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Thursday, 25 February, 1999, 20:02 GMT
New MI6 spymaster named
Mr Dearlove will take over MI6 in September
A Cambridge-educated career spy has been named as the new chief - also known as "C" - of the Secret Intelligence Service, MI6.

Richard Billing Dearlove, 54, currently the service's assistant chief, succeeds the present "C", Sir David Spedding, when he retires at the end of August. Mr Dearlove is only the second MI6 chief to have his appointment announced publicly.

The new spymaster was selected from a short-list of candidates drawn from both inside and outside the service. The appointment was made by Foreign Secretary Robin Cook in consultation with the Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Although Mr Dearlove's appointment was announced, the much-vaunted spirit of greater openness and accountability of the security services did not extend to releasing a photograph of the new chief.

Classic MI6 background

An official curriculum vitae was released to the press, however. It shows he comes from the classic security service background of public school followed by Oxbridge - something Robin Cook and Mr Blair have said they are keen to change.

The short resume reveals Mr Dearlove was born somewhere in Cornwall on 23 January 1945.

He was educated at the independent fee-paying Monkton Combe School near Bath and in 1962-63 spent a year at Kent School in Connecticut, USA, before going to Queen's College, Cambridge.

Like a lot of MI6 agents, the more famous of whom were KGB spies, the new "C" appears to have been recruited at Cambridge
The official biography reveals that he joined MI6 in 1966 as a 21-year-old graduate - signalling that, like more familiar spy names (mostly notorious for having been double agents) Mr Dearlove appears to have been recruited while studying at Cambridge.

In 1968 he received his first overseas posting to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. Several postings later, he became head of MI6's Washington station in 1991.

He returned to the UK in 1993 as director of personnel and administration. The following year he became director of operations and in 1998 he was additionally made assistant chief.

He is married with three grown-up children and was given an OBE in 1984.

Described as an "all-rounder" in intelligence terms, sources insist he was chosen as the best candidate from those available. His appointment will be seen as a shift of emphasis by the service after Sir David, who was an Arabist from MI6's elite Middle East specialists, dubbed the "camel corps".

It reflects a new commitment in the post Cold War-era to combating international organised crime as well as MI6's more traditional espionage activities.

One of the green ink brigade

As service chief, his pay will be on the same level as a Permanent Secretary which, from 1 April, is between 98,400 to 168,910.

Like every incumbent since the first chief Captain Sir Mansfield Cumming in 1909, he will be known in Whitehall as "C" and tradition dictates that he writes his memorandums in green ink - something modern folklore holds is a sign of battiness.

Apart from that, the Foreign Office was giving little away. But the media has succeeded in tracking down his home - a three-storey semi-detached Edwardian house in a leafy residential street in Putney, south west London.

One neighbour, a middle-aged woman who declined to be named, said Mr Dearlove and his wife had been so secretive, it had become a family joke.

"It's been a joke with me and my husband, that the man next door was a spy. We've lived here two years and only met them once, we hardly ever see them," she said.

She added that notes had been posted through neighbours' doors asking them not to speak to reporters if asked about the Dearloves.

Seven-foot hedge

Other neighbours, even those living very near to the new chief spy's house - which is hidden from public view by a seven-foot tall hedge - said they either did not know the couple or had never seen them.

And both his old public school and Queen's College, Cambridge, have apparently been warned not to talk to journalists about their former student.

"I fear we are not in a position to make any comment about Richard Dearlove at all. I'm sure you understand why," said a spokesman at Monkton Combe School.

There was a similar line at Queen's where a woman in the Bursar's office said: "I don't think you will find anyone in the college willing to speak about this".

Kent School in the US initially promised to be more forthcoming. "How exciting," said a woman in the admissions office when told of their former student's new job.

The alumni office initially offered to help, then said it was temporarily unable to access its records because of a computer error but promised to help once the system was back up.

Yet by late afternoon, the long arm of the spooks based in MI6's modern gothic headquarters on the Thames appeared to have reached across the Atlantic. "We cannot give out any information about Richard Dearlove. It's confidential," the alumni office had decided.

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