, and was coming to the end of his appointment in Delhi, destined for the senior post in the FCD’s Seventeenth (India) Department in Moscow before completing his last overseas assignment, as rezident in Tehran. Although he was considered a high-flyer at Dzerzhinsky Square, and was destined to go right to the top, I thought he had little idea on how to run clandestine operations. He may have had diplomatic skills in abundance, and may have been highly regarded by the senior management as an expert on the region, but I never saw any signs of them. As far as I was concerned he was an exploiter, looking for short-term advantages and results irrespective of the risks or the possible consequences for me. While he was fully protected by diplomatic immunity, had operated in relatively benign environments in countries friendly to the Soviet Union, and had plenty of genuine experience as a diplomat to back up his cover, I was in an entirely different boat. If I got into trouble the very last place I could turn to for assistance would be my own British High Commission where any misfortune would doubtless be transmitted instantly by the local MI5 representative to London. Whatever other trouble I might be in, my passport alone would be enough to earn me prison time in India unless the KGB exercised some influence on my behalf, and I was under no illusions about what Moscow’s attitude would be to any potentially embarrassing incident. There was, after all, virtually nothing to link me directly to the Russians or the Soviet embassy, so I would be on my own. These were considerations of which the unsympathetic Shebarshin seemed entirely oblivious.
The KGB’s plan, settled before my departure, was for Nellie to join me in India after she had taken her university diploma, and maybe be given a job in the Bulgarian embassy, and I believed this had been approved at the highest level, but shortly before her finals she was arrested by the militia and asked to sign a declaration that she would have no further contact with me. Reluctantly she had signed, but then she was threatened by a KDS colonel named Domchev who told her she would never see her son again and end up in a stone quarry, the traditional fate in Bulgaria of dissidents sentenced to the labour camps. Naturally Nellie had absolutely no idea about my work for the KGB, although she knew that I visited Russia quite frequently. She thought I was some kind of Communist official, although neither she, nor anyone else in her family, was a member of the Party. Indeed. It had been her skill as a language teacher that had probably protected her from worse sanctions in the past. She had taught dozens of pupils, including diplomats and senior government officials, and was recognised as an expert in her field. On one occasion, when the militia had harassed her for not having voted in one of the elections, which invariably produced a 100% result for the Communists, she had resisted the pressure and had been left alone.
Although the militia and the KDS were different organisations, threats from either had to be taken seriously, and upon her release Nellie went straight to the central post office and sent me a telegram in a false name ‘Nina Holecec’ which, interpreted by me, meant in English, ‘I’m in a hole, please check!’ I understood immediately so I telephoned Nellie, realised she was in trouble, and jumped on the first flight back to Bulgaria, puzzled by what had happened. Why had Nellie come under pressure from the KDS when I was supposed to be working for the KGB?
I arrived in Sofia on 13 July 1977, my birthday, and went straight to Nellie’s flat on Ivan Assen II where I found her in a state of considerable distress. Far from having looked after her in my absence, as I had been promised, the KDS had been bullying her, and clearly had no intention of allowing her to join me in India as had been agreed. Infuriated, I sat down at Nellie’s father’s desk and wrote a fifty page report explaining why I had left India, complaining about Shebarshin’s unprofessional behaviour, and demanding an explanation for Nellie’s treatment. In my view the entire episode had been a complete waste of time, and I knew that elaborate preparations had been required before I had set off for Africa. Someone had emptied the main operational account in Senegal, and someone had reneged on the plan to let us settle in India. Having completed my catalogue of complaints, I delivered it to the Soviet embassy and, having lit the blue touch-paper, waited for the inevitable fireworks.
As I should have expected, my diatribe created all kinds of problems and I was informed by Valentin that I had been suspended, and would receive a small allowance until a decision had been taken in Moscow on my future. I had, in effect, been accused of desertion, having left my mission in India without Moscow’s permission, and without the knowledge of the rezident. The first offence was clearly regarded as a grave one by the KGB which was more used to dealing with Soviet personnel who were under an iron discipline, and not with someone such as myself, who was really a volunteer. KGB illegals sent abroad to live in target countries undergo lengthy training and make considerable sacrifices to complete their missions which can last for years. Their advantage is that they can work in complete isolation from the Soviet rezidentura which, in a hostile environment such as London, Washington DC or New York, would be the subject of intensive surveillance and technical monitoring. In these circumstances the legal rezident would be inhibited from conducting all his usual espionage duties, such as meeting agents, recruiting sources, surveying signal sites and servicing dead-letter drops. By passing these activities to an illegal network, controlled independently by an illegal rezident, the risk of compromise through routine surveillance is minimised. In many respects illegals are a uniquely Soviet phenomenon, as their counterparts scarcely exist in other equivalent services. For example, the CIA send a tiny number of their own officers abroad under ‘non-official cover’, and occasionally the British will give SIS officers temporary commercial or journalistic covers, but none devote their lives to the role as the do the members of Directorate S. Whereas the Soviet system provided a continuous supply of dedicated, ideologically-motivated volunteers keen to work at great personal risk in an alien society, perhaps for decades at a time, such people simply do not exist in SIS or the CIA.
Illegals do not enjoy the luxury of diplomatic immunity so if arrested they can face serious charges, and both Rudolf Abel and Gordon Lonsdale were examples of the dedicated professionals willing to spend years away from their family, and endure prosecution and imprisonment in the west, whilst all the time remaining silent about the true nature of their assignments. Indeed, neither the FBI nor MI5 had any idea of the true identities of Abel or Lonsdale, even after they had been kept in custody for years and eventually swapped in a spy exchange. Abel had been arrested in New York in 1957 and had served just under five years of a thirty year sentence when he was freed, but never admitted his real name was William Fischer, or that he had been born in England. Similarly, Lonsdale pretended to have been a Canadian, but actually he was Konon Molody, a Soviet-born KGB officer who had been educated in California. Arrested in 1961, he had been sentenced to twenty years, and was released in 1969. I was never in the same category because I had never spied against the countries in which I had operated. My targets had been Americans, but I would never have risked operating in the United States.
I argued, of course, that the allegation of desertion simply did not apply to me. I had agreed voluntarily to go to India, and part of that agreement was that arrangements were to be made for Nellie to join me once she had sat her exams. Instead, she had been the subject of harassment and that meant the deal was off. I was not a KGB officer born and bred into clandestine work who could be intimidated, or who would accept his family becoming tacit hostages. My commitment to Nellie was far more important than my relationship with the KGB, which I regarded merely as a business expedient, and one that I could walk away from anytime I wished.
From the KGB’s standpoint, my sudden disappearance from Delhi must have been very embarrassing and caused all sorts of problems. Did it mean that I was really a hostile agent that had successfully penetrated their organisation and then withdrawn from the scene after I had completed my role as a double agent? Had I defected to the Americans, having gained sufficient knowledge to be useful to them? Would I betray the identities of the Soviet personnel I had been in contact with? Would Shebarshin be exposed as the KGB’s rezident and expelled from India? Admittedly that last fear would have been unfounded because although India supposedly was unaligned, it was then really a Soviet client state, heavily dependent on Moscow. If Shebarshin’s role had not been declared to the Indian government, his identification might have been exploited by the Americans, and it certainly would have limited his ability to travel further afield. In all likelihood, Shebarshin himself probably would not have been too concerned about personal exposure, but for a rezident to experience the defection of one of his agents, or even to have to admit that one of his charges was out of his control would be an appalling humiliation. Plenty of promising careers had been terminated by such undetected defections, and it was every rezident’s worst nightmare to experience the loss of a trusted subordinate, such as Oleg Lyalin, Oleg Gordievsky or Mikhail Butkov. In each case their rezident had been held by Moscow to have been negligent, and their prospects of advancement sent into freefall. Although I never had access to the secrets of Shebarshin’s rezidentura, the KGB’s counter-intelligence people would have wondered what secrets I had acquired, and worried about others I might have compromised. Rudolf Abel had been caught by the KGB after his principal assistant, Reino Hayhanen, had defected to the US embassy in Paris while on his way back to Moscow, having been recalled to face disciplinary action for his poor performance. Although relatively low in the food chain, Hayhanen had given the FBI enough information for them to trap his rezident. Similarly, Lonsdale had been spotted by MI5 as he had held a rendezvous in London with Harry Houghton, a spy who had fallen under suspicion, and that one fatal encounter had served to incriminate Lonsdale and two other members of his network, Morris and Lona Cohen, alias Peter and Helen Kroger. All had been tried and imprisoned simply because Lonsdale had failed to shake off MI5’s surveillance teams and take some elementary precautions. Thus the KGB was well justified in its paranoid attitude towards defection, and was especially fearful about the loss of illegals, a group considered an elite within the organisation, managed by its own Directorate S staff within the First Chief Directorate. KGB officers cleared to work in this highly secretive unit were known as ‘Line N’, and such individuals were singled out for special attention by hostile intelligence agencies precisely because they only handled illegals.
Because I answered to Kalugin in Directorate K, my contacts were limited to his ‘Line KR’ staff, but as I had not been assigned a case officer at the rezidentura upon my arrival in India, Shebarshin must have wondered about the extent of my knowledge, and the degree to which his apparatus was endangered. I can only speculate about this because I never had the opportunity to discuss it with him but, according to Vasili Mitrokhin, my KGB file shows that a review was undertaken of my work over the past five years by Directorate K, and it concluded that I had provided material ‘of significant operational interest’, and had been entirely honest in my dealings with the KGB. On that basis the Chairman, Yuri Andropov, had given his approval for me to be reinstated.
It was not until May 1978 that I was summoned to Moscow to be told that I had been reactivated and that I was to prepare for a new, long assignment, after which I would be free to marry Nellie. She then joined me in June, and stayed with me at the Hotel Rossiya for a month.
During this period I worked for the Second Chief Directorate, ostensibly working as an editor for the Soviet Press, but was deployed against a British Embassy secretary with a homely figure, codenamed ERICA, who had gained quite a reputation in Moscow as being keen for male company, but was suspected of being a honey trap by the KGB. I was reluctant to go to work against her, but in the circumstances I felt I had little choice in the matter, and I decided the most expedient solution was to report that my efforts had failed, although I am sure our relationship could have blossomed. Our relationship was short-lived because I arranged for her to terminate it in the social club at the embassy, where our spat could be witnessed by plenty of Soviet staff and visitors. My rather cruel solution was to tell her that I had heard she had been a carrier of a venereal disease, and not surprisingly she slapped me and stormed out of the club. After that episode it was not difficult to persuade the Second Chief Directorate that ERICA did not find me attractive. Thus, rather neatly, I avoided compromising any British targets.
My KGB contacts seemed unconcerned about my failure to win ERICA’s heart, and I came under some pressure from my handlers to become a Soviet citizen. There were hints that I was to be offered a post, previously fulfilled by Kim Philby who was in failing health, preparing KGB personnel for life in the west prior to their postings overseas. In anticipation of this I underwent a series of rigorous medical and psychological examinations which included lie-detector tests, hypnosis and being drugged. This was quite routine, and similar tests had been administered after my return from each major mission.
My task, if I was to succeed Philby, was to provide the KGB with a finishing school for KGB personnel who had completed their university and KGB instruction course, and had mastered English. Kim Philby had given an additional polish to those destined to work in the west, and I was to supply them with information to about the English way of life, covering habits, foibles, superstitions and such simple things such as how to buy a bus or train ticket, and how to approach people in the street. I even described how to behave at a Masonic gathering and gave them the advantage of knowing basic Masonic signals. Much of the advice, of course, was fairly rudimentary: not to cross a road against a red light, don’t push into the front of queues, behaviour that was just unacceptable to Brits, but quite customary in Moscow.
I hear that Philby had suffered constant and increasing ill-health, and the number of his classes had been reduced from five days a week, to four, three, and then one, and finally only the day when he felt up to it. I was asked to take over, and learn the technique, initially at Philby’s knee. This offer came at the end of my medical tests, during which I had seen psychiatrists and psychologists, and the only thing found wrong with me was a diagnosis that I had developed into a ‘clinically recognised’ psychopath. By this time General Kalugin and my handler Nick had been moved on, as a result of an internal KGB power struggle, and had been replaced by Andrei, whom I called Andrew.
At the end of my medical and psychological tests I was drugged and hypnotised, and finally informed that I had passed the examination with flying colours. Andrei told me that I had done very well, and now had a new entry on my personal file, which would do me a lot of good. I listened with great interest and anticipation as Andrew told me with a laugh that I was a clinically recognised, controlled psychopath. I was shocked, to be associated with all those terrible criminal psychopaths in recent British criminal history, but Andrei explained that this was not what was meant. The word ‘controlled’ meant only that I could switch off my conscience and not be plagued by feelings of guilt, remorse or shame, which might, it was feared, compel me into going back to England and confessing all. The KGB management had an innate fear of defectors, and was very conscious of what had happened to Nikolai Khokhlov, the KGB assassin in West Germany who had been sent to kill two emigré Ukrainians with a gas gun. After his first murder he had knocked on the door of the second target, confessed all, and asked him to call the police to come and arrest him. Since that embarrassing disaster the KGB had not employed other Russians for such tasks. As Andrei explained, Russians are a superstitious race and, combined with their Orthodox religion, are plagued with a conscience destining them to hell if they do anything wrong.
When I remarked that the psychological diagnosis sounded terrible, Andrei insisted that, on the contrary, it was not possible to have a better assessment in the file for ‘our sort of work’. He explained that henceforth the KGB would have no problem assigning such jobs because I would go through with them and never suffer a pang of fear or conscience, either at the time or later. ‘Being a controlled psychopath only makes you a very cool customer, as you British would put it’. This verdict rather reminded me of Sean Connery’s portrayal of James Bond, a perfect portrait of a conscience-free spy. Undoubtedly my excitement came from the adrenalin rush I get from going into dangerous situations, and acknowledged that I was indeed obsessive about injustices, real or imagined, very vengeful, and prepared to go anywhere and do anything to get even. However, I was not hot-blooded and, as the Mafia is reputed to say, revenge is a dish best eaten cold.
I never met Philby formally but I did bump into him once at the Hotel Ukrainia where he was collecting some English papers and magazines, kept for him for him there at the hotel kiosk on a standing order. We eyed each other warily, but said nothing. When I asked at the kiosk for some English magazines, of the kind I had seen him collect, I was told there were none left for sale, and all had been reserved, unavailable to the general public, and kept under the counter.
Nevertheless, I did benefit from Philby’s cast-offs, and his copies of The Times with the crosswords filled in. I also received, through the KGB, his old Times Literary Supplements of which he lent me a huge stack of back numbers, and these became my main reading matter while in Moscow. My dream was that one day a copy of The Times would be brought to me with the blank spaces where Philby had been unable to solve the clues. I fantasized that by hook or by crook, I would find the answers, even if they took me an entire day, and quietly return the paper to him, thereby ‘wiping his eye’. Unfortunately my ambition was never realised and I was told by our mutual handler that Kim used to pick up the paper, turned straight to the crossword and fill it in almost immediately, often while talking simultaneously about his day’s diary of engagements. He would be listening to Nick at the same as doing the crossword, and this so impressed him that Nick asked me to check the crossword and see if it had indeed been completed corrected. Clearly he suspected that Philby had just filled it in with gibberish, which was typical of the KGB, but unfounded.
Once, when asked by Nick how he could complete such difficult puzzles so quickly, with only half his mind on the task, Philby had said that he had been doing them for so long that he recognised the various compilers, whom he now regarded as old friends. He claimed he could identify each from the very first clue, and this advantage helped him sort out the answers. He was, of course, a supremely clever man.
The plan for me to take over Philby’s training responsibilities came to nothing, chiefly because of the extraordinary events that overtook Kalugin. As far as I was concerned, Kalugin had been posted, somewhat unexpectedly, to Leningrad, thus depriving me of a useful supporter at court, but behind the scenes there were some dangerous manoeuvrings that I only became aware of when, during the course of my psychological tests in the autumn of 1979, I was asked some very odd questions about my relationship with the counter-intelligence chief. Had I taken money abroad for him? Did I know of any foreign bank accounts held by him? Had I signed any chips for money that I had not actually received? These queries made no sense to me at the time and of course I maintained that my friendship with Kalugin was perfectly proper at all times, and that he had never asked to me do anything for him abroad on the sly. I did not connect this particular line with Kalugin’s departure from Moscow, but it later emerged that his political activities had made him very unpopular with the KGB’s senior management, and he had fallen out with Vladimir Kryuchkov. Typically, Kalugin’s dissent had been investigated as possibly evidence of something much more sinister, and I must have looked like a link to the west. In the end, of course, Kalugin retired from the KGB in February 1990, and in September the same was elected to the Duma, as the member for Krasnodar, and an outspoken critic of the system. Finally he emigrated to the United States and was convicted in his absence of treason, a completely trumped-up charge manufactured by his many enemies. However, as far as I was aware, the atmosphere in Moscow had deteriorated, and when I went back to Sofia I found myself disconnected, suspended from further operations until the KGB mole hunters had been satisfied. Although this was an uncomfortable few months, with little money, I did have Nellie to share the hardship with, and I was always confident that, once the enquiry had been completed, I would be cleared and given another assignment. However, this turn of events had been unsettling, and I scarcely knew how to interpret the apparently contradictory signals. On the one hand I seemed to have been accused of infiltrating the KGB, and maybe colluding with Kalugin, whereas I had also been asked to take Soviet citizenship, the implication being that I might not be able to leave the country again.
My visit to Australia in October 1978, which lasted until April 1979, on one of my last missions for the KGB, was memorable, not least because I learned that my method of acquiring and travelling on false passports was rather more efficient than the KGB’s. By that time I was experienced in operating under several different identities. The Second Chief Directorate had issued me with a French Canadian passport in the name of Jean-Jacques Baudouin which was for use only in Moscow, initially when I was targeted against two British girls, but I returned it at the conclusion of each assignment. I think it had been stolen some time in 1974, but it was unconvincing, not least because I was described as being five feet five inches tall, blue-eyed with blond hair, and I was supposed to it to pursue VERA. Nevertheless, despite these discrepancies, I also used it to attend a World Organic Chemistry conference, which was part of my cover although knew absolutely nothing about the subject. I could find no books in the field, but I did have a friend, a blonde Intourist guide whom I had picked up at a hotel in Moscow. Our friendship had started very casually, until she had invited me back to her flat where I had been introduced to her your son. Later, after he had gone to bed, and she had explained that her husband was in prison for black-market offences, and I stayed with her for several nights. She was very well connected among the university staff in Moscow, and she knew an academic who was a chemistry expert. The friend turned out to be very knowledgeable, and she gave me a smattering of the science, allowing me gain a grasp of the subject as I lay between them. Our relationship continued until the guide’s husband was released from prison, and I made one last visit to her apartment to give her son a state-of-the-art video game that was unobtainable outside the hard currency shops from which ordinary Muscovites were excluded. On that occasion her husband had welcomed me into their apartment like a long-lost brother and we had gone to the country for a barbecue and day of picking wild mushrooms. It was a lovely, unforgettable day and made me appreciate how delightful ordinary Russians can be, in contrast to the hustlers and careerists who dominated so many of the Soviet institutions, the KGB included. Nowadays, of course, such leeches are to be found in the criminal, mafia gangs that prey on foreign visitors, but the warmth and generosity of the orfinary folk match any welcome anywhere else in the world.
I also had six other genuine British passports, including one in the name of John Arthur Phillips, with a Bulgarian passport in the same name, but that identity was for use only in Bulgaria. In addition I collected quite a few other identities issued to me by Marcel for mercenary jobs, for I never went on more than one mercenary job with the same identity.
My usual alias, as supplied by the KGB, was ‘Raymond Everett’, whose passport application in Australia had been verified by a respectable English businessman, a certain John Freeman. I had adopted this unusual methodology because I had no confidence at all in the original Everett passport that had been forged by the KGB, and supposedly had belonged to a child who had died during the Second World War. Even the KGB had little faith in it because I was instructed to dump it once I had used it to reach Auckland via Tokyo on Japanese Air Lines, and to fly on to Australia on the Everett birth certificate only. Naturally I ignored these orders but in Sydney I had to go through Australian immigration, where I acquired an entry stamp on the phoney Everett passport. Fortunately the official merely noted some details from it, and then waved me through. I knew that if he had been equipped with an ultra-violet scanner the rather crude forgery would have been spotted instantly. Indeed, the principal objective for my visit to Australia was to acquire a further identity and establish myself as an Australian citizen because I was concerned that ‘John Freeman’, the big game hunter from Africa, was becoming a little too notorious among the ladies of the American diplomatic community.
One of my tasks during my travels was to acquire authentic passports for use by other KGB agents. This procedure required some skill, but I was adept at it and during my visit to Australia I made twenty separate applications for different passports, of which I collected twelve and gave them to my KGB handler in Canberra, with the other eight going directly to other addresses, or were collected by others. At that time I was living in Sydney in two places under different identities, both supported by passports, in the names of Freeman and Everett. My method of applying for passports under false names, was to telephone the issuing office with a chasing enquiry after two or three days, and arrange for a note to be attached to the Passport Office file, requesting that the passport be sent another address as the applicant was about to go away on a trip. This was a useful way of covering one’s tracks, and allowed me to carry on my business undetected.
Certainly I was never caught, although following Mitrokhin’s disclosures some enquiries were conducted in Australia, and one of my contacts, Margaret, was interviewed by the authorities. Mitrokhin’s version implies that I just went off with $8,000 by various routes just to spend months in New Zealand and then moved on to Australia just to besiege a girl with a moustache, so she would sign my passport photo, but the truth is rather different. The entire mission cost the KGB around $23,000, with some $8,000 spent on airfares. Margaret is the manageress of a travel agency based at an office very close to the flat I was renting, and it was through her that I made most of my plane reservations. Our relationship was strictly business, and legitimate, and I never needed her to support my many passport applications which depended on Forsyth’s system. I would go to a town where a young child had died and photograph the local landmarks so as to a good background to support the eventual ‘legend’ used by a KGB spy to back-stop his identity. These were the Soviet ‘illegals’ whom I also helped in advance of their mission when, prior to their main assignment, they would travel to New Zealand to become acclimatised and gain a proficiency with the language. Then they would move on to Australia and settle somewhere like Bondi Beach where there was a local Russian Jewish community. In my case, John Freeman rented an apartment in North Bondi, while Everett maintained a flat on the beach!
The passports were for sixteen year-olds but the applications were to be taken up for eighteen and nineteen year-old year graduates, often from Moscow University, who would then enrol in suitable courses, such as Russian language and literature in Australia. Occasionally there were requests for passports for older people, sometimes up to the age of fifty, and doubtless the older ones were for future ‘marrying Romeos’. In many cases, the prior research on who was dead had been completed already, but even then I visited the relevant town to check if the boy’s family was still living in the same family home. In such circumstances it is quite impossible to guarantee the security needed by the illegal, so I always looked for a fairly common name, often associated with orphans and illegitimate children given to institutions by their single mothers. I learned that the person previously employed on this not especially demanding task had been lazy and had simply visited the nearest cemetery, usually close to the local bus or railway station, taken the details of two or three children, often the first that had come into view, nearest the gate, and that was all I had to work on. I would rarely use these names and instead I would research the local Catholic children’s home, and then visit the nearest cemetery. I went everywhere to find he right names and research their backgrounds. Sometimes I did this in a tourist bus, accompanied by an unsuspecting Margaret and we would stop at restaurants and meet people, developing good contacts while simultaneously strengthening my own legend. Invariably at any stop there would be a whole troupe of passengers wandering off all over the place, perfect cover for drifting into cemeteries with a couple of carnations. I could ask locals, who might also be on the bus as internal tourists, who would be happy to chat about ‘whatever happened to Mrs Musslewhite?’ Often there would be folk travelling home who were only too happy to chat about their neighbours, all good background for building up a legend. Understandably the KGB did not want to send a Russian there to undertake such work as he would never have gained the confidence of such people. Nor would the KGB allow a member of the local rezidentura to do it as there was a fear that it might give a potential defector too much information, perhaps enough to secure a deal at some future date with the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO). Such fears were far from groundless, following the defection in 1954 of Vladimir Petrov from the Soviet embassy in Canberra.
Whenever I was seconded to other KGB departments for temporary assignments it was made clear to me that everything I learned on these posting was not just secret, but reserved for specifically that department only. When my handler said I was to be attached to a particular department, he never told me anything about the future job, because he personally knew nothing, and when I returned on completion no-one ever showed any curiosity about what I had been doing or where I had been. This was a very strict application of the ‘need-to-know’ principle, so when I returned to Canberra and reported to my handler with whatever passport I had obtained, I followed the instructions I had received in Moscow by placing the passport in a strong brown envelope, sealing it with Sellotape, and then signing across the seals. This meant that even my handler had no need to know the identity that eventually would be attached to the photograph. Nor was the hand-over a simple procedure, for it was accompanied by the usual tradecraft of a signal at a designated site, followed by a rendezvous at a prearranged meeting place, or merely a dead letter drop. In either case, it was highly efficient.
On one occasion, as described inaccurately by Mitrokhin, I was faithful to my cover to the point that I took temporary refuge in a Salvation Army hostel. The real reason for this was not because I was truly destitute, but because I had applied to the British High Commission for a new passport in the name of John Freeman, claiming that the original had been lost when my wallet had been stolen in Sydney, together with all my travel documents. I needed a new passport because my Freeman original was in Moscow, and anyway did not contain an entry visa. I had also ditched the unsatisfactory Everett passport, and reporting a theft was the most expedient way of obtaining an authentic replacement, and explaining its lack of an entry stamp. To make the request authentic I checked into the hostel, where I received a new valid passport. Ostensibly this John F. Freeman was a businessman, a partner in the firm based in Accra, Ghana, and I was able to use the new passport to draw some thousands of dollars from a bank account in Senegal and give myself a measure of security that was profoundly lacking in the Everett document. The incentive for the unplanned identity switch were the notes taken upon my arrival by the immigration officer, for I was concerned that the slightest check, perhaps on the number, with the authorities in England, would reveal it to be a forgery. Why travel on a dodgy false passport when the real thing is available?
My mission to Australia was not restricted to manufacturing false identities, and I undertook several other tasks, including making some very sensitive enquiries about individuals who, for one reason or another, had lost contact with Moscow. Some were genuine Australian citizens who had simply moved homes and not given a forwarding address, and of these a few were people running safe houses, boarding houses, retired Romeos, or former Eastern Europeans who had escaped from Communism and needed to be reminded of their relatives still behind the Iron Curtain. My job was to track such people down because they were not allowed to retire, duck down and disappear. I merely made inquiries and, when successful, relayed the information to Moscow by means of secret writing in the regular mail sent to a specific address.
My return to Moscow from Australia proved to be quite eventful as I was given a further mission on the way back. I was to stop off in Singapore and make contact with a woman working at the German Embassy who was of interest to the KGB. Once again, I found my quarry and completed my assignment as instructed, but there was an incident that made me concerned about my future. I had been waiting for my new girlfriend in a local bar when I noticed that I had become the object of some attention from a group of what looked to me like about ten extremely tough Australians, real descendants of Ned Kelly. These were no sophisticated diplomats, of the kind one might expect to meet in a Commonwealth country, but more resembled squaddies, perhaps troopers of the Australian SAS, who had me in their sights. Had word circulated too widely about my activities? Were their glances towards me an indication that I might be under surveillance, or maybe that that I was becoming unnecessarily paranoid? It occurred to me that if I was right, it was time to move on before I pushed my luck too far, and if I was wrong then I was reaching the end of my usefulness by imaging spooks around every corner. Either way, I was approaching middle-age and burn-out, and this encounter with Crocodile Dundee and his mates prompted me to begin to think seriously about changing my life.
Chapter VI London
In the autumn of 1979, having been twice offered the prize of Soviet citizenship, I had flown to Sofia, only to be recalled to Moscow to undergo a cross-examination at the KGB headquarters. It became clear to me that I was the interrogators objective, but their true target was Oleg Kalugin. I was certainly not going to participate in any such exercise and when I made this clear I was allowed to return to Bulgaria, although I now realised that I had no future in Moscow, and probably not much in Sofia, so it was time to leave. I had really fallen in love with Nellie, and I had no wish to continue screwing my way across the world. What had seemed such an attractive way of life five years earlier was now an increasing burden, to the point that I was beginning to lose interest in sex. I felt that the KGB had taken me in the prime of my life and had abused my body to the point that I was almost worn out. I was exhausted mentally too, and I was also conscious that I was in danger of becoming one of the best-known KGB agents in the world. A couple of incidents, in Khartoum and Singapore, had persuaded me that the CIA probably knew precisely who I was, and I was not so foolish as to think that my activities could be expected to continue uninterrupted forever. I had received a couple of warnings, and although I thought I recognised the signals, the KGB had seemed impervious to them. They wanted to exploit my remaining energy and vitality, and their shopping-lists seemed to be growing longer. The problem was, I had not negotiated a retirement clause in my non-existent contract of employment, and I knew that the moment I voiced my unease I would be regarded not just as suspect, but possibly as a potential embarrassment and adversary. In those circumstances I was not entirely confident that the KGB would allow me to catch a flight home. Hitherto the KGB must have been sure of my commitment becuase they had known I was a fugitive who had nowhere else to run, but the situation in London had improved, or so I had thought.
Perhaps a little too optimistically, I believed that with Moody and Virgo in prison, no English court could rely on their investigation to convict me of any crime. My optimism on this point was to prove unfounded. I had also thought that the new Commissioner, Sir David McNee, who had been brought down from Scotland in 1977 to continue Mark’s reforms at the Yard, might be expected to take an interest in my case, but this too turned out to be a forlorn hope. McNee, a Glaswegian who had never served in London, and therefore had been uncontaminated by working at the Yard, was known as ‘the Hammer’ and, as implied by his nickname, was thought to be a hard man. Bob Mark had initiated the clean-up, but he had been appointed an assistant commissioner in the Met, from Leicester, back in 1967, and therefore must himself have known of some of the shenanigans going on inside the CID. I had expected that McNee would be interested in my dossier and that it might represent a strong bargaining chip. It was with these happy thoughts in my mind that I prepared to return to London and face the music, telling Nellie only the bare minimum about my determination to get back to England. It would be impossible for her to leave, and I knew the KDS would haul her in for questioning when I disappeared,, so it was in her interests that she should know as little as possible. Because she genuinely knew very little about my activities, and was absorbed by her own work at the Palace of Culture, her protests of innocence would have a definite ring of authenticity which any skilled interrogator would understand. As for the KGB, they would undoubtedly be primarily concerned, not with her, but with any knowledge I might have taken to trade with a western intelligence agency. Without any other information to rely on, the KGB would assume that I had become a defector and in those circumstances I would be a marked man. I should not be caught attempting to leave the country illegally and, once outside the Soviet Bloc, I would have to steer clear of anywhere with a large Soviet diplomatic community.
Accordingly, my departure from Bulgaria was not entirely straightforward, although I had the benefit of two passports. One was a Bulgarian passport identifying me as John Arthur Phillips, born on 20 May 1926, but I had arrived in Sofia as ‘John Freeman’, with a three month visa valid until 24 April. It was this document that I used to try and cross the frontier into Romania, but I was turned back and told to obtain a visa. My second attempt to leave on a train to Trieste, was more successful, and having waved goodbye to Nellie at Sofia’s main train terminal, I travelled to Venice, where I contemplated my future in St Mark’s Cathedral.
In the silence of that magnificent church I realised that this was the second time I had deserted the KGB. Whereas, on the first occasion, I had been provoked into leaving India because of the treatment Nellie had received from the KDS in Sofia, and had been able to justify my action, I knew that this time I had really burned my bridges. The KGB might have been tolerant of my first disappearance, but this time I could not count on Oleg Kalugin to bale me out, and I would be in serious trouble if I went back. London, I concluded, must be my objective.
I was aware that there was, of course, the outstanding warrant for my arrest, now some eight years old, but I was also concerned about what news of my more recent activities might have reached MI5. There had been several defectors from the KGB and I wondered what lurid stories they might have passed on about the FCD’s English spy. I had charges to answer, but most could be dealt with, or so I believed. But what of any allegations concerning espionage? I had not worked against British interests, and had never compromised any classified information, so I felt reasonably relaxed about the prospect of any charges under the Official Secrets Act, but in the back of my mind there was a nagging concern about the Treason Act which referred to giving comfort to the King’s enemies and, as I recalled, was still on the Statute Book, along with arson in His Majesty’s dockyards, as a capital offence. As a precaution, and to bolster my dwindling funds, I called Barbara from Paris and asked her to send me some money so I could come home, but she was very insistent that certain things had happened, which could not be discussed on the telephone, that I should know about before I returned. They were, she assured me, extremely important, so we agreed to meet in Calais, but I was baffled to know what she had been talking about. I had plenty of time to consider the various options, and it occurred to me that perhaps our meeting might be a trap, either for the police to nab me in France, or an ambush by the press, or perhaps some other, even less palatable explanation. Accordingly, I wrote a final letter to Nellie in Sofia, which I knew would be intercepted by the KDS, and then set off for the ferry terminal. There I watched from a distance and saw Barbara arrive, and was horrified to see that she had brought our son Alex too. Our arrangement was that she should come alone, and as I scanned the other foot passengers, I thought I detected the telltale signs of surveillance. It seemed to me that there were too many people hanging around aimlessly, and my instincts told me the risk of meeting her simply was not worth it. Reluctantly, I kept them in view as they waited for me to turn up, and then saw them go back to the ferry for the return journey.
I now contemplated the easiest and safest route back to London, to Dublin and then up into Northern Ireland or across to Liverpool, but this was a luxury I simply could not afford with my limited funds. Instead I took the next ferry to Dover, was waved through immigration with only a murmur of admiration for the number of visas in my passport, and then made my way to Portsmouth where I contacted my brother Leonard at his base at Middle Wallop. By the time I reached the bus station in Portsmouth I was in a poor state, having had my briefcase stolen on the ferry, and was exhausted from the nervous tension of the strange events in Calais and my easy entry back into the country. Happily my brother made me welcome and I stayed with him, his wife and two daughters while I recovered my strength and made contact through him with my mother in Romsey. She had been concerned about a rather nosy police family in a neighbouring house, so I kept away from the house and was reunited with her and my children at Leonard’s home.
I remained ignorant of what Barbara had been trying to warn me about until I moved up to Sevenoaks where I stayed at a small country house hotel run by an old friend, a former CID officer whom I trusted implicitly. I arranged to meet Barbara again, and on this occasion satisfied myself that she had come alone, and there was no possibility of any entrapment or surveillance. She filled in many of the gaps in my knowledge about what had been happening in England over the past eight years, and told me that a private detective named George Devlin was anxious to trace me because he needed evidence to discredit my former colleague Ian Harley. Apparently Harley had worked on a case of a major property fraud in London, and Devlin’s client, a developer named Pineles, had been accused of making off with £15m and had engaged a well-known firm of solicitors, Noble & Co, and John Matthew QC, to represent him. According to Barbara, Devlin knew that I would be able to compromise Harley, and my witness statement had acquired a considerable value. Her purpose in travelling to Calais had been to convey Devlin’s offer, but the more I looked into the background, the less I liked the sound of it. Initially John Matthew had worked for the prosecution against Pineles, but later it seemed that when the case had been dropped Matthew had retired, gone into private practice and helped defend Pineles in a civil action to recover the lost millions. A hopelessly heavy gambler, reputedly in debt to some notorious loan-sharks, he was apparently keen to meet me in the hope of discrediting Ian Harley. But how had he linked Harley to me? The connection proved to be yet another hideous disappointment for me, for in a moment of indiscretion Matthew had let slip that when he had worked on the original case against me, Moody had shown him a previously undisclosed statement signed by Harley. This was a man who had been my close friend and neighbour, and named his son after me. To learn that Harley had secretly turned against me and taken Moody’s side was a devastating blow and ended what few illusions I had left about loyalty within the police. I had known Harley well, and had dug him out of trouble on several occasions, yet the man I would have trusted my life to had betrayed me. Worse, he had helped Moody and remained silent about having done so. I had well understood the savage ‘alpha male’ wolf pack syndrome where one-time colleagues could be expected to turn on me to demonstrate their own innocence, but this treachery was too hard even for me to stomach. Certainly Harley had let me down badly, and now he would figure prominently in my updated dossier, but I had too many other complications to deal with.
In April 1980 I finally telephoned my solicitor, Ben Birnberg, and announced my intention to surrender to the authorities. My plan was to give myself up but make contact with MI5 to negotiate a deal in which I could receive an immunity in return for an account of my espionage over the past eight years, and a detailed statement relating to corrupt officers in the Met. However, making this proposal was not quite as easy as I had anticipated. Birnberg knew nobody in the Security Service, and the route to the new Cabinet Secretary, Sir Robert Armstrong, turned out to be far from easy. Armstrong had seemed the right person to go to because, constitutionally, he acted as the official link between the security and intelligence services and the prime minister, and he had the added advantage of having run the Home Office for the past three years as the Permanent Under-Secretary. This would have given him a good grounding in what had happened in the Met, and brought him into daily contact with MI5’s Director-General, (Sir) John Jones, who would have been quite unapproachable directly. At Birnberg’s suggestion we consulted Gareth Peirce, and she advised that we talk to the Observer, a paper that we presumed would be in touch with MI5 or the Cabinet Secretary on a regular basis. In the meantime Birnberg and I turned up one afternoon at the Old Bailey and announced ourselves to one of the clerks who seemed reluctant to take me into custody and suggested I return a few days later. Knowing that I had set quite a lot in motion, I persisted, and eventually a copy of the original arrest warrant was found, and I was remanded in custody by Judge Albert Clark to Brixton’s hospital wing to await news of MI5’s reaction. My only consolation was visits from Barbara, who was often accompanied by Barbara Windsor, the Carry On actress whose gangster husband, Ronnie Knight, was also on remand, awaiting trial for armed robbery. Much later, Knight, who also owned clubs in Soho, and his brother John were convicted of the famous 1983 Security Express robbery which netted their gang £6m.
My offer to document my work for the KGB and reveal my dossier on police corruption was made to the Security Service but, to my surprise, it was turned down flat, without even an opportunity to show what I was prepared to trade. Only later did I learn that MI5 had gone straight to Scotland Yard to ask whether my allegations of widespread corruption within the CID could be true. Not surprisingly, my former colleagues condemned me as a fantasist, and I found myself facing a lengthy prison sentence with no chance of bail. My other option, of publicising my case, seemed fraught, but Jack Crossley of the Observer suggested another approach, this time through the Attorney-General, Sir Michael Havers, and I was visited in prison by one of his reporters, Bill Thompson, to outline the material I could offer. Once again, the attempt failed, and I found myself the object of attention from the Yard with requests for interviews from detectives doubtless despatched by the new ACC, Gilbert Kelland. I learned that far from having fallen victim to the purges, eland had been instrumental in conducting them, and this was another good reason for me to keep my distance from the Yard.
Much had changed in London during the eight years of my absence, and as a result of evidence from Jimmy Humphreys and another pornographer specialising in hard-core material, Gerald Citron, the lid had been blown off Moody’s activities. In May 1974, during one of the Mark purges, Citron had been convicted of possession of pornography and fined £30,000, but instead of paying up, Citron had fled to the South of France, leaving behind a lengthy statement about police corruption in Soho. Originally from Manchester, Citron had become a major supplier to the Soho market, and had paid off the Dirty Squad like everybody else. However, he had expected a measure of protection, and when Mark’s new regime began to raid premises assumed to be immune, all bets were off. Moody had been found to have had a half share in a porn shop in Walker’s Court, managed by one of Silver’s men, Joey Jones, and the number of number of people in the trade willing to implicate Moody and Virgo escalated dramatically.
The imprisonment of Moody and Virgo in 1977 had transformed the CID, and even with the passage of time it is hard to exaggerate the impact their convictions had. Commander Virgo, for example, had served on Lord Mountbatten’s enquiry into prison security, following the escape of George Blake in 1966, and for years had exercised tremendous influence at the Yard and in Whitehall. It had been his evidence at DCI Vic Kelaher’s trial on conspiracy charges in September 1973 that had ensured his acquittal when three of his subordinates in the Drugs Squad were convicted of perjury. The picture that emerged of the Dirty Squad’s grip on the very trade it was intended to suppress had astonished even the most hardened and cynical. The Kelland enquiry showed that the Dirty Squad had been collecting £250,000 a year, and before he committed suicide in May 1975 the porn importer ‘Big Jeff’ Phillips gave lengthy interviews to the Sunday People which had published several articles detailing the symbiotic relationship between corrupt plain-clothes men and Soho’s vice merchants. Stories of parties, hookers, holidays and junkets were spiced with allegations of free cars and home improvements for detectives, and suddenly the rumours that had circulated for years were not only confirmed, but helped swing the pendulum of public opinion in the direction advocated by Lord Longford, who had chaired an enquiry into pornography in 1972. The question for me to answer, though, was whether this new environment would help or hinder my case. On the one hand the revelations added weight to my dossier on police corruption, but that advantage had to be balanced against the widespread belief that most of the Met’s CID had been contaminated, myself included.
The most serious of the charges against me concerned my three meetings with Michael Perry, and with the maximum sentence being two years’ imprisonment on each charge of conspiracy, I was looking at a possible six years inside. The other charges were simply too spurious to be pursued.
Robson and Harris had been convicted on the evidence of the tape recordings which would be used against me, but I realised that I would stand little chance of challenging their authenticity now that the Court of Appeal had ruled in favour of their convictions. Four forensic experts had shown the recordings to have been edited, but to declare the transcripts unsafe now would have far wider implications, and I knew such a strategy would be torpedoed at the outset. I also knew that I would be lucky to get an early dismissal on the grounds of entrapment, as this strategy had been deployed at the Robson and Harris trial, and the judge had ruled against the defence.
I was to spend the next few months on remand in the segregated cells of A Wing in HM Prison Brixton, which I shared with Makki Hounoun Ali, the only terrorist to survive the SAS attack on the Iranian Embassy at Prince’s Gate in May 1980. Ali was one of six members of the ‘Mujahaddin Anafar Martyr’ who had forced their way into the building and held the twenty-six occupants hostage for six days before the SAS stormed the building and shot dead five of the terrorists. Ali only escaped with his life because in the confusion he had discarded his weapons and had mingled with the hostages as they had been bundled out of the burning building into the garden at the rear. The seizure of the embassy had been planned in Baghdad in an attempt to draw attention to the plight of Iraqis in the Iranian province of Arabistan, and they had intended to negotiate their release, and certainly had not anticipated the lethal intervention of the SAS.
I was just preparing myself for my trial when I saw that The Fall of Scotland Yard by Barry Cox, John Shirley and Martin Short, which had been published in 1977 and contained a very distorted account of what purported to have been my corrupt activities, all highly prejudicial to my case, had been reprinted and rushed out to coincide with the publicity surrounding my unexpected reappearance in London. I had been shown a copy of the book in Moscow when it had been first released three years earlier, and as soon as I read the references to me I suspected that the authors had been briefed by someone keen to keep me out of the country. Most of the book concentrated on corruption at the Yard, but the version of my role was highly distorted and implied that I was a master criminal. A good example was the innuendo that on the night the Times story appeared, I had telephoned a criminal named Ronald Williams to intimidate him and ensure his silence. This was demonstrably untrue, but had been one of the charges produced at the committal proceedings, following the trawl through the underworld for other offences I might have committed. In fact Williams was a career criminal who had been one of Harley’s informants, and he had negotiated his release from prison on a Home Office license in return for his witness statement, made to one of the gullible country coppers, implicating me. As soon as he gained his freedom he went on a one-man crime wave and used his license as a get-out-of-jail-free card whenever he was arrested. Finally, when he was caught stealing the brass plate off a lawyer’s office the magic wore off and he admitted his evidence had been a manoeuvre to leave prison. One further charge documented in the book in some detail related to £15 allegedly received from Daniel Crouch, another of Harley’s informants who was a member of the gang known as ‘the Likely Lads’. Crouch’s evidence, as received by DCS Charles Naan of the Mid-Anglia Constabulary, was that he had paid me to make a traffic summons disappear, but once again, upon close scrutiny, his story disintegrated. The reality was that a police motorcyclist had given Crouch a statutory police form known as an HO/RT/1 (an abbreviation of Home Office/Road Traffic Act document 1) which required the recipient to present certain designated documents, such as a certificate of motor insurance or a driving license, at a name police station within five days. Detectives did not issue these forms, and they were processed exclusively by the uniformed branch. It turned out that Harley had been a police cadet with an officer named Shakespeare who worked in the processing department and occasionally they ran a little fiddle which enabled them to lose the process duplicate. One that copy had disappeared, the grateful recipient could ignore the summons and no further action would be taken because there was no record of a failure to produce the required documents. This was a scheme run by Harley and Shakespeare, but was nothing to do with me, and I had no knowledge of Crouch, who apparently ran a whelk stall on the Old Kent Road. Once again, the charge was based on fabricated evidence, and to make matters worse, the version in The Fall of Scotland Yard suggested that the Met detectives on the Williamson enquiry had failed to trace the motorcyclist who had issued the original form, whereas the country bumpkins had found him with a couple of hours. The implication was that I had somehow used my extensive influence among other corrupt officers at the Yard to suppress a vital clue that was uncovered by the swedes. Plainly, the tale was absurd, but the fact that it had reached the pages of the book showed that someone was quite serious about using any tactic to deter me from making an appearance. As for Crouch, I learned that he had been facing thirty charges of shop-breaking and had applied for bail. Surprisingly, his application had been granted and twenty-nine of the charges were dropped in return for his witness statement.
In the light of the publicity the book attracted I successfully petitioned to have my trial moved to the provinces, and eventually I appeared before Mr Justice Angus Stroyan at Middlesborough Crown Court, where I was prosecuted by a Crown counsel named Riblin on three charges of having corruptly obtained £150 from a criminal. The person identified in the court papers was, of course, Michael Perry, and I was accused of having taken the money off him as a bribe to prevent him from facing a charge of theft in the Nuneaton case. The evidence was a tape recording made on 31 October, illegally, in a car, supported by two other transcripts which, in their right context, should not have been particularly incriminating.
The crux of the case was that back in September 1969 Frankie the Barber had provided Perry with a completely bogus alibi for the Nuneaton case, and it had been Moody who had travelled to see the Warwickshire police to confirm that the Met had conducted the proper enquiries in Camberwell and established the bona-fides of the spurious JP. In retrospect it was obvious that Moody had made the journey to Nuneaton to protect himself because Frank Holbert worked for his friend Bernie Silver, and any detailed investigation of Holbert could spill over into what was happening in Soho and compromise Moody’s little enterprise. In effect Moody had covered himself and ensured that if anyone took any heat over the false alibi, it would be me. This became quite obvious, and explained why Moody had joined the Williamson enquiry, and why he had taken the trouble to take statements from the Warwickshire police in 1970 when that task ought to have been undertaken by officers drawn from provincial forces. The arrangement that had allowed the Williamson enquiry to proceed was Sir John Waldron’s insistence that only Met officers would interview Met detectives, leaving the outsiders, drawn from Birmingham, Manchester and other forces, to handle the provincial enquiries. Why had Moody taken it upon himself to break the convention and rush off to Nuneaton? The answer was now obvious, and Frankie Holbert, who supposedly had been acting as one of Moody’s informants since 1958, held the key, However, Frankie had died, supposedly having jumped off a balcony at the block of flats in which he lived in Deptford in November 1973, hours after he had been convicted on pornography charges. Did he really jump, or was he pushed? Personally, I had no doubt about what had happened because there were too many powerful people with too much to lose if Frankie had decided to start talking about police corruption. Moody had enriched dozens of very influential figures, inside and outside the Yard, and none of them could have wanted Frankie to start making statements He certainly did not possess the strength of character to kill himself and it did not take much imagination to think of the circumstances in which he could have been coaxed or coerced up onto a roof and then shoved over the edge. It was certainly one of the most convenient and timely deaths of the era, and it had occurred to me that a similar fate could await me. If this sounds fanciful, I reminded myself that I was accused, by men making hundreds of thousands of pounds, of having received £50 from a known criminal in a car. Moody was a dangerous man, with powerful friends, and this knowledge had helped keep me away from England for eight years.
Thus, when I came to trial, Moody was still in prison, Frankie the Barber was dead and Michael Perry would be facing a perjury charge if he failed to stick to his assertion that he had paid me £50 in October 1969, followed by another £50 a month later, for what had really been Moody’s mischief.
My case got off to a bad start when my counsel, (Sir) Ivan Lawrence QC MP, failed in his application to have the fourteen tapes excluded from the prosecution’s evidence. Plainly the recordings had been made illegally, and those presented were not even the originals, but Lawrence’s submission failed to impress the judge, and I lost confidence in him. This was such a fundamental plank of my defence that I reckoned I might just as well conduct the rest of it myself. Five of the charges were dropped, but I was convicted on the remaining two, relating the allegation that I had extorted £150 from Perry, and was sentenced to two years. In court to hear the verdict were a couple of Russians, who I assumed had turned up to see if there was likely to be any embarrassing revelations about my past contacts with the KGB, so they must have been relieved when no word of that aspect of my past was mentioned.
After sentencing I had just six weeks to serve so, after a brief spell at Durham, I was sent to Rudgate open prison near Newcastle, where I became acquainted with Joe Kagan, who offered to make contact with the KGB for me, and then finally was transferred to Ford open prison for release.
My past soon caught up with me because I was approached by a firm of solicitors anxious to gather evidence about a currently serving detective, a chief inspector, who had attempted to extort a large sum from a property developer in Kensington. One of the parties had fled to Grasse in the south of France, and the tenacious George Devlin had been retained by John Matthew QC to go in pursuit of my old colleague Ian Harley and two former detectives. The offer made to me was to pay for my appeal if I supplied enough information on Harley, and may be set me up in business, but I was not interested. However, my other approach was, so I thought, rather more promising. It seemed that the Hertfordshire Police had never quite given up their interest in corruption in the Met, even though their contribution to Operation COUNTRYMAN had been ridiculed as the futile efforts of provincial flatfoots seeking to root out bad apples in London’s CID. I was invited to prepare a lengthy statement, describing my encounters with senior officers such as Gilbert Kelland, who had been appointed Assistant Commissioner (Crime) in 1977. I was able to give a detailed account of the darker side of my ex-colleagues to the head of the Hertfordshire CID, who was backed by his Chief Constable when the time came to negotiate an immunity for my evidence, which eventually amounted to a statement of 260 pages. My agreement, endorsed by the DPP and the Attorney-General, was to absolve me of involvement in any crime, short of violence, and in return I was entirely candid in naming those whom I knew to have been on the take. I was always somewhat sceptical about what this enquiry would achieve, and I was proved to have been quite realistic, because all that I accomplished was the lifelong enmity of the Met which was now run by the very people I had compromised. Not surprisingly, Scotland Yard took every opportunity to deride my testimony and portray me as a fantasist, and almost the only person to fall victim of my dossier was Ian Harley, the Camberwell detective who had been the architect of most of my problems.
I was always puzzled about why the Security Service never bothered to interview me, after I had served my sentence, but the truth was to emerge when Tom King’s Parliamentary Committee investigated the background to Vasili Mitrokhin’s defection in June 2000. Mitrokhin had been aggrieved at the way he had been handled following his defection in 1992, and Tom King had criticised the officers who had never bothered to pursue the leads I must have represented. Naturally I was one of the first to buy a copy of The Mitrokhin Archive, but I was disappointed by his account of my adventures because it was so fragmentary and inaccurate. There I learned that my KGB codename had been SCOT, which in Russian means ‘swine’ or ‘brute’, and that Nellie had been ‘an agent of the Bulgarian intelligence service’. While the information about my codename might have been true, it was the most outrageous calumny to accuse Nellie, with whom I had been reunited in 2000 when she finally reached England, of having had any relationship with the Bulgarian intelligence service. On the contrary, she had been a victim of their harassment and later was to prove her loyalty and commitment to me by becoming my wife.
Almost as soon as I had left Sofia Nellie had been visited by two KDS officers who had demanded to know where I was, and she had told them, quite simply, that I had gone to England. Soon afterwards they had returned, and on this occasion Nellie had shown them my letter from France in which I had confirmed my intention to return to London. Most likely they already knew the contents, as mail from the west was routinely intercepted by the KDS, but instead of being hostile, the officers had suggested that she might like to go to England and persuade me to return. Nellie had turned the idea down, so the KDS had resorted to other tactics, recruiting one of her friends, Vanga, as an informant in November 1982. None too subtly Vanga had taken a close interest in Nellie and she had realised her motives instantly. However, it was only when I unexpectedly resumed contact with Nellie, in a telephone call a month later, in December 1982, that she had anything to conceal. I flew in to Sofia on 16 December, to be reunited with her, and over the next ten days I told her the full truth for the first time, and she learned of what I had been up to during the eight years of my association with the KGB, of my police background, and my trial and imprisonment. Truly she had no inkling of any of it, but the news had been a terrible shock for her so when I left for the airport on Boxing Day I suspected I might never see her again.
Curiously, the KDS appears not to have discovered my visit to Sofia until after I had left for, once again, two officers had turned up rather too late, anxious to know why I had returned. Equally inquisitive was Valentin, my old handler from the Soviet embassy, whose unexpected appearance proved that the KGB had not lost its interest in me. I only heard about this unwelcome attention much later, but I refrained from contacting Nellie because to do so might have placed her in danger. Indeed, I did not hear from her until 1990 when, without any warning, I received a birthday card postmarked in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
Although the KDS had banned Nellie from any foreign travel, the collapse of the Communist regime meant the restrictions were lifted, so she had taken the opportunity to go on a university exchange and stay on the campus in Newcastle. I was unaware of this, and heard nothing more from her until the middle of September 1999, immediately following the Mitrokhin disclosures. She had heard the story in Sofia where I had acquired some celebrity, and having contacted the Daily Express, which had published a photograph of me outside my flat in north London, had written a letter addressed simply to ‘8 Holly Court’. Thanks to the efficiency of the post office, this had indeed reached me, and the next month I had been reunited with Nellie in Sofia. Indeed, I visited Bulgaria again in November, and again in December when, at long last, we were married. On 15 January we came back to England as man and wife, and went to live with my younger brother in Nottingham.
My exposure as a key KGB agent for eight years, as disclosed by The Mitrokhin Archive, at least served one purpose, which was to embarrass MI5, the organisation that had failed to take me seriously, but when I read the pages describing my exploits, my jaw dropped and my blood pressure rose. Much of the information in the account could not have come, as alleged, from the KGB’s archives, and in the text it was hard to distinguish between what was really Mitrokhin’s own version, and what had been inserted by his editor, Christopher Andrew.
Although one of the leading intelligence historians of the period, and the author of Secret Service in 1983, Andrew had come to his subject late and his original doctorate had been gained in studying the history of football. He was widely criticised when he belatedly drew the defector Oleg Gordievsky into collaborating with KGB: The Inside Story, a supposedly comprehensive history of the Soviet intelligence services published in 1990, which was heavily dependent on secondary sources, some of them quite unreliable. Indeed, Gordievsky’s role had not been that of a co-author, but really as a source of confirmation for much of what had been written already by Dr Andrew (who speaks no Russian), long before the defector had joined the project. When Mitrokhin turned up in London determined to publish his archive, speaking no English, and with no understanding of what was already in the public domain in the west, he clearly needed considerable support to transform his incomplete manuscript and numerous volumes of disjointed hand-written notes into a comprehendible narrative. The task was mammoth and was divided into what amounted to four separate publications: a British and almost identical American volume, a French (Le KGB contre l’Ouest:1917-1991) and German (Das Schwarzbuch des KGB) version of the same with additional local cases; a KGB Lexicon published three years later to give an insight into terms and phrases used by the KGB, and a final volume which was to be heavily delayed. Apparently Mitrokhin had been appalled to see that the American edition of his beloved Mitrokhin Archive, which he had spent a quarter o a century compiling at immense danger to himself, had been entitled The Sword and the Shield, with the authors described as Christopher Andrew, in bold letters, ‘with Vasili Mitrokhin’ in smaller letters underneath. Understandably, Mitrokhin had felt aggrieved at this presentation of his life’s work, and complained vociferously. When he was interviewed by the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee he made it clear that he ‘was not content with the way in which the book was published’ and ‘wished he had had full control over the handling of his material’. Although the co-authors may have fallen out, my concern was the accuracy of what had been written about me, and the doubt about precisely how much of the pages devoted to my exploits really had originated from the KGB’s plundered files. As well as the two opportunities for error, when Mitrokhin copied his extracts, and then when his notes were translated into English, there was also the possibility that the original material in the KGB files were inaccurate. Certainly the information concerning me was quite detailed, but that did not make it right, and some of it was undoubtedly plain wrong, but how much? I was fascinated to learn that my Raymond Everett alias had been codenamed FORST in the KGB’s archives, but was that really true? There was no way of verifying much of the information without access to the original records.
Whilst few could disagree that Mitrokhin’s goldmine represented an unprecedented windfall for western intelligence agencies, it required very careful handling while it was being refined and transformed from his raw material into form that could be easily understood. Mitrokhin had lost his access upon his retirement in 1984, shortly before the world of counter-intelligence was to be turned upside-down by the decision of Aldrich Ames, in April 1985, to betray the CIA’s list of moles in Moscow. Thus Mitrokhin was never in a position to learn about Ames’s treachery, nor to compromise the KGB’s star spy in the FBI, Robert Hanssen, who had first volunteered information to the GRU in New York in 1979. After selling three batches of classified documents to the KGB’s rivals, he had withdrawn from the scene until he re-established contact with the Soviets, in Washington DC, in June 1986, but this time he dealt with the KGB, and even then he went to considerable lengths to conceal his true identity and even the fact that he was an FBI counter-intelligence officer. Thus when Mitrokhin retired in 1984 he knew nothing about either Ames or Hanssen, but nor did he ever see the file of the KGB’s other important spy, John Walker, who had been handled by the 16th Department, a self-contained, specialist unit within the FCD concentrating on signals intelligence. Unusually, the 16th Department maintained their own compartmented archive to which Mitrokhin never had access. Accordingly, although Dr Andrew included plenty of references in his book to Ames and Walker, they were actually completely unknown to Mitrokhin. Hanssen, of course, was not to be caught until February 2001, long after the publication of The Mitrokhin Archive, and there was no mention of George Trofimoff either, who was not to be arrested until June 2000. That, of course, is not to diminish the significance of Mitrokhin himself, or his documents, and there is no question that it was a tip from him that finally entrapped Robert Lipka, the KGB’s nineteen year-old spy inside the National Security Agency who had been active for two years until he left the NSA in August 1967 to attend college, having been paid $27,000 for more than fifty bundles of secret documents he had been asked to take to the shredder. In short, Mitrokhin was of great historical interest, but he did not actually identify any of that most valuable of commodities, spies currently active. Lipka had cut off all contact with the KGB in 1974, and Trofimoff had retired from the US Army Reserve in 1987. Both men received long prison sentences after they had been videotaped boasting of their espionage to undercover FBI Special Agents, but Mitrokhin’s evidence on its own fell far short of what was required to secure criminal convictions. It required extremely sensitive handling, and the omission of Trofimoff’s case from The Mitrokhin Archive was simply that, at the time of publication, the investigation was still ongoing.
In common with most intelligence agencies, there is often an element of both fact and fiction in the KGB’s files, and this does not necessarily mean that the files were compiled by case officers with malevolent intent. There can be differences in perception, and the lines between an unconscious source and a willing agent is sometimes hard to determine, and even harder to explain if a subject is attributed a codeword which might imply he or she was a fully-fledged spy, whereas they might not have been anything more than a casual acquaintance. In my case such delicacies did not concern me because of course I had always been a willing agent from the outset. However, my doubts about the veracity of Mitrokhin’s version increased when I learned that of the thirteen footnoted source references to me, all from more than forty paragraphs devoted to me in ‘Volume 5, Chapter 14’ of the defector’s notes, none were available for independent scrutiny, either in their original form or as photocopies. Then there was the issue of the chronology described in Mitrokhin’s account. According to his version, I had marched into the Soviet embassy in Rabat to offer my services, but that was untrue. Did this assertion appear in the KGB file or in Mitrokhin’s notes, or was it supposition on the part of Professor Andrew? Then I had been recruited as the KGB’s ‘first British Romeo spy’ and ‘posted to Bulgaria’ to cultivate suitable targets, with ‘the wife of an official in an FRG government department’ as my ‘most important sexual conquest’. In reality, of course, I had met Nina entirely casually, while I was recuperating from malaria, and the idea that I had been deployed to seduce her was laughable. But again, was this material reproduced faithfully from Mitrokhin, or was it another example of Dr Andrew joining up the dots and drawing a completely false picture?
The other incidents described by Andrew were equally misleading, and his version had me blundering around Australia, whereas I completed the mission without any mishaps. With one finger in the source notes, and the other following the text, I read that I had been a corrupt detective ‘in the pay of criminals such as south London gang boss Charlie Richardson’, and that while awaiting trial I had gone ‘into hiding for several months’ and then had used a false passport in the name of John Freeman, supposedly my ‘girlfriend’s mentally handicapped brother’ to flee abroad, finally approaching the KGB at the Soviet embassy in Rabat in August 1972. Every detail of Mitrokhin’s version was an absurd travesty, and I certainly was never in hiding before I left for Morocco. Indeed, I had been in constant contact with my colleagues at Camberwell police station who, with typical generosity, had arranged a regular whip-round for me, organised by Colin Crisp. Several officers, including Michael Smith and Peter Lang had been frequent visitors at my house, and of course during those two and a half years awaiting trial I had also been in direct touch with my co-defendants, Robson and Harris. Although I had briefly known Eddie Richardson as a young man, Of course, I had absolutely no connection with the Richardson gang beyond working on the edge of the police investigation, like many hundreds of other Met detectives. Of course I did obtain the Freeman passport, but not until long after my departure from England, a journey for which I had used my own passport. As for Barbara’s brother being mentally handicapped, the idea is absurd. He spent twenty years working for British Rail and then had another career with Westminster City Council, a total of forty years of exemplary service without a single of sick leave, and certainly no mental problems.
For good measure, Dr Andrew claimed that my photo in the Freeman passport application had been ‘authenticated by the mistress of a member of the Richardson gang’. Was this embellishment in Mitrokhin’s files, or had it been added by Dr Andrew?
Another bizarre assertion was that I had ‘made the dramatic claim that Denis Healey, the Secretary of State for Defence, regularly bribed Chief Superintendent Bill Moody of the Met “to smooth over certain unpleasantness”. Once again, this was sheer invention, only on this occasion I could see how it might have been possible for some ignorant KGB officer to have confused DS Harley’s name with that of the Labour politician, although I thought it unlikely. In any event, the context was completely wrong, although I do admit that in Moscow I often sounded off about the injustice I had suffered at the hands of Moody and his cronies. Certainly Moody was corrupt and was shown at his trial to have been bribed by many, but as far as I knew there had not been any politicians involved. Nevertheless, this example strongly suggested that poor transliteration may have been a factor in building a ridiculously inaccurate account of my activities. No wonder that Mitrokhin himself had been so disappointed with the eventual publication. He had wanted his life’s work to be an unchallengeable history of Soviet misdeeds, not a compendium of inaccurate tales of espionage.
The most wounding of all the tripe attributed to Mitrokhin was the assertion that Nellie had been ‘an agent of the Bulgarian intelligence service’. This was not only a complete fabrication, but was really very hard for Nellie to endure for she had been victimised by the KDS because of her relationship with me, and for her to be smeared in this way was intolerable. The impact on her, and her family in Sofia, a city then recovering from years of Communist repression, had been devastating. In the post-Zhivkov era, it is hard to imagine a more damaging and potentially dangerous charge than one of having collaborated with his hated security apparatus. Although Zhivkov himself had been deposed in 1992 and sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment, he had been in power since 1954 and there were plenty of people about with scores to settle, real or imagined. To be labelled a KDS agent in the atmosphere prevailing at the time was extremely hazardous, even for one’s friends. Irritatingly, Dr Andrew agreed under pressure from lawyers to remove this passage from future editions when Nellie complained, but never apologised for what was an entirely gratuitous falsehood that had created appalling problems for her family. His reluctance to correct an obvious injustice, and his refusal to show us Mitrokhin’s original notes left me deeply suspicious of the authenticity of the rest of The Mitrokhin Archive.
Having read the Mitrokin account of my case, I really wondered about the accuracy of the rest of the book. He claimed that, as the KGB’s archivist, he had smuggled scraps of paper out of the headquarters over a period of twenty years, and then had reconstructed entire operational files. If his version of my file was anything to go by, the rest of the material was deeply suspect, although occasionally one could see how either he or his SIS interpreters had misconstrued people and events. For example, Mitrokhin claimed that one of the women I had targeted in India had been an Israeli, but this clearly was a misunderstanding, for the Bronfman girl was a Jewish Canadian, not an Israeli. Was this another piece of embroidery, poor transliteration or sheer fabrication?
Part of my irritation at the references to me in The Mitrokhin Archive concerns the revelation, made to the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee, that when the Foreign Secretary, Malcolm Rifkind, orignally had authorised the publication project in March 1996, he had imposed certain very strict conditions on the public release of the material where living people might be identified by name, noting that ‘it would be grossly unfair if unproven allegations were published with our agreement’. He was also emphatic that the decision to include any names should not be left to the Security Service. As a lawyer and a politician, Rifkind anticipated the impact of unsubstantiated accusations of espionage, and doubtless the publisher’s legal advisers would have given similar advice, but Rifkind effectively imposed a ban on naming individuals who had not been convicted of espionage. He was quite correct to do so, and he had been equally right to prevent MI5 from taking the initiative in denouncing individuals never charged with any crime. Within the Whitehall system, MI5 is a curious hybrid because although the organisation and its director-general are accountable to the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister, they are not instruments of political power in the same way that the country’s other intelligence agencies are. The Director-General of the Security Service heads a semi-autonomous body and has surprisingly wide discretion, within the terms of the legislation passed since 1989, to open files and conduct investigations without consulting ministers, and undertake independent analysis. This is in stark contrast to the relationship between the Secret Intelligence Service which responds to requirements set by the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), which then uses analysts from its own Assessment Staff to collate the product and distribute reports. It is in this rather unusual constitutional arrangement that ministers are necessarily hesitant about extending MI5 even greater freedom, and Rifkind had wisely anticipated the potential pitfalls of having the organisation sponsor, on behalf of the government, the identities of people named by a Soviet defector as traitors, or even entirely innocent targets of Soviet interest. If Mitrokhin had wanted to publish his book independently, without official assistance, he would have been free to do so, subject to the UK’s laws of defamation, and the European Convention on Human Rights, but instead he had opted to collaborate with the government, which was an entirely different matter. Quite properly, governments are reluctant to be drawn into the libel courts, especially in cases where the principles of Crown immunity would not apply. Rifkind’s wise injunction had been intended to protect the innocent implicated by Mitrokhin, and avoid legal controversy.
Somehow, as it turned out, Rifkind’s prohibition had not extended to me, although I had not acted against British interests and, on the contrary, had been granted a formal immunity from prosecution by the Director of Public Prosecutions in 1984. Somehow this important detail also had been omitted from the final text of The Mitrokhin Archive, and I was thrown to the media wolves. I was especially irked by this uneven treatment because a Tribune journalist, codenamed DAN, was described as the London rezidentura’s ‘most reliable agent of influence during the 1960s’, yet his true identity was initially concealed, at least until some assiduous researchers challenged Dick Clements, a political adviser to the Labour Party leaders Michael Foot and Neil Kinnock. Clements had edited Tribune for twenty years and, according to Mitrokhin, had been recruited by the KGB in 1959 and had done their bidding for years afterwards. With his wide readership and very considerable political influence, he had been regarded by the KGB as a vital asset, and MI5 of course would have been fully aware of DAN’s real name and status yet, curiously, he had benefited from Rifkind’s ruling, whereas I had not. I had never been accused of espionage in Britain, or spying against British interests, yet here was someone said to have been paid by the KGB to publish Soviet propaganda, and had been protected. Like Richard Gott, the Guardian journalist exposed by Oleg Gordievsky in December 1994, Clements had peddled Soviet propaganda at the KGB’s request, but of course had never been in a position to compromise any classified material (and thereby breach the Official Secrets Act). Nevertheless, he did admit to having had meetings with Yuri Kobaladze, a senior member of the KGB’s London rezidentura working under diplomatic cover. Clements and Gott had been ideologically inclined towards the Soviets, and the latter’s true role had been revealed in an article in the Spectator, based on Gordievsky’s information. However, in the case of Clements, MI5 must have known he was DAN, yet his name did not emerge until he was challenged by The Sunday Times and admitted having been in touch with the Soviets.
The way in which The Mitrokhin Archive came to be published is quite extraordinary and the subsequent parliamentary inquiry offers a unique opportunity to understand precisely what happened. It is also an eloquent textbook account of how not to handle an important defector and his information, and reveals some astonishing examples of perfidy and ineptitude within the Security Service.
The first politician to be informed about the existence of a potential defector codenamed GUNNER took place within a couple of weeks of Mitrokhin’s initial approach in Riga, with the SIS Chief, Sir Colin McColl, mentioning him to Douglas Hurd, the then Foreign Secretary. As well as having spent fourteen years as a Foreign Office diplomat himself, serving in Rome, New York and Peking, Hurd’s son Tom was then also an SIS officer, so the Cabinet minister knew all about that mysterious organisation referred to in Whitehall as ‘the friends’. Indeed Hurd, who has written several spy novels, had also spent three years as private secretary to Sir Harold Caccia, the FO’s Permanent Under-Secretary, and a former Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, right at the very heart of Whitehall’s intelligence system. Exactly what Hurd was told by McColl on that occasion is not recorded, but a man of his experience would have instantly grasped the implications, especially as Mitrokhin from the outset had made publication of his book a condition of his cooperation. Even at that time, with the Soviet Union in ruins and former intelligence personnel forming orderly queues outside American embassies in an effort to flee the chaos and trade on their knowledge, Mitrokhin must have stood out as a potential espionage coup.
Hurd was told formally about the existence of the source codenamed GUNNER in August 1992, and two months later he gave his permission to the plan to exfiltrate Mitrokhin and his family to England in October, but the Prime Minister, John Major, was not informed about any of these events until January 1993, three months after Mitrokhin’s arrival, when he was briefed by McColl. None of this is unusual or improper, as the Foreign Secretary is routinely informed about SIS’s work, and is required to personally approve individual operations where there is some risk involved, especially is there is a danger of political ‘blow-back’. Long gone are the days of the infamous ‘robber barons’ of SIS who often mounted hazardous undertakings without any ministerial sanction, and in April 1956 even consented to sent a diver on a seccret mission under a Soviet warship, contrary to an express ban made by the Prime Minister, Anthony Eden. The system of ministerial approvals subsequently introduced after the fiasco in Portsmouth, which resulted in the death of SIS’s frogman, eliminated the ‘plausible deniability’ that had been so attractive to politicians, but there had remained, until the passage of the Intelligence Services Act in 1994, some protection in the well-established principle that as Britain did not acknowledge the existence of a peacetime intelligence agency, so ministers therefore were unable to respond to Parliamentary Questions on the subject. Granting Mitrokhin and his family British citizenship, and exfiltrating them ‘black’ from Latvia, was relatively low risk, given the Baltic state’s new independence, but the entire undertaking nevertheless required Hurd’s approval, and he granted it.
My name first came to prominence the following month when the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Robin Butler, and the Intelligence Coordinator, (Sir) Gerald Warner, were briefed by SIS, and by the Director-General of the Security Service, Dame Stella Rimington, who discussed the British names in what had by now become JESSANT’s material. For operational reasons, SIS changed GUNNER’s codename once he had been resettled in Britain. Additionally, Warner, a retired senior SIS officer, briefed the Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, Sir Rodric Braithwaite. Warner had joined SIS in 1954 and had served overseas in Europe and the Far East until 1976 when he returned to headquarters and served, until his retirement in 1990, as McColl’s deputy. As Intelligence Coordinator, Warner’s function was to advise the Cabinet Secretary on intelligence issues and oversee Britain’s intelligence-gathering organisation. The fact that he was placed in control of the publication project reflects the importance given to it in Whitehall’s secret corridors. As for Sir Rodric, he was a former ambassador in Moscow and an experienced diplomat, whose responsibilities as head of the JIC was to run the country’s analytical capability and set the requirements for the individual agencies. Usually a JIC Chairman would not be expected to be indoctrinated into the detail of every SIS operation, so his inclusion inside the Mitrokhin ring of secrecy is also significant as further evidence of the importance attached to the project.
The issue that had arisen was, as Hurd’s predecessor Malcolm Rifkind had wisely anticipated, how the British names mentioned by Mitrokhin should be handled in the book. The principal focus of MI5’s attention in early 1992 was Michael John Smith, a former member of the Communist Party who had been identified by another KGB defector, Viktor Oshchenko, as a spy whom he had run when he had been a Line X (science and technology) specialist based in London under diplomatic cover as a third secretary between 1972 and 1979. Oshchenko had defected from Paris to SIS in July 1992, and had named Smith who was then working for GEC-Marconi as a Quality Audit Manager at the Hirst Research Centre in Wembley. From MI5’s standpoint, this unexpected windfall proved extremely useful, because buried in Mitrokhin’s notes was a comprehensive account of the work for the London rezidentura conducted by the spy codenamed BORG. Thus, by coincidence, two KGB defectors had independently fingered Smith, and also served to confirm each other’s bona-fides.
Relying on Oshchenko’s tip, MI5 had entrapped the quality assurance engineer by sending one of its officers, masquerading as a Russian, to re-establish contact with BORG, and record him making some damaging admissions. Smith was eventually prosecuted, although he denied being reactivated as a spy by the KGB in 1990, and when he was arrested at his home in Kingston-upon-Thames on 8th August 1992 his car was found to contain unclassified documents concerning the Rapier anti-aircraft missile and an obsolete document claimed to have been used on the ALARM missile. Professor Meirion Francis Lewis, a witness at Smith’s trial, was the key expert who commented on the ALARM evidence. MI5 had been embarrassed to discover that Smith’s security clearance had been removed in 1978, when he had been spotted as a former CPGB member, but by then he had sold his KGB contact details of the WE-177 nuclear bomb fuze. Smith’s conviction had been based, not on Mitrokhin’s material, but on Oshchenko’s tip, and John Major had been briefed on the progress of the investigation by MI5’s Stella Rimington – twice, in June and October 1993.
In the government’s Cabinet reshuffle of July 1995 Malcolm Rifkind replaced Douglas Hurd as Foreign Secretary and by the end of the month he had read an account of the JESSANT case, but it was not until March the following year that SIS sought his approval in principle to the publication of the archive, and an inter-departmental working group was created, representing MI5, SIS, the Home Office, the Foreign Office and the Cabinet Office, chaired by John Alpass, Warner’s replacement as Intelligence Coordinator. A former Deputy Director-General of the Security Service until 1994, Alpass did not hold his working party’s inaugural meeting until the end of June 1996, by which time SIS had nominated Christopher Andrew as a suitable editor of Mitrokhin’s archive.
The original incentive to publish had come from Mitrokhin, whose life ambition had been to release his purloined material, while SIS was preoccupied with exploiting the information from the papers that had by now been shared with no less than twelve other countries. Some three hundred names had been passed to the French security agency, the Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire (DST), while MI5 was concerned that the imminent prosecution of the former NSA spy Robert Lipka in the United States might reveal Mitrokhin’s role to the media. If Lipka went to trial, so the FBI advised MI5, the authorities might be forced to reveal the source of the information that had prompted the criminal investigation. Such a disclosure would have been unwelcome in London where it was judged that there were still plenty more leads to be pursued.
From an operational point of view, Mitrokhin’s insistence on publishing his material must have been quite a nuisance to SIS, but it was the one condition he had imposed on defection, apart from the resettlement of his family. Naturally SIS wanted to squeeze every operational advantage from his archive before his defection became public knowledge, with all the security problems such a disclosure would imply. It is not uncommon to keep a defection secret, leaving his former employers uncertain about his fate and maybe reluctant to suspend their activities. Once the Russian SVR knew for certain that Mitrokhin had defected to the British it would be likely to undertake a damage limitation exercise and estimate what current operations he might have compromised. Although SIS was confident that the Russians would have no inkling of the size of the catastrophe Mitrokhin represented, as the idea that any single person could accumulate as much material as the archivist had seemed incredible, any public statement confirming his presence in Britain would unquestionably complicate his personal security. It would also allow the Russians to instigate counter-measures, and at the very least send a warning to their assets across the globe, perhaps eliminating the option of conducting the kind of sting entrapments that thus far had netted Smith, Lipka and Trofimoff. In all three cases the retired spies had been tricked into making highly incriminating statements that had been recorded. All had been telephoned at home by men masquerading as Russian intelligence officers anxious to re-establish contact, and in every case the former spies had agreed to meetings. Once these tactics had been publicised, no other retirees would be likely to fall into the same trap, hence the need to keep the lid on what had been happening.
When the new Labour government was elected in May 1997 the incoming prime minister, Tony Blair, already knew about the JESSANT project, as he had been briefed by Sir Robin Butler in January 1995. On that occasion the intended topic of conversation had been the imminent publication of Oleg Gordievsky’s memoirs, Last Stop Execution, which was to include references to various senior figures in the Labour Party. Gordievsky’s intention, to expose the journalist and author Richard Gott, had been leaked to the Spectator the previous month, but he had others in his sights, among them Michael Foot, who had been cultivated by the suave Mikhail P. Lyubimov, one of the KGB’s most cosmopolitan officers who had arrived in London under third secretary cover in 1963. According to Gordievsky, Foot was codenamed BOOT and had accepted money from the KGB in the form of subscriptions to Tribune, but he also had a list of other KGB targets, among them the trade union leaders Richard Briginshaw, Ray Buckton, codenamed BARTOK, and Alan Safer. Gordievsky’s book was intended to have an explosive impact, and Bulter’s meeting with Blair had been planned to assure the Labour leader that the defector’s allegations had been corroborated by another source, namely Mitrokhin. As a ‘Line PR’ political specialist, and the KGB’s rezident-designate in London until his recall in May 1985, Gordievsky had gained an encyclopaedic knowledge of the rezidentura’s targets and, more importantly, its list of ‘confidential contacts’. The unexploded bomb, waiting to detonate, was the catalogue of left-wingers in the Parliamentary Labour Party whom Gordievsky intended to denounce, among them the three MPs Joan Lestor, Jo Richardson and Joan Maynard. All, of course, were well-known for their pro-Soviet views, but according to Gordievsky, the KGB prized them as ‘confidential contacts’. It is likely that at his meeting with Blair the Cabinet Secretary might have hinted, while revealing the existence of the new defector, that other Labour Party names might emerge. Two did, but both Tom Driberg and Raymond Fletcher were dead. A former YCL and CPGB member and codenamed LEPAGE by the KGB, Driberg had been Chairman of the Labour Party and had died in August 1976, having been ennobled as Lord Bradwell. He was the MP I had first encountered on the beat in Covent Garden, and later had appeared in my dossier on corruption in British public life. Fletcher, codenamed PETER when he was recruited in 1962, had been elected the MP for Ilkeston two years later, and had died in 1991. He had spent twenty-one years in the Commons but had been thought by MI5 to have been run as an influential source by the Czech StB.
Tony Blair may not have realised the implications of what he had been told by Butler in January 1995, when JESSANT’s book project had not yet begun, but the new Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, was briefed on 24 October 1997, five months after he had taken office, but there were some serious omissions from the paper placed before him on that occasion. For example, it did not mention the restrictions placed on the project by his predecessor, Malcolm Rifkind, and insisted, quite incorrectly, that ‘no British national will be named without Security Service agreement’. In fact, of course, Rifkind’s ban had extended to all names, British and foreign, and had specifically excluded MI5 from making the decision about naming names. Thus, on the very first occasion Cook was indoctrinated into the JESSANT secret, he was materially misinformed about the terms under which the project had been allowed to proceed in the first place. Not only had the main Rifkind rule been dropped, but the paper had created an entirely new principle of MI5 giving its approval to particular identifications. Now out of office, and indeed out of Parliament having lost his seat at the 1997 general election, Rifkind was not consulted about this extraordinary development, and under the Whitehall rules which prevent new administrations learning of the deliberations of its predecessors, Cook could only take the word of his civil servants for what had happened previously.
It was at this stage that Cook ought to have intervened and talked the whole issue through with his Cabinet colleague Jack Straw, who had been trained as a lawyer before he had been elected to the Commons. If Cook had not been able to see the legal pitfalls in allowing MI5 to decide who should, or should not be named in The Mitrokhin Archive, Straw probably would have spotted them, but in the event he was not consulted. Cook’s only excuse would have been that he was at the time conducting an affair with his secretary and was preoccupied with supervising what he termed ‘an ethical foreign policy’.
Once Cook had given his approval to the departmental paper on the Mitrokhin project, the Prime Minister’s consent was requested two months later, but was not forthcoming until early in January 1998 because of concerns about a possible adverse reaction in Moscow. Tony Blair and his foreign policy advisers evidently were worried about how Mitrokhin’s revelations would be received by Vladimir Putin, himself a former FCD officer, and doubtless the Kremlin could have been expected to be irritated by the way Mitrokhin had been spirited out of Russia. Despite these fears Dr Andrew had been pressing ahead with his drafts of the book, even though he did not sign any formal contract with SIS until the middle of February 1998, when MI5 complained about the way SIS had been feeding material to the historian. In fact the absence of any ‘watertight legal contract’ with Dr Andrew had been discussed by the working group as early as March 1997, but because he had already undergone a positive vetting procedure while working with Gordievsky on KGB: The Inside Story, and had signed the Official Secrets Act, SIS regarded his security clearance as sufficient guarantee of his co-operation and compliance.
This sequence of events also reveals astonishing complacency, inertia and ineptitude in Whitehall, for the Prime Minister did not give his consent to the publication project until the New Year of 1998, by which time it had well underway for more than eighteen months, with Dr Andrew having commenced his work before the end of June 1996, apparently on a voluntary basis, and certainly without any publishing contract.
It was not until the middle of June 1998 that MI5 finally cleared the British material for the JESSANT project and belatedly began to realise the grave implications of the references in the text to HOLA, the spy described in subsequent correspondence as ‘an 86 year-old woman who spied for the KGB 40 years ago’. This, of course, was Melita Norwood and the new Labour Home Secretary, Jack Straw, was told of the situation, for the first time, on 10 December 1998, and informed that John Alpass’s working party was scheduled to meet in the middle of January 1999 to discuss progress. The Home Office minute addressed to Straw, and his Permanent Under-Secretary, Sir David Omand, explained that MI5 had decided not to approach Mrs Norwood directly because of her age, and the lack of hard evidence against her. Neither the references to her in the single VENONA text, nor in Mitrokhin’s notes, amounted to evidence on which a successful prosecution could be mounted, or so MI5’s legal adviser believed, and he had written to the Attorney-General, John Morris, for confirmation of MI5’s decision to take no action against her. Morris’s reaction to the request was to advise that any judge looking at the matter in 1999 would rule the prosecution an abuse of process because MI5 had known of Mrs Norwood’s espionage since 1965, but had done nothing. The last opportunity for the police to intervene, he opined, had been six years earlier, in late 1992, when MI5 had learned of the new evidence from Mitrokhin, but the intervening gap had made a successful prosecution quite impossible because the European Convention on Human rights required expeditious prosecutions. Clearly implied in the advice from the law officers was the criticism that to consider prosecution on the grounds that The Mitrokhin Archive would publicly expose Mrs Norwood as a spy was a completely improper motive. In layman’s terms, the lawyers were telling the molehunters that a criminal prosecution was not an expedient to be deployed in an effort to save a department’s embarrassment in the face of hostile comment from the media and the public. Nevertheless, the draft pages of The Mitrokhin Archive seen by the Alpass working party in January 1999 contained references to Mrs Norwood, Michael Smith and myself, although only Smith had been convicted of espionage. If the principles set out by Malcolm Rifkind were to be adhered to, only Smith’s identity should have been revealed, and it began to look as though MI5, headed since April 1996 by Dr Stephen Lander, was more concerned about its reluctance to have done anything about Mrs Norwood’s treachery, and its failure to act on my offer of information, than any other consideration. As the Security Service subsequently admitted, she had ‘slipped out of sight between August 1993 and June 1998’, which meant not that she had gone missing, but simply that MI5 had completely overlooked her case!
We can now see that the meeting held on 15 January 1999, to which neither the Home Office nor the Foreign Office were invited to send representatives, was a deliberate attempt to cover up MI5’s lapse. The meeting had been convened specifically to discuss the situation regarding the British names, and by its conclusion had agreed that the Home Secretary’s consent would be required for them to be identified in the book. Almost unbelievably, this crucial decision was never conveyed to Jack Straw. Even worse, it was this assurance, already given falsely to Robin Cook, that had enabled him to endorse the project the previous month. Thus the Foreign Secretary had been duped into giving his approval to the publication on the basis of an entirely specious paper which had made no mention of Malcolm Rifkind’s rules, and had invented an entirely new criterion which may or may not have had MI5’s approval. Since this identical document was approved by Tony Blair in January 1988 one much presumes that it had been passed by MI5, although that is by no means certain. If MI5 did play a part in drafting that submission, then the Security Service was even more culpable for the deception. In any event, the Alpass working group was now claiming that the Home Secretary’s consent would be required for each British name included in The Mitrokhnin Archive, although the Home Office remained entirely ignorant of this, and had been excluded from the meeting where this decision had been taken.
By the time MI5 had been prompted into action by the unwelcome news that The Mitrokhin Archive would document HOLA’s espionage, Dr Lander was scrambling around for cover to conceal his incompetence, and that of his predecessor, Dame Stella. If he thought he would be able to keep Mrs Norwood’s name out of the public arena he was mistaken, because of a separate exercise undertaken simultaneously by SIS, apparently on its own initiative.
A few months earlier, on some undefined date in December 1998, a former Observer journalist, David Rose, had approached SIS for help in making a six-part television documentary series, The Spying Game, for the BBC, planned to be broadcast in the autumn 1999 schedules. Usually reticent to tangle with the media, SIS, under the leadership of McColl’s successor David Spedding since September 1994, agreed to collaborate with Rose, subject to ministerial approval. This development, in itself, was a very surprising breakthrough for an organisation that has always been shy of media attention, always defensive in the face of external scrutiny, on the entirely reasonable grounds that ‘secret services should be secret’. Now, perhaps sensing a public relations coup, to extract maximum credit for its handling of one of the century’s most important intelligence defectors, SIS was contemplating an unprecedented collaboration. Hitherto SIS personnel had been banned from making unauthorised public disclosures, writing their memoirs or otherwise discussing the nature of their work, even in the most general terms. For their part SIS had occasionally encouraged contacts with selected journalists when they were thought to have useful information, or had visited a particular part of the world, and of course had used journalism as cover for officers on missions when it was convenient to do so, but this had been a strictly one-way street. There had never been access to SIS’s legendary archive, and the only authors to read SIS’s ‘CX” reports were contracted academics writing official histories, not for publication but for the Cabinet Office’s Historical Branch. Now Spedding was sanctioning an arrangement that would include Sir Gerald Warner giving a filmed interview in which he would discuss what Mitrokhin had accomplished. Even when the veteran BBC reporter Tom Mangold filmed Oleg Gordievsky he had not been granted access to any of the defector’s SIS handlers, so Rose’s achievement represented quite a media milestone in access to SIS.
The agreement between John Scarlett and Rose was ‘dependent on ministerial clearance for publication’ in the words of The Mirtokhin Inquiry Report, but was that sanction ever obtained by SIS and, if so, who from? The appropriate minister, responsible for all SIS’s activities, was Robin Cook, but according to the chronology of events assembled by the Intelligence and Security Committee, the new Foreign Secretary had only been informed of the JESSANT project on 24 October 1997, more than six weeks before David Rose approached SIS for the first time, so he could not have given his approval on that occasion. Cook’s private secretary wrote to the Prime Minister’s private secretary ‘outlining the Mitrokhin story and the publication project’ on 2 December, and this was the catalyst for an exchange of correspondence which resulted in the green light from Blair on 8 January 1988. But what precisely had he given his approval to? The book project was one matter, but the television collaboration was entirely different, and if that topic was not part of Cook’s submission to 10 Downing Street, as seems likely, the issue of publication was not raised with Cook again until the end of March 1999. This lacuna was to be of critical importance when the original plan, for the television programme to boost the book, was reversed and, as we shall see, the BBC ended up dictating the content of the book.
So in the meantime, had SIS obtained any ministerial approval for the BBC’s involvement? The odds are against it because nobody else knew of the plan until late in February 1999 when SIS disclosed the BBC proposal to Alpass and to the Security Service, a revelation that obviously served to exacerbate Lander’s dilemma, especially when the following month the Attorney-General ruled out any prosecution of Mrs Norwood. Almost simultaneously, Robin Cook was informed on 22 March that the manuscript of the book had been completed by Dr Andrew, and a redacted version of it was passed by SIS to David Rose. While this was true, Cook was also told that the ‘Security Service are clearing the detail contained in those chapters [referring to British cases] with the Home Secretary (who was briefed on the project in 1998, and is supportive) and the Attorney-General’. Every part of this assurance, of course, was completely untrue. The sensitive chapters dealing with me and HOLA were not being cleared by MI5 with Jack Straw, and the Attorney-General, as we now know, had made his views on the matter very plain, and did not intend to play any role in approving the disclosures. In short, Cook was completely misled, for the second time. Once again, he failed to realise he had been duped. In terms of the BBC, it also looks as though the Foreign Secretary was presented with a fait accompli on 22 March, and nothing like the request for ministerial approval mentioned to the BBC in December. Reading between the lines of the Mitrokhin Inquiry Report, which is far from explicit on this most sensitive topic, it rather looks as though Cook had absolutely no idea, at any time, that he was being misrepresented as having authorised the entire collaboration with the BBC.
At a crucial meeting of the working group held on 7 June 1999 John Alpass explained that Cook had given his approval, Jack Straw ‘was aware of the project’ and that because of the Attorney-General’s view that a prosecution was impossible, HOLA’s true name would not appear in the text. The ambiguity, in what exactly ‘the project’ encompassed, is obvious. In addition, SIS announced that Rose intended to devote an entire programme to Mitrokhin but ‘would not use material which was not in the book’. Apparently satisfied by this state of affairs, although this was a very precise description of what would eventually happen, Alpass then wrote a report to the Cabinet Secretary to update him on the latest developments. It may well have been that, based on this reassurance, MI5 believed that it had been let off the hook, for Scarlett had given the group his opinion that the BBC would not be able to use HOLA’s true name, but the ticking time bomb detonated on 23 June when David Rose revealed to SIS that he had been able to identify HOLA. How had he accomplished this? SIS subsequently asserted that Rose had researched clues ‘based on details in the book The Haunted Wood, combined with his own efforts in Washington DC’ but this could not have been true. The Haunted Wood was one of five books originally commissioned by Crown Books in New York and negotiated with the KGB by the Cambridge historian John Costello and his editor, James Wade. Each of the five titles were to have been written jointly by a western historian and a selected KGB officer, and Harvey Weinstein’s chosen partner in his project, on Soviet espionage in the United States during the early Cold War, was Alexander Vassiliev, who arranged supervised access to certain records locked away in the KGB and Central Committee archives. The only problem with Scarlett’s explanation of Rose’s discovery was that neither Weinstein nor Vassiliev had even the slightest idea of Mrs Norwood’s existence. They did know of the single VENONA message addressed to London in September 1945 which had referred to TINA, but they had absolutely no reason to connect her with Mrs Norwood and did not do so, which explains why the text of The Haunted Wood contains no clue to it, but does not thrown any light on Scarlett’s assertion. The explanation for Scarlett’s ‘misdirection’ was either to conceal SIS’s own leak, or to cover up an indiscretion on the part of the FBI, implying that Rose had somehow extracted Mrs Norwood’s name in the United States from a member of the FBI’s counter-intelligence staff which had been briefed on the JESSANT material. However he had achieved his tip, but now armed with her true name, Rose had found her listed in the London telephone directory, and on the electoral roll, and he obviously intended to confront her. Clearly aghast at this unwelcome development, Alpass immediately wrote to the Cabinet Secretary to inform him that the wheels had come off the project. He confirmed that ‘the intention has been not to reveal HOLA’s identity in the book’ but admitted that the BBC had ‘now correctly identified her from other sources of information, and they may be tempted to break the story before September’. The understatement is not hard to discern, as it must have been a racing certainty that no self-respecting journalist, and nobody with Rose’s credentials, would fail to follow up such a crucial lead. Quite simply, he was on to a scoop and he would be bound to exploit it.
In other words, now that the BBC had found out HOLA’s identity, Alpass suspected the broadcaster was going to renege on its collaboration agreement with SIS. But what were the terms of that arrangement, and who were the parties to it? These were the inconvenient questions that would go unanswered, and anyway unasked by the Intelligence and Security Committee.
What is curious about this episode is that instead of pressing the BBC to keep to its original agreement, as might have been expected, ‘the working group was persuaded by the book’s publisher to include the names of Mrs Norwood and Mr Symonds’, which is a breathtaking admission, although the Intelligence and Security Committee failed to establish whether this persuasion occurred on 24 June or 19 July. This is important because if, as seems likely, John Alpass caved in at the June meeting, absolutely no effort was made to hold the BBC to the terms agreed with Christopher Andrew. It follows therefore that, however bizarrely, SIS had taken on the role at the meeting of representing the interests of the publishers and the BBC, and neatly sandbagged Alpass and his hapless MI5 colleagues. Having congratulated themselves on obtaining what amounted to a veto for the Home Secretary to exercise on their behalf, they had been completely outmanoeuvred and now faced the prospect of publication of British names in a way that was entirely contrary to the Rifkind rules.
Alpass correctly anticipated massive media and parliamentary interest in Mitrokhin’s disclosures, and said Jack Straw would be briefed on the latest developments, adding that he believed that it was not necessary to involve the Prime Minister any further. Despite Alpass’s plea, the Cabinet Secretary copied his memorandum to Tony Blair’s private secretary but, amazingly, it was never read by the Prime Minister himself. However, officials at the Home Office instantly grasped the implications and decided to lay the blame where it was deserved, with MI5. In MI5’s previous version of events, given to Straw on 22 April 1999, Lander had implied that Mrs Norwood had escaped prosecution because it had been vetoed by the Attorney-General, whereas the truth was that Morris had advised in March that MI5’s five years of inertia between 1993 and 1998 had prejudiced any chance of a prosecution. Far from having refused to allow Mrs Norwood to be prosecuted, Morris had simply pointed out that such an attempt would be completely improper. Thus finally, on 29 June 1999, Straw learned that MI5’s previous memorandum, dated two months earlier on 22 April, had been thoroughly misleading and nothing more than a thin attempt to conceal its incompetence. Incredibly, MI5’s desperate solution was to attend a further meeting of the working group, on 19 July (without representatives of the Home Office or the Foreign Office present) and ask for Alpass to request ‘ministerial guidance’ on whether to interview Mrs Norwood before the BBC got to her, bearing in mind its strong objection to doing so. These bizarre events can only be interpreted as MI5, having decided not to confront HOLA, wanted some cover for it omission. At best, this would have amounted to an administrative fig-leaf, but it is indicative of MI5’s mindset that it was even willing to contemplate adopting such a strategy.
The degree of panic that set in over the next few days was heightened by a circular from David Spedding celebrating the imminent publication of The Mitrokhin Archive, apparently unaware of the hideous problem that had arisen over HOLA. Spedding trumpeted that the project had received the full support of allied and European intelligence agencies and amounted to an impressive intelligence coup, but omitted any mention of Mitrokhin’s British spies. Evidently dismayed by Spedding’s insensitivity, MI5 wrote to him on 20 July explaining that the Home Office had briefed Straw, but the decision whether to interview HOLA ‘was an operational matter and not an issue on which the Home Secretary should become engaged’. Thus, within twenty-four hours, MI5 had altered its position from seeking ‘ministerial guidance’ on whether to approach Mrs Norwood, to exercising its constitutional independence and right to take operational decisions without consulting the Home Secretary. This reversal occurred when the Security Service representative on the working group reported to Thames House, and someone at a senior level, if not Lander himself, had telephoned the Home Office to clarify MI5’s position. Once again, Whitehall was in pandemonium.
Alpass’s worst fears were realised when David Rose, accompanied by his producer Sarah Hann, visited Mrs Norwood at her semi-detached home on Tuesday, 10 August, with a hidden camera and a wireless microphone which transmitted their two-hour conversation over the dining-room table to a van parked in the street where a Times journalist, Andrew Peirce, eagerly recorded it. The necessity of obtaining an accurate record of her unguarded admissions was paramount because of a potential obstacle that had been pointed out by the lawyers who had read the material that Dr Andrew’s publishers, Penguin Books, had submitted to Brian MacArthur of The Times for the newspaper serialisation, scheduled for mid-September. They had advised that unless Mrs Norwood incriminated herself, the inclusion of her name would open the publishers, authors and newspaper to the possibility of an expensive legal action for defamation. The offending pages could not be published without an admission or consent from the widow. Fortunately for all three, Mrs Norwood had lost none of her political zealotry, had no hesitation in acknowledging her role in espionage, and her remarks were clearly audible on the video soundtrack. As far as The Times and the BBC were concerned, they both had their story and there were no legal grounds for concealing HOLA’s identity any further. Although VENONA was not mentioned during the interview, Mrs Norwood confirmed that her husband Hilary, a mathematics teacher who had died in 1986, ‘did not agree with what I did’ but had also been a hardline CPGB member.
This news was reported to SIS which relayed it to MI5, and resulted in a formal note from Home Office officials to Jack Straw, on 31 August, which can only be seen as an effort to ensure MI5 got the blame for what had happened. The BBC had beaten MI5 to Garden Avenue, Bexleyheath, and the Home Office complained that they had not been invited to the crucial meeting held by Alpass on 19 July, and that the record of the discussion ‘was much delayed in coming to us’. This was a really feeble response, bearing all the hallmarks of a Whitehall wriggle to escape the blame which was clearly visible on the horizon. Humiliated, having failed to interview HOLA, MI5 had again written to the Attorney-General to enquire if her recorded admissions to the BBC might have altered the legal position. Now the Security Service was really grasping at straws. As MI5 had doubtless anticipated, Morris just repeated his previous view that it was simply too late for a prosecution, an observation that cold have been made by a first-year law student.
At this point MI5 appeared to be resigned to the criticism that it knew it would sustain over the inclusion of my name, and that of Mrs Norwood, in The Mitrokhin Archive, but even at this late stage it apparently only expected some ‘adverse publicity’ and not the full-scale fiasco that followed. In one final, desperate attempt to divert attention away from its failure to pursue HOLA, MI5 asked the Attorney-General to give consideration to the idea of prosecuting me on the basis on admissions I had made during an interview I had given to David Rose. Incredibly, while accepting that these remarks did not amount to admissible evidence, MI5 tried to list offences I might have committed under the Official Secrets Act, and asked for permission to launch a police investigation. The Attorney’s tart reply, within the week, was a reminder that I had been granted an immunity from prosecution fifteen years earlier, in 1984, and that the immunity remained valid.
My supposed ‘admissions’ were actually nothing more than remarks I made in the television interview I had been persuaded by Sarah Hann to give David Rose, on her assurance that a senior Russian general had defected in secret and had corroborated everything I had said previously about my eight years with the KGB. I came to regret ever having agreed to talk to Rose because by the time his film had been edited I was made to look as though I had been trained as a ‘Romeo spy’ in Bulgaria, long before I ever reached Moscow. This, of course, was absurd, but then Rose compounded the offence by selling what purported to be a lengthy exclusive interview with me to a newspaper, when I had quite clearly stipulated that I intended to retain my rights over the original television interview, for which I had accepted a minimal fee on the understanding that I would share in subsequent syndication sales. My consent to the original interview had been on the basis that I was to be vindicated, particularly in respect of the allegations I had made so many years earlier in the Daily Express. In the event, I was completely misrepresented, as were my experiences. Instead of being portrayed as someone who had volunteered potentially valuable information to the police and MI5, but had been rejected as a fantasist, I was presented by the BBC as a master-spy who had been tracked down by The Spying Game’s tenacious sleuths.
As it turned out, advance copies of The Mitrokhin Archive had been distributed in the United States, in breach of the press embargo imposed until the newspaper serialisation was intended to commence, on 16 September. As word leaked of the book’s contents to ABC TV in New York, The Times was obliged to print its story a week early, on Saturday 11 September catching everyone, including Dr Andrew who was attending a conference in Berlin without a cellphone, completely unawares. Suddenly the plan to release The Mitrokhin Archive in a carefully controlled and unsensational manner had completely fallen apart, and my name, and that of Mrs Norwood, were front page news. For all of its ramifications, this publicity had at least one rewarding result, reuniting me with Nellie.
In retrospect the entire publication project seems to have been handled with the same lack of professionalism that marked the release of Dame Stella’s own controversial memoirs, Open Secret, in September 2001. Embarrassingly naïve and gauche, her autobiography made not a single mention of the entire Mitrokhin affair, and never explained why MI5 had bungled so badly. As I am in a unique position to document the organisation’s failures, it is worth listing them.
There can be no doubt that Mitrokhin’s unexpected appearance in 1992 represented an impressive, unprecedented windfall for MI5 and SIS, amounting in total to 3,500 reports sent to the security authorities of 36 countries. Literally hundreds of Soviet agents world-wide were identified in his typescripts and scruffy envelopes packed with notes, and we know that MI5 amassed more than three hundred different leads to pursue in this country alone. As for SIS, the Mitrokhin goldmine was a further opportunity to build on its reputation which had been so enhanced by the successful recruitment, handling, exfiltration and resettlement of Oleg Gordievsky. The fact that the Danish security service had played an essential role in his recruitment and management in Copenhagen had been overlooked, and SIS had bathed in the welcome praise which had come from all quarters, including from the prime minister who had been so impressed when she had made a special tour of its training establishment, Fort Monckton. Once the object of derision and suspicion, following the very public penetrations accomplished by Kim Philby and George Blake, SIS had worked hard to shake off its reputation as an untrustworthy sieve. If the receipt of defectors is a valid litmus test of an intelligence agency’s operational integrity, Gordievsky and Mitrokhin represented eloquent proof SIS’s new-found efficacy. The same, however, could not be said of MI5.
In evidence to the Intelligence and Security Committee Dame Stella and Dr Lander claimed that their relatively tiny agency had been overwhelmed by the quantity of Mitrokhin’s material and, at a time when Irish terrorism was a priority, and the organisation was engaged on the lengthy investigation of the sabotage of a PanAm jet over Locherbie in December 1988, they had categorised the cases requiring investigation into four groups so as to concentrate on the spies who continued to pose a threat to classified information. However, on their own admission, HOLA fell into the second highest priority, so why was she shelved for nearly five years? Equally importantly, why did MI5 so chronically mishandle the so-called British names? Incredibly, these were not questions that Tom King’s committee ever posed.
MI5 was rightly criticised in the media for having allowed Mrs Norwood to escape prosecution, but the real scandal was not so much its inept handling of the case, allowing it to go dormant for five years, but the cover-up it pursued thereafter to conceal the scale of the blunder, even to the point of misrepresenting to the Home Secretary the legal advice it had received from the Attorney-General. As for Mrs Norwood herself, MI5 has consistently downplayed her significance, asserting that ‘her value as an atom spy to the scientists who constructed the Soviet bomb must have been, at most, marginal’. Surprisingly, nobody appears to have taken MI5 to task over this woefully inadequate assessment of HOLA, nor even asked how such a review could have been compiled with any accuracy if they had never bothered to interview her. What is known is that she had been active in 1938 and connected to the Woolwich Arsenal spy-ring headed by Percy Glading. Then she was in a position of access, compromising atomic secrets, according to the single VENONA message concerning TINA dating back to September 1945. We know too that MI5 closed their file on Mrs Norwood in 1966 because the VENONA material was far from conclusive and anyway was not admissible in a criminal prosecution, saying she no longer posed a threat because her security clearance had been revoked in 1951. However, Mitrokhin made some extremely important disclosures, not the least of which was the revelation that HOLA had been handled by the KGB illegal Konon Molody until his arrest in January 1961. Working under the Canadian alias ‘Gordon Lonsdale’, Molody had been the KGB’s illegal rezident in London who had supervised the Portland spy-ring, and had been in contact with Morris and Lona Cohen, the American couple who had handled much of his covert communications. Molody’s arrival in London in March 1955 represented the first time that there had been a Soviet illegal rezident in Britain since the departure of Arnold Deutsch in October 1937, and was therefore an event of some considerable significance. Of interest to MI5 was the fact that Molody had not been introduced to Harry Houghton by his KGB handler, Vasili Dozhdalev, until October 1959, so what had the illegal been up to in the meantime? This interesting fact had been disclosed by Houghton who, after his arrest, had cooperated with his interrogators in the vain hope of minimising his sentence, or even turning Queen’s Evidence. One possible explanation was that Molody had been running Mrs Norwood, or a spy-ring associated with her. Molody’s own somewhat disingenuous memoirs, Spy, ghosted by Kim Philby in Moscow in 1965, give no clue to his activities during this period, apart from confirming what MI5 already knew, that he had enrolled on a Mandarin course at London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies. He was also somewhat vague about precisely when he took over Houghton, and who had run him earlier, but the precise date had been extracted from the former Royal Navy Master-at-Arms while under interrogation. What was certain was that Molody had not been despatched to London for the sole purpose of running Houghton, because he had been in contact with case officers from the embassy rezidentura since his arrival from Warsaw in October 1952. Thus the KGB had waited a further three years before sending Molody to London, and then there had been a further hiatus of four years until he had taken him in harness. The KGB do not invest in illegal rezidents to have them remain idle, so what had Molody been doing or, more to the point, whom had he been running? Molody and the Cohens were extremely important, high-value assets and the KGB would not have sent them to London unless there was a good reason for doing so. Whereas Molody had adopted the authentic identity of a Canadian, Gordon Lonsdale, and was quite secure in his cover (indeed, MI5 never discovered his true name until after he had been released from prison) the Cohens had a considerable past, and because Morris had served in the US Army his fingerprints were on file with the FBI, who regarded him as a fugitive, wanted for questioning in connection with his involvement in the Rosenberg’s atomic spy-ring. As Dzerzhinsky Square must have known, the freedom of the Cohens, masquerading as the New Zealanders Peter and Helen Kroger in Ruislip, could be ended by a single telephone call to the FBI headquarters in Washington DC. In short, the KGB had taken a risk in sending the Cohens to London, and it rather looked as though Mrs Norwood was part of the reason for that fateful gamble.
It is quite obvious to any intelligence professional that because MI5 pulled Norwood’s security clearance in 1951, that had not ended her usefulness as a spy, a fact supported by the knowledge that she was still in touch with the KGB’s illegal rezident a decade later. On that basis alone, MI5’s assumption of her having been of only marginal interest is absurd. It also follows that if Molody was acting as her controller, there must have been good operational reasons to him to have done so, but when had he first made contact with her? Norwood must have been an important and active spy in 1961, a proposition supported by Mitrokhin who alleged that in 1965 she had begun to cultivate a junior civil servant codenamed HUNT, whom she succeeded in recruiting in 1967, and remained productive, supplying details of defences sales exports, for the next fourteen years. Upon his retirement he was allegedly given £9,000 to help him develop his own business, presumably a method of keeping him in harness with access to useful information in his retirement. Once again, the contradiction in MI5’s evidence is stark. On the one hand there is the inference that she must have been harmless after 1951, whereas it is acknowledged that she had been an active recruiter more than sixteen years later. It is noticeable, and quite an irony, that although HUNT, is alleged to have died, MI5 kept to the Rifkind rules and protected his identity!
If it was really true that MI5 had placed Mrs Norwood into its second highest priority, it is bizarre that the case should have been allowed to ‘slip from view’, but there may be another explanation for this extraordinarily unprofessional behaviour. Naturally, as Mrs Norwood was active and undetected for so many years, it is somewhat historical in nature, but it goes to the heart of MI5’s apparent reluctance to collect whatever information I had about KGB officers whom I had met in Moscow who had worked in London, and MI5’s anxiety not to question HOLA. The story dated back to December 1961 when a KGB officer, Anatoli Golitsyn, defected to the CIA in Helsinki and named two members of the KGB rezidentura in London who were, between them, running no less than four important spies, three of whom were supplying information about the Royal Navy.
Bearing in mind that MI5 knew that Molody had handled HOLA in 1961, and that she had been active as a recruiter six years later, any mole hunter would have wanted to know what she had been doing during the intervening years, a period when the KGB rezidentura was known to have been operating at peak capacity, and at a time when its principal Line X illegal support officer, Vasili Dozhdalev, had been withdrawn from his embassy post in London. Dozhdalev had arrived from Moscow in 1959, following a brief posting in 1952, and he had been identified in January 1961 as the KGB officer responsible for handling Harry Houghton. After his conviction for selling secrets from the Admiralty Underwater Weapons Research Establishment at Portland, Houghton had identified two of his Soviet contacts in London as Nikolai Korovin, whom MI5 suspected had been the rezident, and Dozhdalev, who was later named by the SIS traitor George Blake as his handler too. The arrest of Blake in April 1961, so soon after the Portland spy-ring had been rolled up, must have been a considerable blow for the KGB, and in such circumstances the Soviets usually advise their networks to go into temporary hibernation, but on this occasion there is ample proof that another member of the rezidentura, Nikolai Karpekov, remained active, and was running another spy in the Admiralty, John Vassall. After his arrest in September 1962, following a tip to the CIA from the SCD’s Yuri Nosenko, Vassall had identified Korovin and then Karpekov as his controllers, and in 1965 a scientist strongly suspected of espionage, Dr Alister Watson, picked out Korovin and Karpekov as his contacts, and then identified Sergei Kondrashev, a KGB officer who, incidentally, had also run George Blake in 1953. Shortly before Houghton had been arrested in January 1961 Korovin had handed responsibility for handling Vassall over to Karpekov, and he had instructed him to cease operating until he was contacted again, which did not happen until he was reactivated just after Christmas 1961.
The significance of all this activity within the legal rezidentura is that after the hasty departure of Korovin and Dozhdalev, only Karpekov is known to have been running a spy in London, and he was one of the two KGB officers named by Golitsyn as supervising a total of four agents. Houghton and Vassall subsequently confessed to their espionage and identified their handlers, but who had been the third spy supplying information about the Royal Navy? MI5 had hoped the remaining source had been Dr Alister Watson, a Cambridge-educated scientist based at the Admiralty Research Establishment at Teddington, and known to have been a university contemporary and friend of Guy Burgess and Anthony Blunt, but hidden deep in MI5’s files were details of another, earlier suspect. Although when challenged by MI5 Watson acknowledged having held clandestine meetings with both Kondrashev and Karpekov, he had always denied having passed either of them classified information and would only admit to having concealed his Communist Party membership to obtain a security clearance. However, before MI5 had confronted Watson there had been another suspect, a senior naval officer who had been seen visiting Karpekov’s home in Holland Park.
The very existence of this suspect was a closely guarded secret, even within the Security Service, because he represented even more political embarrassment for MI5, which had already caught and imprisoned three spies in the Admiralty, being Vassall, Houghton, and the latter’s girlfriend, Ethel Gee. Quite apart from the fact that MI5 had thought it likely that there was probably another Soviet source in Portland, maybe run by Houghton, who was never charged because there was insufficient evidence against him, MI5’s Director-General, Sir Roger Hollis, had been reluctant to initiate yet another investigation into the loss of even more naval secrets. The cause of Hollis’s unwillingness to pursue the remaining naval suspect was the prevailing climate at the time, which was particularly hostile to the Security Service. Two tribunals of inquiry had been empanelled to look into the breaches of security already known, and Hollis feared the consequences if another scandal emerged. His reticence is understandable, considering that two journalists had been imprisoned for refusing to reveal their sources over a newspaper article that had linked the Portland spies to Vassall falsely. Although there never had been any such connection, Brendan Mulholland and Reginald Foster, and later the veteran Fleet Street crime correspondent Percy Hoskins, had suggested in print there was much more to the story, hinting that microfilms found by MI5 at the Krogers’ bungalow in Ruislip had contained evidence implicating a further source beyond those known to have been in the Portland spy-ring.
When asked by the Radcliffe Tribunal about this supposed link between the two arrests, twenty months apart, Sir Roger Hollis had chosen his words carefully and had denied any such evidence had been found, but he was not questioned about whether MI5 was investigating a further lead. In fact the leader of MI5’s investigation team, Ronald Symonds (a future Deputy Director-General of the Security Service, but no relation to me) strongly believed in the existence of another network based in London. His view was based on two compelling facts. Firstly, Karpekov and Korovin had been together the night the news broke of the arrests of Houghton, Gee, Lonsdale and the Krogers and yet, according to MI5’s technical staff monitoring their dinner table conversation, neither had made any comment, or made any move to rush back to the embassy. They had been completely unconcerned, which was either a manifestation of masterly self-control on the part of the rezident and his deputy, or they were genuinely unconcerned, perhaps safe in the knowledge that their other organisation had gone undetected. Secondly, there was the wireless traffic from Moscow to Lonsdale and to the Krogers, which had been intercepted by GCHQ’s technicians. According to their recordings, the KGB had continued to transmit signals to receivers in London after the arrests of January 1961, which again implied the existence of another apparatus that had worked in parallel to, but in isolation from, the Portland network. Whilst this may be of only historical interest in the 21st Century, the ramifications are immense, for all the evidence points to Mrs Norwood being at the heart of a further, undiscovered spy-ring, just as Symonds had suspected. It may also be only relevant today because the Security Service demonstrably has gone to extraordinary lengths to avoid opening this particular Pandora’s Box. My only hesitation in advancing such a conspiracy theory is that some might find it hard to believe that someone such as Sir Stephen Lander, who only joined MI5 in 1975, more than a decade after these events had occurred, could have any interest in concealing the misdeeds of the long-distant past. However, the fact remains that MI5’s behaviour in the Norwood case is very strange, and requires more of an explanation than the lame excuses offered to Tom King’s committee.
Among some MI5 retirees it is common knowledge that a senior Royal Navy officer was considered a serious espionage suspect by MI5 at the very time Sir Roger Hollis was denying any discovery made in the Kroger household had led to the identification of John Vassall as a spy the following year. The correct sequence of events was that MI5 had been tipped off to Houghton’s espionage by the CIA which in 1960 had received an anonymous letter from a Polish intelligence officer, Michal Goleniewski, who was preparing the way for his own eventual defection in December of that year. The clue to Vassall’s espionage had come from an entirely different defector, Yuri Nosenko. Those two cases, however, did not account for the four spies mentioned by the third defector, Anatoli Golitsyn, so the search had continued until the officer, whose career had been at sea throughout the war and afterwards until 1959 when he had gone to work for the First Sea Lord, became the focus of a molehunt conducted by Michael McCaul. Much to the dismay of those directly involved, the investigation had been abandoned on instructions from the Director-General who allegedly had insisted that Whitehall and Westminster could not sustain a further spy scandal, and the continued existence of the Security Service might even be at stake. When in 1964 McCaul expressed his disagreement, he was transferred to the United States as MI5’s Security Liaison Officer attached to the British embassy in Washington DC, a useful post for malcontents. It was while McCaul was in America that new evidence materialised which served to incriminate Mrs Norwood.
In 1965 the US National Security Agency cryptographers had cracked the VENONA message about the atomic spy codenamed TINA, having worked on it almost twenty years, and this was the clue that MI5 had needed to identify TINA as Mrs Norwood, a dedicated CPGB and CND member, local political activist and subscriber to the Morning Star, whose file showed her to have associated with known spies, such as Percy Glading, as long ago as 1938. The text, dated 16 September 1945, from General Pavel Fitin, head of the NKVD’s foreign intelligence directorate, had been addressed to his London rezident, Boris Krotov, and had been the subject of continuous cryptographic attack. The final version, translated into English, had been circulated to MI5 on 29 January 1965, which had prompted the new investigation that was to be shelved by the end of the year. Exactly why MI5 abandoned this extremely important mole hunt is unclear, but considering that we now know HOLA was active during this period, the decision to abandon it looks utterly negligent. One explanation may have been the wish within the Security Service, then still under the leadership of Sir Roger Hollis, to bury past, awkward cases that might reopen the sensitivities of the debilitating mole hunts which had threatened to paralyze the organisation in 1964.
The real, continuing embarrassment for the Security Service was that Mrs Norwood had been granted a security clearance in 1945 which had not been revoked until 1951, despite her connection with a notorious prewar espionage case, and her unconcealed, active CPGB membership. On this basis Mrs Norwood had enjoyed access to classified atomic information for at least four years, until the company for which she worked had completed its only classified contract. That, of course, is not to say, or even to imply, as MI5 attempted to do in its written evidence to the Intelligence and Security Committee in 2000, that Mrs Norwood had not engaged in any useful espionage during that period. The real implication was that MI5 had been negligent in not checking on Melita Sirnis in 1938, and had blundered in granting her a clearance in 1945. According to Mitrokhin’s notes, she had been recruited originally in 1937 by Andrew Rothstein, one of the CPGB’s founders and a well-known Soviet agent, and had been handled by a GRU agent codenamed FIR until 1944 when she had been handed over to Nikolai Ostrovsky, and then had been run successively by two Trade Delegation officials, Galina Trusevich and Yevgenni Oleynik, but had been put into cold storage in April 1950 following the arrest of Klaus Fuchs in January.
Dr Andrew speculates that FIR may have been the legendary GRU agent Ursula Kuczynski, alias Ruth Werner and codenamed SONYA, who moved to Britain from Geneva in 1943, and in November 1947 had been interviewed at her home in Oxfordshire by MI5 after she had been named by a defector, Allan Foote, as a Soviet spy. Shrewdly SONYA had denied ever having engaged in espionage in Britain, and at that time MI5 had not realised that Fuchs had been a spy, and that Kuczynski had acted as his GRU controller, but two years later she had fled to East Germany as soon as she had heard that Fuchs had been arrested. This entire episode, of course, had also been an embarrassment for MI5 because it was only long after Fuchs had been imprisoned that it was realised that it had allowed Ursula Kuczynski to slip through its fingers two years earlier in 1947. Although powerless to arrest the young mother, MI5 had accepted her denials, and had pursued her no further. In the light of Fuchs’s treachery, the lost opportunity had looked rather worse than merely that.
Just on the basis of her relationship with SONYA, Mrs Norwood would have been a fascinating subject to interrogate, but there would have been numerous other issues to have raised with her. One curiosity is the fact that the Sirnis home in Lawn Road, Hampstead before the war was next-door to the flat rented by Otto Deutsch, the legendary Soviet illegal who had recruited Kim Philby in 1934. Surely this was no coincidence, but what was her explanation for this? Czech by origin, but travelling on an authentic Austrian passport, Deutsch had been the NKVD’s illegal rezident in London, while ostensibly working at London University researching psychology, assisted by his wife, Josefine who had qualified as a wireless operator, and their child. In October 1937 Deutsch’s three-year alien’s permit had expired, and after what had actually been a routine visit from the police, he had left the country hurriedly, later to perish when a ship he was on was sunk in the Atlantic in November 1942. Many of Deutsch’s secrets, as one of the celebrated ‘great illegals’ died with him, but maybe Melita Norwood could have supplied some of the pieces of the jigsaw that was the career of the magnetic personality responsible for having recruited Philby, Anthony Blunt, Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean and John Cairncross. How could MI5 have passed up such an opportunity?
After the conviction of Fuchs, contact with the spy codenamed HOLA was resumed by the London rezidentura in 1952, and at some point between 1945 and 1952 her codename had been changed. The Soviets routinely had changed the codenames of their agents periodically as a security precaution, and when they learned, probably from Kim Philby and another source in America, that their cipher systems had been compromised, and the British and American codebreakers were working on the cryptographic project later codenamed VENONA, all the current operational codenames were changed again, transforming TINA into HOLA. Mrs Norwood, who would have been unaware of these counter-measures, and probably completely ignorant of her own operational codename, was considered so valuable that in 1958 she had been awarded the coveted Order of the Red Banner, the KGB’s highest award. Mitrokhin also recorded her KGB contacts as Yevgenni Belov, Galina’s husband Georgi Leonidovich, Gennadi Myakinkov, Lev Sherstnev and, of course, the illegal rezident, Konon Molody, codenamed BEN. Such continuing attention shows that HOLA was probably the KGB’s longest-running agent in Britain, and the fact that from 23 December 1958, when they first met, she was run (at considerable risk) by the illegal rezident in Britain reflects her unique status.
MI5’s blatant bid to sideline HOLA’s significance as ‘marginal’ is contemptible, especially in view of the decoration she received, which only previously had been awarded to a spy the calibre of John Cairncross, following his decisive contribution to the Soviet victory at the Battle of Kursk. On the eve of the greatest tank battle in history Cairncross had supplied the original Enigma intercepts from Bletchley Park that had allowed the Red Army to locate the enemy’s airfields and launch a decisive pre-emptive raid on the Luftwaffe, eliminating its ground-attack aircraft from the theatre. Kursk had proved a turning-point in the war, and Cairncross’s medal had been in recognition of his achievement. According to Mitrokhin, what Mrs Norwood had achieved had been on a par with Cairncross, no minor accomplishment.
For MI5 to have dropped TINA in 1965 is certainly odd, but may be understandable in terms of the need then perceived to keep VENONA source a secret. To have shelved her file again, when exposed as HOLA in 1992, is quite incomprehensible. Admittedly she was by then quite elderly, but the country and creed to which she had given her first loyalty by then had ceased to exist, and it would not have taken much research to establish that she remained mentally and physically agile, and certainly had much to offer in historical terms, if necessarily not much of actual current operational value. When challenged on this point MI5 claimed lamely that public interest issues had been taken into account, when such matters are entirely beyond their purview.
The other area where MI5 is culpable is in the behaviour of Dame Stella, the Director-General who succeeded Sir Patrick Walker in February 1992. There had been three hundred Mitrokhin leads for MI5 to pursue in Britain, yet she had fumbled the two most important ones, and the scale of her misjudgments deserve close scrutiny. The most obvious, of course, is her failure to tell successive Home Secretaries of the JESSANT project, and it is clear that she neglected to properly brief either Kenneth Clarke, or his successor in 1993, Michael Howard. However, according to her own astonishing testimony before the Intelligence and Security Committee, she ‘cannot remember ever being briefed about Mrs Norwood’. The constitutional issue raised here is hard to exaggerate, because if Michael Howard is to be believed, and he says he was never briefed, then Jack Straw was the first Home Secretary to be told about JESSANT, and he was not informed until 10 December 1988. If, on the other hand, Howard is wrong, and in fact he was ‘made aware of the project’ sometime in March 1996, as is claimed by his Permanent Under-Secretary (PUS), Richard Wilson, who has averred that the publication was mentioned in passing during a meeting with Rimington and Lander, then the situation is little altered because ‘the Director-General of the Security Service did not know about Mrs Norwood and Mr Symonds and she was therefore unable to brief the PUS at the Home Office’. The implication of this was, of course, that ‘when Michael Howard was made aware of the publication project, both he and Richard Wilson were unsighted on Mrs Norwood and any potential controversy within the UK material’. This verdict, contained in the Intelligence and Security Committee’s report, underlines the degree of Dame Stella’s appalling negligence in respect of Mrs Norwood, but Jack Straw revealed in a statement to the House of Commons on 13 September 1999, that as far as I was concerned, he had never heard of me until the previous weekend, when The Times published its scoop!
We do know that a decision not to interview Mrs Norwood was taken at relatively low level in 1992 for fear of compromising Mitrokhin’s security or ‘the international handling of leads to still active spies’ which, in plain language, amounts to an admission that MI5 did not have the skill or the imagination to visit her without inadvertently tipping her off to the fact that she had been compromised by Mitrokhin. This explanation is obviously flawed, not least because of the widespread publicity given in September 1992 to the defection of Viktor Oshchenko. What better excuse, if one really had to be given, than to exploit the happy coincidence of both defections and give Oshchenko the credit for fingering HOLA? Such tactics are commonplace in the intelligence community, and in the example of Robert Lipka the FBI had publicly thanked Oleg Kalugin for leading them to him, when he had done no such thing, although his denials had been disbelieved. Indeed, the exercise had worked so well that the FBI had even subpoenaed Kalugin to give evidence for the prosecution against George Trofimoff, another of Mitrokhin’s victims. Spies always dread the knock on the door immediately after a defection has occurred, and it would have been unusual if Mrs Norwood had not been mildly apprehensive following the media coverage given to the defections of Oleg Lyalin in 1971, Oleg Gordievsky in 1985 and Viktor Oschchenko in 1992. All were members of the so-called ‘London Club’ of KGB officers who had served in Britain, and might have been in a position to compromise HOLA. In fact, as we know, none of the three were, but Mrs Norwood could not have been entirely confident on that score, although she must have developed nerves of steel since the arrest, prosecution and imprisonment of Konon Molody who probably could have traded his freedom for her arrest at any time during the three years he was incarcerated in Britain.
Clearly the mistaken decision to delay confronting Mrs Norwood was taken at a relatively junior level within the Security Service, and the error was to be compounded the following year when the entire file was shelved, apparently without the knowledge of the Director-General, or so she says. Even the reasons behind this blunder were improper, for such matters are the province of the law officers, not mole hunters. If, as MI5 claimed, they had dropped the case on public interest grounds, they were not entitled to do so. When challenged on this point, MI5 later resorted to a blatant lie, claiming that Mrs Norwood’s ‘offences were committed 50 years ago’ when the correct figure was more like thirty.
The role of the counter-intelligence officer is to advise on operational issues, and emphatically not to take other issues into account, especially on such a crucial matter. In my case, it is equally incredible that MI5 waited more than seven years, until 9 September 1999, to enquire if I could be prosecuted, when of course it had always known of the terms of my immunity, granted by the DPP, Sir Tony Hetherington, fifteen years earlier in 1984.
The purpose of the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee is to provide democratic supervision of MI5, SIS and GCHQ, but with a staff of just a clerk and a single researcher it is heavily dependent on what it is told, and in terms of public confidence, it reports not to Parliament, but to the prime minister, who personally appoints all nine members and decides what should be included in its reports. As an effort to instil confidence, the Mitrokhin Inquiry Report, published in June 2000 was, quite simply, a travesty. Of the two Cabinet Intelligence Co-ordinators who were directly involved in running the JESSANT publication project, only John Alpass gave evidence to the committee, but only in writing and not in person, and Sir Gerald Warner, who held the post between 1991 and 1996, was entirely absent from the proceedings, and not even mentioned by name. A career SIS officer who had retired as McColl’s Deputy Chief in 1990, Warner would have been a key witness, yet he was made available for an interview with the BBC programme The Spying Game, but failed to appear before the parliamentary committee. His successor as Co-ordinator, John Alpass, did offer written evidence to the committee, but declined to appear in person and the Committee never recorded that he had been one of Dame Stella’s two Deputy Directors-General until he switched to the Cabinet Office in 1994. Of the three SIS Chiefs who supervised the Mitrokhin project, only Richard Dearlove, who took over SIS in August 1999, just a fortnight before the book was to be published, gave evidence to the Committee. Admittedly Dearlove had been SIS’s Director of Operations since 1994, and Assistant Chief since 1998, had an intimate knowledge of the JESSANT case, almost from the outset, but he was the only SIS officer to appear. Spedding, who died in June 2001, was succumbing to cancer when the Committee was conducting its inquiry, but McColl was in perfect health and never appeared. Among the other distinguished no-shows was the former Cabinet Secretary, now Lord Butler, and the former Chairman of the JIC, Sir Rodric Braithwaite.
As for the senior civil servants, none seem to have been disadvantaged by the Committee’s typically measured criticism of the way they so comprehensively misled their ministers. The PUS at the Home Office, Sir Richard Wilson, subsequently became Butler’s successor as Cabinet Secretary; Wilson’s successor at the Home Office, Sir David Omand, was appointed Director of GCHQ and later served as the Cabinet’s Intelligence Co-ordinator; Dame Stella retired to a directorship of Marks & Spencer, and Sir Stephen Lander retired to head the Law Society’s discredited complaints committee. In short, it was more a performance of musical chairs that anyone being penalised or disadvantaged for gross dereliction of duty. So where did this leave the Intelligence and Security Committee? Its Chairman, Tom King MP, received a peerage when he retired from the Commons at the 2001 General Election, and the Committee headed by his replacement, Ann Taylor MP, contained not a single member with any personal experience of intelligence. The first Tom King knew of Mitrokhin’s existence was on the evening of 11 August 1999 when he met Dearlove informally, upon his appointment as Chief, just two weeks before publication of The Mitrokhin Archive. The Committee’s clerk received a single copy of the uncorrected proofs of the book from Dearlove on 3 September 1999, four months after the BBC had been sent a synopsis, and days after American television channels had acquired bound copies of the finished book.
In retrospect, nobody emerges from the Mitrokhin affair with much credit. The BBC and The Times competed against each other to see who could renege on their agreements first; MI5 tried every slippery trick to conceal Dame Stella’s stunning incompetence; Alpass tried to protect his former MI5 colleagues and then caved in to pressure brought by SIS on behalf of the BBC; senior civil servants conspired to keep their ministers in the dark and played Robin Cook off against Jack Straw. Michael Howard complained he had never been told of the project, while Straw insisted he ought to have been informed much earlier; Rimington and Lander retired with the grateful thanks of the nation, Warner received a knighthood, while King and Butler joined their Lordships’ House. All of this would be funny if it was not so tragic, and as I read and reread the The Mitrokhin Inquiry Report I was struck by one of the key items contained in the Intelligence and Security Committee’s central questionnaire, which was never answered, It was to be found in point three out of a total of five principal issues to be addressed: ‘Why was Symonds not taken seriously when he offered his services in 1984/5?’ Obviously the Committee was not completely serious when it posed this question, because it never asked me.
Interview with Jon Ronson
|Jon Ronson on Spying||John Alexander Symonds
|The writer and documentary maker Jon Ronson interviewed me for his BBC Radio 4 programme Jon Ronson on Spying. The programme was broadcast on 3 May 2011. You can listen to the part of the programme about me by downloading the MP3 file by clicking on this link (11.8 MB zipped).
|Jon Ronson: What kind of person do you have to be [to make a good spy]? I’m in Folkestone, on my way to meet John Symonds, who is now in his seventies and trying to tell people about his spying days. It looks like a sort of sea-side-dy retirement block. I’ll take off my sunglasses; I don’t want him to think that the KGB are back. Hello?
John Symonds: Hello there.
Jon Ronson: John!
John Symonds: Yeah. Hi, come in.
Jon Ronson: When you were a child, did you want to have a life of adventure and intrigue?
John Symonds: Well, yes, I think so. I was a very adventurous child, and I was often in trouble for that, and I liked fighting.
Jon Ronson: That’s playground fighting?
John Symonds: Playground fighting, and I was always in trouble because I became a sort of a gang leader. I set up my own gang of small ruffians, and we used to chase other gangs and fight with them.
Jon Ronson: Did you ever hurt anyone?
John Symonds: Yes, I did
Jon Ronson: Did you feel sort of bad about it?
John Symonds: No, because what happened was, I was horribly bullied, and I said to my father, you know, I don’t want to go to school because this other boy keeps hitting me, and twisting my arm, and poking me, and so what he did, he showed me all the weak points of another small boy. You don’t hit him on the head; you hit him in the throat. Yeah? You don’t kick him on the shin; you kick him in the balls. So I went to school and sorted this boy out, and it was a good feeling. I can still enjoy that feeling now. And then I started going through the whole school.
Jon Ronson: But did you then become “the bully“?
John Symonds: Yeah, but not of innocent little children, I always went for a bully. I loaded my school bag with a huge heavy solid oak pencil box, and as he came past I took it out of my satchel, and bonk! And he was injured quite badly.
Jon Ronson: And how did that feel?
John Symonds: Good. Yeah. Good.
Jon Ronson: John grew up, left school and became a Police officer in the Flying Squad. But then one day, in the 1970s, he was accused of corruption. The newspapers said he took bribes from gangsters like Charlie Richardson. John denied it, and he still does.
John Symonds: I read in the paper one day that I was corrupt and I’d been demanding money off this poor little criminal – completely untrue. I knew I was fitted up and so I went abroad, and I thought well I’ll bring the whole ship down.
Jon Ronson: So John says he was bitter. He went to Morocco, and planned to write a book about Police corruption in London in the 1970s. But he never did wrote the book, instead he got involved with a bunch of shady former British soldiers, and then one day he got chatting to a friend of one of them who said he was a recruiter for the KGB. This could be an even better way of getting back at the UK, John thought.
John Symonds: You don’t just walk into the KGB. It is a long sort of process, and they check up on everything. How many children I had, and where were they now, and my own weaknesses.
Jon Ronson: In the midst of his KGB try-out phase, he was in a bar chatting up a woman whose husband happened to be high up in the West German Government. John told his KGB handler, whose name was Nick, and he replied that maybe John could try to get some secrets out of her. So you had to seduce her?
John Symonds: Yeah. They told me to take her Berlin and gave me a hotel to stay in, which was obviously completely rigged up as a sort of honey-trap nest, and of course we had some mad passionate love, and everything went onto film and every word spoken was on there.
Jon Ronson: Do you feel a bit embarrassed about that, or do you feel like you have probably put on a good show and it was all OK
John Symonds: No, it was quite funny in a way because I was always potent, high sex drive, but low in competence.
Jon Ronson: Right.
John Symonds: Because obviously I wasn’t bothering about her, apparently everybody was laughing
Jon Ronson: At KGB headquarters?
John Symonds: Yeah. So then they can see if I’m going to be a “romeo spy” I need to be taught.
Jon Ronson: Yes
John Symonds: Being a “romeo spy” is not the sex. It’s getting into the confidence, it’s being gentle, treating them nicely.
Jon Ronson: How long did these lessons go on for?
John Symonds: Well weeks. During the day I was being taught secret writing, avoiding being followed, and stuff like that. And then I went back to my room and there was this girl waiting for me. In my room.
Jon Ronson: Giving you sex lessons?
John Symonds: Yeah. Just pure sexual teaching. I was astonished, because I thought I was a man of the world, but I was a babe in arms.
Jon Ronson: John was declared “ready” he says, and he was sent out by the KGB to seduce women.
John Symonds: In nearly every case they were from embassies. I went to most of the countries. The whole lot really. Never Britain, but British girls in British embassies.
Jon Ronson: How did you chat them up?
John Symonds: Well, I had to use my charm, and meet them casually somewhere.
Jon Ronson: You do have a kind of twinkle-eyed charm.
John Symonds: Yeah, that was useful then.
Jon Ronson: Did you have kind of chat up lines that always worked?
John Symonds: No, I made friends with them. Decent manners as well. When they talk you listen carefully. You remember what they were saying, and when you reply it’s relevant and to the point.
Jon Ronson: But then, once you’ve got what you wanted out of the women, you would just leave and go onto the next one.
John Symonds: Yes.
Jon Ronson: For John, being inquisitive wasn’t important at all, what was was being ruthless. He was filled with ruthlessness and a righteous indignation; the need for revenge. John didn’t believe in anything bigger than himself, like spies are supposed to, but he did believe very much in himself. So how many women did you have sex with on behalf of the KGB?
John Symonds: I would say many, dozens. Ninety percent of the women were as hard as nuts. You’re working in an embassy, you know sex running wild there, and in fact it got too much in the end. They’d burnt me out. That’s why I left them in the end.
Jon Ronson: Burnt you out, how so?
John Symonds: Well, because when they found me I was a very virile young man, although I didn’t realise just how virile I was. Then they exploited me and my body. In other words they used me as a prostitute, in a way. And it meant that in my forties I started, you know, not getting erections to order.
Jon Ronson: You gave your erections to the KGB?
John Symonds: Yeah, and now I want to sue them for damages.
Jon Ronson: You want some erections back?
John Symonds: Yeah.
Jon Ronson: Were the women ever blackmailed by the KGB after you gave them information?
John Symonds: Yes, some of them were, yeah, which was sad. Some of the women weren’t anything to do with diplomacy, diplomatic corps, whatever, and there was one that I’m still a bit sorry about – a Chinese girl – a lovely, lovely little Chinese girl, and she was on holiday in Singapore. She was going on a tour bus every day, and I ended up sitting next to her and making friends with her, and she was tiny like a little porcelain statuette. And I was really fond of her, and that’s good if you can make yourself fond of somebody, because it shows in your manner, your attitude, your face, your eyes, everything. Anyway, I took her out, complemented her, kept looking at her adoringly and what not. We slept together, it was in a special room, and I knew that everything was being photographed.
Jon Ronson: You said that you felt sorry for her?
John Symonds: Sorry for her, yes, because later on I found out, she was the daughter or only child of a hugely rich Taiwanese business man, who had massive factories and were engaged in making all sorts of secret stuff for the Americans.
Jon Ronson: And what happened to her, did they go to her with the film?
John Symonds: No, they went to the father with the film.
Jon Ronson: And do you know what happened as a result of it?
John Symonds: Yeah, he started handing over the American secrets. It was a huge success. The threat to him was: “help us with the plans for this latest whatever it is, radar or whatever, or the meetings will be published and it will go out“, and that’s his life ruined and her life and the family disgraced.
Jon Ronson: So what do you think when you look back on that now?
John Symonds: I’m very ashamed of it.
Jon Ronson: Genuinely so?
John Symonds: Well, I didn’t know what was going to happen, did I? Broke her father’s heart didn’t it. And she was beautiful and lovely, and she fell in love with me.
Jon Ronson: There will be some women listening to this
John Symonds: Of course, yes.
Jon Ronson: Who will be furious
John Symonds: But you’ll be surprised. You can play that to women, yes, and you will be shocked. They might throw something at me. No, there will be a lot of women wanting instruction from me, or something like that.
Jon Ronson: Even though you sound so terribly misogynist and callous and ruthless?
John Symonds: Yeah, yeah.
Jon Ronson: What do you think the KGB saw in you that they thought that you would make a good “romeo spy”? Do you think you are quite good at being manipulative?
John Symonds: Yes, always have been. Like you are manipulating me now.
Jon Ronson: I’m just asking you questions. And things like empathy and remorse – you don’t feel a huge amount of?
John Symonds: Shows you what a crank I am. The only things I have remorse about are my dogs, a series of dogs who have all died, because they gave me unconditional love their whole lives. And sometimes of a night I feel sad about such and such a dog which probably died 20 years ago. A scruffy little mongrel, you know, but they’re the only creatures that have got through to me like that. People I’ve harmed seriously or destroyed – pooh. But I do feel sorry about that Chinese girl, one, and a few other cases.
Jon Ronson: In the end John says: he had enough, he came back to London and turned himself in.
John Symonds: I didn’t want to go to my grave, which I’m apparently going to now anyway, on the record as a corrupt officer, who was caught and fled the country.
Jon Ronson: But the British authorities didn’t prosecute, they sent John to jail for a year for the original corruption charges. But when it came to the KGB honey-trap stuff they said he was a fantasist, and that he had made the whole thing up. John says that was their way of discrediting him, and they needed to discredit him because he had too many secrets about corruption in the Home Office, and so on. One person who does believe him is his wife Nelly.
Nelly Symonds: I have very mixed feelings, and I prefer not to think about it. When I think I become sad.
Jon Ronson: Do you ever think about the feelings of the other women?
Nelly Symonds: I think that one thing which is missing – he has to offer an apology to all these women.
Jon Ronson: Maybe he’s the sort of person who just doesn’t feel remorse?
Nelly Symonds: I don’t know? He must. I do for very small things.
Jon Ronson: Does he? Do you see him feeling remorse about small things?
Nelly Symonds: I don’t know. Not very often.
Jon Ronson: And has he been a good husband, these last – how many years – 20 years?
Nelly Symonds: Well, 10 years now. Interesting?
Jon Ronson: In what way?
Nelly Symonds: Life is always interesting with John. He has a very nice sense of humour, and there is never a boring moment with him.
Jon Ronson: So more like a roller coaster than a roundabout?
Nelly Symonds: Yeah
Jon Ronson: After I left John, I had the creeping sense that maybe he was a fantasist. Maybe he had made the whole story up? So I looked him up in the Mitrokhin Archive. Vasili Mitrokhin was for 30 years an archivist working within the KGB. His files have become the world’s most detailed and trustworthy record of KGB life. Mitrokhin writes that a John Symonds spent 8 years as a “romeo spy“, using seduction and romance to recruit or obtain classified information from a series of female officers.
John Symonds: This was the best hotel in Delhi
Jon Ronson: So that’s you being a spy?
John Symonds: Yeah, I had a fabulous time. Can you imagine a “romeo spy“ being sent all around the world, to all these places with unlimited expense accounts. It was the best time of my life.
Please note that victims of abuse may be triggered by reading this information. These links are generally UK based.
- The Sanctuary for the Abused [A] has advice on how to prevent triggers.
- National Association for People Abused in Childhood [B] has a freephone helpline and has links to local support groups.
- Other useful sites are One in Four [C]
- and Havoca [D].
- Useful post on Triggers [E] from SurvivorsJustice [F]blog.
- Jim Hoppers pages on Mindfulness [G] and Meditation [H] may be useful.
- Hwaairfan blog An Indigenous Australian Approach to Healing Trauma [J]
- Survivors UK for victims and survivors of male rape or the sexual abuse of men [K]
 2016 Feb 5 cathy Fox blog The Fall of Scotland Yard https://cathyfox.wordpress.com/2016/02/05/the-fall-of-scotland-yard/
 2015 Feb 12 London Lowlife Life on Mars Part I: A Firm in a Firm https://londonlowlife.wordpress.com/2015/02/12/life-on-mars-part-i-a-firm-in-a-firm/
 2016 Feb 11 London Lowlife Life on Mars Part IV: Marking the Met https://londonlowlife.wordpress.com/2016/02/11/life-on-mars-part-iv-marking-the-met/
 Bits of Books Blog S.8 SEXUAL OFFENCES ACT 1967: SIR NORMAN SKELHORN’S CONSENT TO PROSECUTE V. POLICE POWERS OF PROSECUTION https://bitsofbooksblog.wordpress.com/tag/assistant-dpp-michael-evelyn/