There are a few, relatively low key stories in the British papers today about the ‘capture’ of a Russian spy in England, but it’s a bit of an odd story.
Peter Hill, the 23 year old ex Territorial Army soldier suspected of spying, appeared in court in Leeds today. He was arrested under the Official Secrets Act but, rather oddly, he’s being tried under the Explosive Substances Act, for possession of ingredients to make a bomb. Nobody seems quite sure what those ingredients are though – The Times claim a search of Hill’s house revealed “sodium chlorate, hexamine tablets and a metal tube” but the more local Burnley Citizen say that police found “weed killer, nail varnish, sugar and a metal tube”.
From the press reports, it is seeming less and less like this is a major breakthrough by MI5 – more the arrest of a bumbling British fantasist and wannabe spy. The Times reports:
The inquiry is not focusing on an elaborate plot by the Russians, but is being viewed as a suspected attempt by an individual to contact the Russian intelligence service on an opportunistic basis.
A theory given further credence by this series of interviews by friends and neighbours of Hill:
“He was in the TA and he was always interested in the army, but for the last couple of years he’s been working for a mortgage company in Skipton.
“He’s the kind of person who is always doing one crazy thing one day and then he’s got his heart set on something else just as weird the next.
“He has always been a bit of a fantasist, and definitely one on his own, but he has friends – there’s no way he’s a loner.”
Of course, if you’re a conspiracy theorist, this could all be an elaborate smokescreen – particularly as all this takes place at the same time as Russia honours British double agent George Blake.
Perhaps the British authorities are trying to insinuate that all Russian spies are actually bumbling fools…
Hexamine tablets are, of course, the fuel for an army-issue pocket stove.