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Thursday, 5 July, 2001, 12:34 GMT 13:34 UK
How double agents duped the Nazis
Secrets of war-time counter espionage revealed
Insights into the exploits of one of Britain's most useful wartime double agents have been revealed in previously secret MI5 files.

Before the Second World War Eddie Chapman was a burglar, safe breaker and extortionist who blackmailed former lovers with compromising photographs.

He has no scruples and will stop at nothing

British camp commandant about agent Zigzag

But these sleazy credentials helped make Chapman, codenamed Zigzag, an ideal wartime double agent, according to the Public Record Office files.

He was originally recruited by the German secret service after the Nazis occupied Jersey, where he was a prisoner.

He was parachuted into the UK by the Germans in 1942 with the task of blowing up a factory making Mosquito bombers.

But after landing in Cambridgeshire, he immediately offered his services to MI5.

He was interrogated at Latchmere House in west London, known as Camp 020.

Underworld prince

The camp commandant described him as vain and said he thought of himself as "something of a prince of the underworld".

He said: "He has no scruples and will stop at nothing. He plays for high stakes and would have the world know it.

"Of fear he knows nothing, and while patriotism is not a positive virtue he certainly has a deep rooted hatred of the Hun.

"In a word, adventure to Chapman is the breath of life.

"Given adventure he has the courage to achieve the unbelievable."

Chapman was further angered when he realised the Nazis had put his life in jeopardy when they gave him British banknotes which had a German bank wrapper around them.

Agent Treasure
Agent Treasure: "a wretched woman"

Chapman went on to dupe the Germans into believing - with the help of faked photographs - he had carried out a successful sabotage attack on the Mosquito factory, in Hatfield, Hertfordshire.

Rubble was strewn around the site and MI5 planted a story in the Daily Express about the "raid."

In 1943 Chapman was ordered by the German secret service, the Abwehr, to return to Paris.

The Germans rewarded him with the Iron Cross, a 110,000 Reichmarks and his own yacht and gave him a job training agents in occupied Norway.

In June 1944 Chapman was again parachuted into England where he transmitted false wireless messages to the Germans.

But an MI5 agent said Zigzag was becoming discontented.

He warned that if this continued: "He will turn his tortuous mind to working out schemes for making more money which will almost certainly bring him to the notice of the police."

The MI5 eventually gave Chapman a 6,000 pay-off, allowing him to keep 1,000 of the German reward and quashed his outstanding criminal convictions.

His story is just one of many to emerge from the latest release of a batch of secret files opened to the public on Thursday.

Misleading information

A Welshman, codenamed Snow, is described in the government papers as the first double agent.

Eddie Chapman
Eddie Chapman, aka Agent Zigzag, enjoyed the danger

Recruited by the British before the war, he passed information to the German secret service.

Snow, who had been given a transmitter by the Germans, was arrested at the outbreak of war.

Under MI5 control at Wandsworth Prison, he continued his double agent work, feeding through harmless and often misleading information to the Nazis.

One of the tasks set by his German masters was to find out how easy it would be to put bacteria in the British water system.

'Wretched woman'

A French woman, codenamed Agent Treasure, threatened to scupper a covert operation after she blamed the British secret service for the death of her pet dog Frisson.

The pet was accidentally left behind in Gibraltar during an operation to get the spy back to London.

She is described in the papers as "exceptionally temperamental and troublesome" and a "wretched woman."

In May 1944, a month before D-Day, Agent Treasure threatened to end her bogus reports to the Germans.

MI5 officer Mary Sherer said she blamed them for the death of her dog.

After D-Day she was sacked and returned to France.

But by then she had already achieved her mission - successfully encouraging the Germans to believe the D-Day landings would be at Calais.

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Spies unlike us
27 Jan 99 | Wartime spies
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