22 August 2006

The Carole Maychell Affair, the spy who never was

The other day I was going over some old press cuttings I had saved, and I came across one that had puzzled me around the time I was awaiting my trial. The Carole Maychell case intrigued me, because it seemed to have some very unlikely issues surrounding it. Exactly what had happened to her - and who really controlled her actions and arrest - will probably never be revealed in detail, but her story certainly has all the indications she was a victim of an MI5 or MI6 entrapment plot.

The article is printed below, but you can also see it in its original form in the photocopy version. Ask yourself: “what was this case really about?”

The article appeared in the Mail on Sunday of 3 January 1999

£50,000 for the TA officer grilled as Spy
By Daniel Foggo

A woman Territorial Army intelligence officer interrogated and kept in solitary confinement for four months wrongly accused of spying for the Russians has won compensation from the Ministry of Defence.

Carole Maychell - dubbed 'the spy who never was' - has been offered what is believed to be more than £50,000 in an out-of-court settlement.

It is compensation for the mental torment caused by her ordeal at the hands of MI5 and the Army's Special Investigation Branch six years ago that she says drove her repeatedly to attempt suicide as she teetered on the brink of madness.

And, following the damaging revelations of renegade M15 agent David Shayler, her case is yet more evidence of the need for a review of the outdated and unaccountable nature of the Official Secrets Act. Carole, a 38-year-old secondary school teacher, was the first, and now probably the last, British officer to be held in solitary confinement under the Act.

She was incarcerated after the authorities became suspicious over her friendship with an East German businessman, Peter Zuckermann, whom she visited in the former Eastern Bloc without Army permission.

Carole, who is constrained from talking publicly by a confidentiality clause imposed by the MoD as part of its settlement, told The Mail on Sunday shortly before signing the document: 'I was a confident and secure person before this happened, but in the past six years I have had my world shattered.

'I was so proud to be a captain in the TA at such a young age and then suddenly it was all gone. The MI5 interviews were terrible, with three men taking turns to interrogate me, belittling me and being very aggressive.

'Once I hadn't slept for four days when they took me in for questioning.

'After four months in solitary I was kept on a strict bail for a further six months. I had to notify the Army if I left the house for more than three hours.'

Then, 10 months after her arrest in November 1992, Carole was told that all 'allegations against her were being dropped. But the nightmare continued as she battled for compensation. She recalled: 'I used to think about suicide all the time. It was the paranoia. I got to the point where I thought the MoD wanted me to kill myself and that's why they were dragging my claim out so long.

'I have tried to kill myself - three times with paracetamol and once with sleeping pills. I take Prozac now and I have tried to overdose on that, too. It would have been easy to let it go and retreat, but my mind would never have been able to rest until they had paid for what they did.'

Carole came to the notice of the secret services after she made two unauthorised trips to East Berlin in 1989 and 1990 - after the fall of the Wall - in the company of Zuckermann, who had befriended her on a train journey from her native Lancaster to London when she was 24.

They met several times in London, Hamburg and later Berlin over a period of years. Carole insists the relationship was platonic and, at least on her part, entirely innocent. But, by travelling to a Soviet-occupied area without obtaining permission she had broken Army rules.

Worse still, it eventually became apparent to Carole that Zuckermann was trying to set her up.

On their last meeting, in East Berlin during the spring of 1990, he introduced her to a man named Viktor who, she was told during her subsequent interrogation, was a known Soviet intelligence officer.

Carole says then she ceased contact with Zuckermann after guessing, probably rightly, that he had been attempting to groom her as a contact for a Soviet Bloc intelligence service. Her position as a specialist in home defence within the Intelligence Corps would have made her an attractive proposition to foreign information gatherers.

Carole hoped the episode was behind her, but she had failed to tell her Army superiors of her experiences with Zuckerman and Viktor and, when they found out from another source, she was taken in for questioning by MI5 and Special Investigation Branch. She was held without charge in solitary confinement for weeks on end, her only human contact the daily grillings meted out by her inquisitors.

She was released only after a public outcry and when legal representations forced the Army officially to assess her weakened mental condition.

After the charges against her were dropped she was assessed as 50 per cent disabled due to her mental state and given a medical discharge from the TA.

At the time of her interrogation Carole had been training to be a teacher. After her release she resumed the course but, racked by paranoia, took an overdose and failed the exams. She has since qualified and teaches at a secondary school in East London, where she lives with her three Spitz dogs.

Carole, who last summer was diagnosed as suffering from post traumatic stress disorder stemming from her imprisonment, added: 'Needless to say my faith in the Army has been shattered beyond repair. I had been proud to be a part of it before all this.

'I was the first, so the procedures were hazy and unsure. But none of that makes me forgive them for what they did to me. I am having a daily battle to keep myself on track and stable.'

The Ministry of Defence yesterday refused to comment on the case.

So, who was this man Peter Zuckermann, if that was his real name, and could he have really been a MI5 or MI6 agent or officer tasked with entrapping Maychell? With the background of entrapment in my own case, and the open entrapment in the more recent cases of Rafael Juan Bravo and Ian Parr, it seems very likely that Maychell was being used as a test run on how to “create” spies, so that the Intelligence services could then show how clever they were at catching them!

Carole was arrested after my arrest, but she was released about September 1993, just as my trial was starting. The timing of this may be significant, and it is possible there were some links between what happened to Carole and what happened in my own case.

The story she tells, in hindsight appears rather improbable. It is very unlikely that this was a chance encounter on a train, but whether Carole is withholding some of truth is perhaps not the reason to doubt her story. It is more likely that she was targeted, and the mysterious Herr Zuckermann was deliberately placed on the train to set up the entrapment operation. It is just too much of a co-incidence for Carole and Zuckermann to get into a conversation on a train for this meeting to be pure chance. Why was an East German businessman on the same train as Carole - there must have been a good reason if it was a legitimate trip? Such questions appear not to have been answered or properly explained.

What interests me more is the identity of the Russian intelligence officer named “Viktor”. Could it be that this Viktor was the same man as was involved in my own case - Viktor Oshchenko? It would seem to be a possibility, or do MI6 always use the name Viktor when they try to entrap a victim? If Oshchenko had been involved in this case, in the Spring of 1990, then it would suggest Oshchenko was acting as a double agent at that time, and was doing MI6’s dirty work for them. Nothing would surprise me any longer, but nobody would admit such a story, because that would then result in questions being raised about why he defected in July 1992.

The strange thing, also revealed by this article, is that Carole was arrested because “another source” revealed she had met Zuckermann and Viktor. It would be very unlikely for this information to just surface, unless it was from either a double agent working within East German or Russian intelligence, but if the whole episode was engineered by British intelligence then they already knew everything about Carole’s contact with these people. This again could be an indication that Viktor Oshchenko was the man talking to the British - but who knows the truth, and who will blow the whistle?