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1956: Mystery of missing frogman deepens
British Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden has refused to reveal the details surrounding the disappearance of a naval diver during a goodwill visit by the Soviet leadership.

But he told a packed House of Commons "the appropriate disciplinary steps" were being taken - heightening speculation that Commander Lionel "Buster" Crabb was on a secret spying mission for which permission had not been granted.

Commander Crabb was reported missing, presumed dead, by the Admiralty on 29 April. The official statement said he had died following a test dive at Stokes Bay, near Portsmouth, on the Hampshire coast.

In fact, it is now known he was last seen on 19 April - the day after a Soviet cruiser carrying Soviet leaders Nikita Khruschev and Marshal Nikolai Bulganin arrived in Portsmouth harbour.

On 4 May the Soviet Government protested to the Foreign Office that a frogman had been seen in the vicinity of their ship, the Ordzhonikidze, during their stay.

Appropriate disciplinary steps are being taken
Sir Anthony Eden

In his statement Sir Anthony told MPs: "It would not be in the public interest to disclose the circumstances in which Commander Crabb is presumed to have met his death.

"While it is the practice for ministers to accept responsibility, I think it is necessary in the special circumstances of this case to make it clear that what was done was done without the authority or knowledge of Her Majesty's ministers. Appropriate disciplinary steps are being taken."

The prime minister refused to add another word to his statement, despite repeated attempts from Labour MPs to get him to do so. It seems clear that he was attempting to distance the British Government from Commander Crabb's activities so as not to upset the Russians.

At one point Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell warned the prime minister that his refusal to expand on his original statement would lead the public to the inevitable conclusion that Commander Crabb had indeed been on a spying mission.

The prime minister replied: "You are entitled to put any wording you like upon what I have said."

Commander Crabb was last seen leaving the Sally Port Hotel in Portsmouth on the morning of 19 April.

He had checked into the hotel two days before with another man, who signed himself Matthew Smith.

Both men apparently checked out of the hotel in the afternoon of Commander Crabb's disappearance.

Several pages of the hotel register were later found to be missing.

Commander Crabb entered the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve in 1940 and became involved in mine and bomb disposal. He later won the George Medal for his work removing limpet mines from the bottoms of ships during the war.

By the time of his disappearance he had been released from the navy and his friends said he was short of money.

He is said to have told friends that he was "going down to take a dekko at the Russian bottoms" for which he would earn 60 guineas.

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Anthony Eden
Anthony Eden said "not in the public interest" to reveal details of diver