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EDITIONS
True Spies Sunday, 3 November, 2002, 00:32 GMT
The spy left out in the cold
National Front march during the 1970s
A spy informed on far Right organisations for 15 years

Steve became one of the UK's most successful spies, saving dozens of lives. But he has paid a terrible personal price.
In the dead of night in Wiltshire's Savernake forest, a platoon of Territorial Army (TA) soldiers posing as terrorists attacked a position defended by what they believed to be other part-time soldiers.

In fact the defenders were members of a secret neo-Nazi group known as Column 88 that was using the TA night exercise to obtain weapons training.

It was the mid-1970s and there were wild rumours of secret plans for a military coup to restore "order" to Britain.

For months the country had been convulsed by strikes and growing street violence between Left and Right.

Training for 'civil war'

Memories of Arthur Scargill's trade union battalions bringing down the Heath government were still fresh and raw.

Former Special Branch Officer Chris
Chris ran Steve for 12 years
Column 88 were convinced a huge civil war was imminent with blacks and whites fighting each other. Going undercover with the TA was their bid to prepare.

But their training was interrupted thanks to Steve, who had infiltrated the group. Questions were asked in Parliament and the TA connection embarrassingly exposed.

Steve was one of the most remarkable agents ever to have penetrated Britain's far-Right, saving many lives with the information he provided.

But he paid a high personal price for his success.

'Best of the lot'

He was initially recruited by Chris Cradock, a former West Midlands Special Branch officer, who ran him for 12 of his 15 years undercover.

People I'd known for years found out that their friend was a raving Nazi

Steve
Chris said: "Steve was the best agent I've ever dealt with on the Right - sincere, trustworthy and patriotic.

"There was no other agent in the country that gave the information he did. He was the best of the lot."

Steve proved his worth by infiltrating the far-Right in the West Midlands where racial tensions were reaching crisis level.

He quickly rose within the organisation, making contact with groups including the National Front.

Steve said: "You get most of the information by mixing socially rather than in a political setting."

National Front march
Steve lost friends because of his associates
But in adopting his new political persona, Steve became a lonely figure.

Steve said: "People I'd known for years suddenly found out that their friend was a raving Nazi.

"I had some terrible letters basically saying that our friendship was at an end and they could never speak to me again.

"They were friends gone forever. I just felt overwhelming sadness with this huge void in my life."

Pillow talk

Steve's information was so consistently good that he was eventually recruited by M15, despite initial reluctance because he was gay and considered a security risk.

Homosexuality was not uncommon on the far-Right and Chris, who continued to handle Steve, was not slow to see the potential advantage.

He encouraged Steve to sleep with certain individuals and glean intimate secrets from "pillow talk".

Steve was happy to oblige, although he admits it did pose certain ethical problems.

He explained: "It all depended what was at stake. If it was somebody you knew was up to something that posed a threat in the future, then it didn't present a problem."

Nor did he accept that gaining intelligence between the sheets was the ultimate betrayal.

He said: "No, not when you're talking about casual sex. If you were in a long-term relationship with somebody and using it to gather intelligence, then that would be different."

It was a phenomenal amount of firearms, the biggest hoist done at that time

Chris, Special Branch handler
One unsuspecting lover told Steve that guns were being circulated. Steve told Chris who passed the information on to MI5.

Several premises were raided and a huge cache of arms was uncovered.

Chris said: "It was a phenomenal amount of firearms, the biggest hoist ever done at that time and, I think, since".

In 1981, seven men were jailed for arms offences and conspiracy to incite racial hatred. Three of them were members of the British Movement and one a former press officer of the National Front.

Clare Short
Clare Short was a target
Steve later foiled a plan by the far-Right to target the Birmingham MP, Clare Short.

The plot, he heard, was either to fire-bomb her home or to plant an incendiary device under the platform of the hall where she was due to speak.

Acting on his tip-off, the police nipped the plot in the bud, catching the extremists red-handed as they were about to bomb a bookshop in an earlier operation. They were later jailed.

In 1991, Steve was told by MI5 that his services would no longer be required. The Cold War was over, the Berlin Wall had crumbled and MI5's counter-subversion branch was severely cut back.

Mixed feelings

The extreme right-wing organisations that Steve had infiltrated were no longer deemed a threat. MI5 said '"thank you" with 5,000 in an envelope.

You can't rebuild the fences that you broke down in the first place

Steve
Today he remains proud of what he was able to do, but has mixed feelings.

He said: "There's a sense of sadness that you can't go back 20 years and rebuild all the fences that you broke down in the first place."

His old friends still shun him in the street and look away as if he is "poison".

But Steve explained: "You're not in a position to rush round and tell them that it was all a charade because you'd just be putting yourself in danger for the future."

Today Steve's only true friend is Chris. But Steve hopes that by being prepared to speak out now, he may regain some of those old friends he lost all those years ago.

Such is the price of spying.


True Spies: Something Better Change was broadcast in the UK on BBC Two on 3 November 2002.
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