Suppression of the Truth
Part 1: Nothing Prepared me for This
SOMETIME during the winter of 1987, while recovering from my battle with cancer, I sat with my late dad and watched a rented VHS video which ultimately changed my thinking about everything.
The movie was called The Whistle Blower.
Let me tell you a bit about it:
The Whistle Blower is a 1986 British spy thriller, starring Michael Caine, based on the novel of the same name by John Hale.
Frank Jones is a retired British naval officer. His bright and idealistic son, Robert, works as a linguist at GCHQ, the top secret British intelligence listening station, using his love of Russian to listen to various pieces of communication on the other side of the Iron Curtain.
Robert tells his father that strange things are happening at GCHQ, and he’s planning on leaving the service.
He tells his dad: “We live in an unseen world of shadows.”
“Then there are the lies. They start on the very first day. Nobody is as they seem, nothing is what it is made out to be.
“The truth recedes. Our secret world is beyond the law”.
The scene cuts to a room in British Intelligence, where operatives are listening to a tape recording of the conversation between Frank and his son.
A few days later, police tell Frank that Robert has died in a fall from the roof of his apartment, in an apparent suicide, and a verdict of accidental death is recorded.
But Frank is puzzled by the circumstances of his son’s death and decides to use his old skills to conduct his own investigation. He approaches his friend Charles Greig, who had joined MI6 after his service in the navy. Greig agrees to make discreet enquiries on his part.
Returning to Robert’s flat, Frank is confronted by a left wing journalist Bill Pickett, who had arranged to meet Robert to discuss the problems at British Intelligence, but Frank rejects his investigative approaches.
Pickett is also killed in mysterious circumstances in a bizzare road traffic accident (hold that thought!) having found out the name of the man who Robert wished him to meet before meeting Frank.
As the movie unfolds we find that Greig had a part to play in the MI5 murder of Robert and the Soviet mole is a high ranking member of the British aristocracy Sir Adrian Chapple.
The movie ends with the death of Chapple and many loose ends.
It is truly gripping narrative.
But the words: “The truth recedes. Our secret world is beyond the law”, have stayed with me and grown like another cancer as I began to discover the truth.
But my initiation didn’t end there.
Some three years after watching this movie, and on the eve of my entering newspaper journalism, my dad bought me a book which would change my thinking forever. And in many ways prepared me for my unforeseen journey.
The red covered 260 page tome was Tony Collin’s Open Verdict: An Account of 25 Mysterious Deaths in Defence Industry.
This remarkable book contains a detailed investigation into a series of strange deaths linked to the British defence industry during the 1980s.
As my dad was working for Marconi on a “Top Secret” contract for the MoD at the time, I immediately found his gift of the book intriguing.
Here is a short taste:
In March 1987, in Popham near Basingstoke on the A33, David Sands did a U-turn at 80mph on a duel carriageway at high speed crashing into a derelict café, strangely with two extra cans of petrol in his car boot.
This led to him being burned beyond recognition by the fire that engulfed the car.
He worked for a company named Esams, (Elliot Automation Space and Advanced Military Systems Ltd) Marconi’s sister company on Star Wars contracts. Specifically “on the simulation of signals technologies and a secret application” directly related to Stealth.
On 10 April 1987, Stuart Gooding drove across to the wrong lane in Cyprus and hit a lorry coming in the opposite direction, the same day that David Greenhagl fell from a bridge in Britain.
The only personal details given was that Gooding was aged 23 and a scientific officer, and at the Royal Military College of Science. Since independence in 1960, Britain has held 93 square miles of Cyprus for its military bases which include an outpost for GCHQ and EW related operations.
Greenhagl worked as a “defence contracts manager” at the defence division of ICL (International Computers Ltd). His death occurred 130 yards from a police station.
Michael Bakers worked at Plessey Major Systems in Poole on System X when he had his accident on 3 May 1987. He was also a signals specialist in the territorial unit of the SAS (Special Air Services).
Allegedly Baker was taking two friends to Kingsbridge Lakes to teach them fly fishing when his BMW crashed went` through the central reservation of a dual carriageway and overturning.
Although, strangely yet again, neither of his passengers were injured, Baker died of brain damage at the scene of the crash. It was claimed he had “lost concentration” which led to the coroner recording a verdict of accidental death.
In 1982, Professor Keith Bowden whose work involved sophisticated military computer simulations, drove his BMW across a duel carriageway and down a railway bank.
According to Collins, “an accident investigator hired by her (Hilary Bowden, his widow) solicitor says someone removed the new tyres on the car at some point before the crash and replaced them with worn-out retreads”.
With echoes of Henri Paul, it was claimed later by the police that he had been drinking, but Hilary Bowden said: “We were very shocked by that because l had been told by a doctor that he had not been drinking, by a policeman he had not been drinking, and by the man who he was with all evening that he had not been drinking.”
Joe, a former RAF engineer was an informant of Collins when he worked on Computer News – the first mainstream publication to highlight the coincidental deaths or workers in the British defence computer industry. Joe described a crash which had remarkable similarities to some of the incidents detailed above.
He related to Collins how he spun his car at high speed across a dual carriageway, only being saved by the fact that the car: “hit dense brush on the central reservation and came to a halt facing in approximately the right direction. When he realised with some surprise that he was unhurt, apart from a minor whiplash injury, he tried to move the car and found that the handbrake was on. He had no recollection of what had happened, but assumed that for some reason that he had attempted a hand brake turn at high speed. He felt his life was still in danger”
Within a few days of the alleged Soviet spy and GCHQ worker Geoffrey Prime appearing in court in 1982, a senior GCHQ radio operator Jack Wolfenden died instantly “when his powered glider went into a shallow dive and crashed into a Cotswold hillside in perfect flying weather. He was an experienced pilot and they was no sign of illness or mechanical failure to explain the crash”.
His colleague, Ernst Brockway was found hanging a few months later, leaving no suicide note. His widow, Janet, told reporters “my husband was a sick man and that’s all there is to it. I have been told by the police and GCHQ to say nothing”.
Mark Wisner, was a Professional Technical Officer who worked on the Tornado aircraft at the Aeroplane and Armament Establishment (A&AEE). On 24 April 1987. According to Open verdict, he was found dead at his home wearing high-heel women’s boots, suspenders and a PVC top with nine feet of cling film wrapped around his face.
A hole had been left for the mouth, and a plastic bag had been placed over his head. No exact time of death is usually given in cases of this nature. It was reported afterwards that he was a transvestite, although none of his work colleagues were aware of this.
Wisner died exactly a week after Shani Warren, a secretary to the Divisional Manger of a firm called Microscope, which specialise in “intelligent electronic systems”.
Soon after her death on 17 April 1987 her company was bought by GEC Computers – its first acquisition for seven years for £16 million. She was found dead in a lake, “gagged with a blue scarf, a noose was tied around her neck, her ankles were secured with a tow rope and her wrists were tied behind her back. She had been face down in 18 inches of water for an indeterminate period”.
Her car – which was found parked in a layby adjoining a lake, was “an immaculate black Vauxhall Cavalier”. However, Collins reports that it was later found “to have a faulty gear box which prevented it being driven away in first or second gear”
It was later determined by a Home Office pathologist that Shani had tried to strangle herself, gagged herself, bound her ankles, tied her hands behind her back, and hopped in stiletto heels into the shallow water were she drowned”.
Richard Pugh, who had recently left a company which was involved in “digital networks and exchanges, C3i for NATO and associated EW equipment” tied himself virtually head-to-toe with rope and was “accidentally asphyxiated”.
Stephen Drinkwater, who worked in the highly classified copying department in GCHQ was found asphyxiated with a plastic bag over his head in his bedroom by his father in 1983. Collins reports that there was speculation at the time that his death may have been linked to the Prime affair – but the coroner recorded a verdict of misadventure.
Stephen Oke, in 1985 was found hanging from a beam from a beam in a loft in his home in Cornwall where he was employed at GCHQ’s most advanced listening post at Morwenstow.
The coroner was “puzzled by the fact that a piece of string was found twisted around Stephen’s hands and tied in a reef knot, but he was told by the police that Stephen could have done this himself”.
At the time his wife and children were on holiday in the Midlands whilst he redecorated the kitchen. Amongst the unanswered questions of the case was that cigarettes were found at the scene – although Stephen did not smoke – and a brandy bottle was found in the dustbin – although he did not drink spirits.
Now 25 years later we could add MoD scientist Dr David Kelly, Tory Defence PPS Stephen Milligan and former Labour Cabinet Minister Robin Cook to this frightening and still growing list.
But I digress.
The initiation is fulfilled.
Let’s go back to 1990, where my own journey into this secret world of shadows, lies and cover-ups begins.