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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 April 2005, 18:23 GMT 19:23 UK
Busybodies blow French spy cover
Pierre Martinet (publisher shot)
Martinet says he was rumbled by a local nosey parker
A former French spy who says he watched Islamist militants in London eventually had to leave the country after local nosey neighbours blew his cover.

Pierre Martinet, a former member of the DGSE (or foreign intelligence agency), claims he spied on UK soil without the authorities ever noticing his presence.

This was until "nosey parkers" reported him to the police.

His new book - DGSE Action Service: An Agent Comes Out of the Shadows - is published in France on Thursday.

Mr Martinet and a colleague had been stalking Abu Walid, a suspected member of the Algerian Armed Islamic Group (GIA), for several days outside his home in the Wembley area, north-west London.

They noticed a police car pull up behind their parked vehicle and two policemen emerge.

"We were eating two McDonald's burgers at the time. The two bobbies asked us what we were doing there. We said we were just eating our burgers. 'For the last two hours?' the bobbies asked," he told the BBC News website.

There are people who hide behind their curtains who spend their time looking to see what is happening in their street. Someone noticed us. My cover was blown
Pierre Martinet
Former French spy
This led Mr Martinet to suspect he had been rumbled by some observant resident.

He pretended to be a tourist scouring the area ahead of a friendly football match between France and England at Wembley Stadium the next day.

He went on to joke with the two bobbies about which team had the best chance of winning the game.

As the hired car he was in was in his name and the two police officers took down his personal details, he thought he would soon be found out and decided to cut his losses.

"There are people who hide behind their curtains who spend their time looking to see what is happening in their street. We had been doing surveillance in that street for several days. Someone noticed us. My cover was blown."

To avoid creating an "incident", he said he decided to leave the country.

'Friendly' spying

He said it was very common for spies to operate anonymously on foreign soil and it was not unusual to be spotted by keen observers in the not-so-glamorous world of espionage.

It was easier to operate anonymously in a foreign country so one did "not have to give accounts to anyone", he said.

Two Mossad agents had once been spotted by observant locals in Switzerland who had blown their cover, he said.

The UK Home Office said it would not comment on Mr Martinet's claims.

The UK's domestic intelligence service MI5 states on its website the following regarding the presence of foreign spies in the UK.

"Occasionally, if a foreign intelligence officer's activities are particularly intrusive or threaten real damage to UK interests, he/she may be required by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office to leave the UK."

It seems Mr Martinet did not want to be put in that delicate position.

French spy chief sacked
24 Jul 02 |  Europe

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