This transcript is produced from the teletext subtitles that are generated live for Newsnight. It has been checked against the programme as broadcast, however Newsnight can accept no responsibility for any factual inaccuracies. We will be happy to correct serious errors.
The bogus SAS man 14/11/01
The reputation of the SAS stretches
world-wide. It has a reputation for
ruthless efficiency and military
professionalism. Other special
forces units model themselves on
the SAS, whose selection procedures
are arduous and protracted. Around
nine in every ten hopefuls fail in
Hereford. But the SAS is also a
brand name that sells things,
especially books. On sale in
Hereford, the latest best-seller by
an ex-SAS author. Jihad! by Tom
Carew is largely a tale of his
mercenary exploits training the
Mujahideen to fight the Russians
in Afghanistan. The cover calls him
a latter-day Lawrence of Arabia.
The book leaves no doubt the
author is a Special Air Service veteran.
"I must be one of the few ex-SAS
members of 22 SAS who has
actually hijacked an aircraft."
"...sure I was a big tough SAS
soldier, but I was largely at the
mercy of the decisions that the
Mujahideen commanders were
The book describes the imaginary
moment Tom Carew joined 22 SAS.
"At the end of the course, there were
just a handful of us left who'd passed,
together with a couple of guys who
hadn't quite made the grade but
were near enough misses to merit
being kept on with the regiment
until they could retake the tests
So Tom Carew claims to belong to
the SAS, to have fought with it in
Oman, to have helped set up its
Northern Ireland cell. But he
dismisses six years' service in a
single paragraph. Checking stories
with the SAS is usually a difficult task.
Our experiences investigating this
SAS author have been different.
We've been in contact with numerous
sources in the SAS family. The
strength of feeling, and the
consistency, in what they say about
Tom Carew is striking. They say,
he's a fraud, making money out of a
fantasy career in the SAS. A former
senior officer in 22 SAS we
contacted was unequivocal.
FORMER SAS OFFICER:
"This man is a complete charlatan. He
must be exposed. What he is doing is
He's the latest in a long line of
fraudsters, who have written books
about the SAS, never having served
in it. What they rely on is the
Ministry of Defence line on special
forces, which is just "no comment".
If you have been in the SAS, like I
have, then you know immediately
whether these people are genuine or
In Hereford, London and in Belgium,
Newsnight has been investigating
Tom Carew for more than a fortnight.
Having arranged an interview, we set
off to meet him. We've come to
Brussels to do an interview with Tom
Carew. Despite agreeing to it, he's spent
the day avoiding us, and suggesting
different reasons why we can't meet
in this hotel. On the phone, Tom
Carew warned me he has a security
surveillance team of 11 Albanians,
who, he says, "like to shoot first and
ask questions later". That's another claim
that we perhaps ought to check. His
co-writer has told us the SAS
author is "very twitchy" at the
moment. After some negotiation, the
interview was rearranged, and this
morning Mr Carew came in to the BBC.
Why is it that no matter who one
talks to, connected with the SAS,
whether they still be serving or
not, they all say the same thing.
They all say Tom Carew is a fraud
and he never served in 22 SAS.
Tom Carew doesn't exist.
They say you the author who calls
himself Tom Carew never served in
the SAS, contrary to what you say
in your book?
That's their problem, why do you think
the MoD took 30% of my book away.
Several SAS sources told us they
recognised Tom Carew as Philip
Anthony Sessarego. This is Philip
Sessarego's birth certificate. He's
48 years old. He once served in the
Royal Artillery, before trying
selection for 22 SAS in 1973. He
failed, but was allowed to remain
in Hereford, in what was known as
the Demonstration Troop - ordinary
soldiers who did jobs for the SAS,
like pretending to be the enemy on
exercises. After a while he tried
to join the Reserve, or R Squadron
of the SAS - that's part of the
Territorial Army. He failed that
selection too, and was discharged
on December 31st 1975, his 23rd
birthday. One former SAS man who
recognised Philip Sessarego said
being in Demonstration Troop gave
him access to the right people.
FORMER SAS MAN:
People who hang around and mix
with the guys on exercises, they drink
tea and have their food with the guys.
They pick up all the gossip and a guy
like this would be, ear to the ground,
he would get to know all the
regimental gossip. He would
be in a good position to store this
kind of knowledge.
As far as 22 SAS is concerned, they
are telling us, in capital letters,
Mr Carew in no beret, he had no
selection pass, he had no badge, he
had no postings, and he had no
operational duties, he was
never a member of 22 SAS.
Tell them to put it in writing,
I want it in writing please.
I have somebody saying it
I would like it in writing.
Are you, therefore, denying you
are Philip Sessarego?
Yes I am. I could show you my
passport and it would show you
who I am.
Let's have a look?
I refuse to show it to you.
He then broke off the interview and
walked out, filmed by Newsnight's Paul
Isn't it true a real SAS man would stand
his ground and provide an answer, you don't
have one, you're going to have to go and
think about the answer.
There's your answer.
Still refusing to answer the questions,
Mr Carew then left the building.
Tom Carew's ghost writer, the
respected Adrian Weale said he
was surprised and a little embarrassed.
The book isn't built around the claim
of long service with an elite regiment,
the book is built around Tom Carew's
18 months in Afghanistan fighting the
Mujahideen. That's what the story is
about. I have a copy of the book, if we
look on page 39, there is one or two
paragraphs in which he describes
service with the SAS.
He lies about passing selection, it's a
straight forward lie.
Take that page out. That's out of the book
now. So the book is now one page shorter
than it was.
Are you saying people should continue to
buy the book because it is good on
Afghanistan, but rip page 39 out?
Why are people interested about Tom
Carew, because he has fought there
and he is one of a small number of
people who has done that.
Many ex-SAS soldiers blame this
furore on the Ministry of Defence's
policy of never officially
commenting on the regiment. They
say that policy allows into print
as much fantasy as fact about the SAS.