AN UPPERMILL novelist and playwright is taking Britain’s secret services head on – not for the first time – by suggesting that Britain’s most famous frogman was murdered by MI6.
Jan Needle’s latest book, ‘In Too Deep’, looks at how the frogman, Lionel ‘Buster’ Crabb, was sent into the murky waters of Portsmouth Harbour to spy on a visiting Russian cruiser in the Cold War.
The Russian warship was carrying the two most powerful men in the Soviet Union – Nikita Khrushchev and Nicolai Bulganin – on a mission meant to promote goodwill.
The head of MI6’s London station, Nicholas Elliott, saw it as an opportunity too good to miss and persuaded Buster Crabb to come out of retirement for one last secret mission.
Crabb, whose war record had been unequalled, was, by 1956, approaching fifty, a diabetic, an extremely heavy smoker and an alcoholic.
He slipped into the chilly April waters for the mission but when he had not returned after about an hour, his diving support crew went back on shore and began the cover-up.
The hotel registration book, which he had bizarrely signed with his real name, had two pages ripped from it, and the Portsmouth police were ordered not to talk to the press.
Rumours flew: wild theories included the Soviets had kidnapped Buster Crabb or their frogmen had killed him underwater, or sailors had shot him from the warship’s deck.
It was fourteen months before a body was found in Chichester Harbour, and – conveniently – it did not have a head or hands. It was declared to be Lionel Crabb, and it was officially classified as an accident.
Although the body was buried in a local cemetery, very few people, and none of his family, believed that it was his.
Over the years theories proliferated. Crabb was even supposed to have defected to Russia to train Soviet frogmen in sophisticated underwater techniques.
“Whatever happened to him, it was tantamount to a cold-blooded murder,” Jan said. “He may have been stabbed, he may have been abducted, he may have been thrown overboard somewhere out in the cold Atlantic Ocean.
“But whichever way you look at it the British, through MI6 and the ‘Eton Mafia’, were responsible.”
He added: “I was born in Portsmouth, and know the harbour well. It is cold and dangerous, with fast flowing currents.
“At that time of his life, in that condition, Buster Crabb was doomed to die. They had the blood of a great British hero on their hands.”
One of Jan’s earlier political thrillers, Death Order, about the mystery wartime flight to Scotland of Hitler’s Deputy Rudolf Hess, also raised hackles with the secret services.
In Too Deep is available on Amazon as a Kindle Single, and will be out soon in paperback: http://amzn.to/2b9iKZI
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