in Blog

Where Are You, Steven Hayden?

I’m trying to find one Steven Hayden, a former Chief Petty Officer of the Royal Navy, who once lived in Purbrook in Hampshire. He had/has a family and would be around 47 years of age now.

If you know him, if you knew him, or if you are him, could you please drop me a line? I heard he was at Leydene in the early nineties, was then attached to Naval Intelligence for a spell, did some time in the Adriatic listening to Serbian comms, and was next posted up in Lincolnshire (New Waltham, maybe?). In 1997, if the Rumour Mill is grinding the right way, he was on HMS Beaver when it Crossed The Line. It would be good to hear any of that confirmed by someone real.

At the moment I’m not 100% sure the gentleman ever really existed, despite the fact he was tried in court. Well, to be clear, he pled guilty to (deep breath) “without lawful authority [making] a damaging disclosure of a document relating to security or intelligence which was in [his] possession by virtue of [his] position as a Crown servant”. He told the court he sold a classified warning about Iraqi anthrax to The Sun for £10,000.  If you have long enough memories, this was a ridiculous story about the Iraqi military attacking Britain by smuggling anthrax into the country via duty free bottles of alcohol and perfume.

'Saddam's Anthrax In Our Duty-Frees', 25 March '98. Utter bollocks.

‘Saddam’s Anthrax In Our Duty-Frees’. Utter bollocks.

“Because of the national security implications,” the BBC reported, “the details of the offence cannot be reported and were explained during a closed session.” Right. What could possibly have been sensitive about it? You can’t expect you can protect your source if you splash his (obviously duff) product over every docks and airport in the country. In truth the warning Hayden passed on was itself deliberate misinformation. It was supposed to be leaked to the media. That was why it had been written, and that was why it had been distributed as an all-ports bulletin. With perfect timing it hit the papers a few days before America planned to bomb Iraq in 1998, thereby generating a groundswell of supportive public opinion; a good little bit of psyops from somebody.

“Saddam Hussein is plotting to flood Britain with deadly anthrax disguised as duty-free goods,” blasted The Sun. “Saddam could kill the world. Before long, the boil on the world’s backside must be lanced. Before its poison spreads too far.”

That could practially have been drafted by an intelligence officer (think Colin Wallace). It’s almost too perfect.

The tell here is that the US had planned to bomb Iraq the next week, but within days Scott Ritter, as team leader out in Iraq, decided to pull back from a deliberately provacative UNSCOM inspection, so it was cancelled. This was top secret stuff. Very few people knew about that. Instead the bombs fell in December, six months later.

Some people thought it a little unprofessional of The Sun to publish such a panic-inducing, unfounded story. Guess who didn’t? The following day, in a piece titled “Blair: Well-Done My Sun”, the paper reported how the Prime Minister “last night praised the Sun’s ‘responsible’ reporting of Saddam Hussein’s threat to unleash deadly anthrax on duty-free shoppers. The PM rejected claims that our story yesterday about a secret ‘all-ports alert’ was likely to cause panic.”

The reason it didn’t cause panic was because it was ridiculous. But Blair had already begun his toxic love-in with the worst of the British media. It bode ill for an awful lot of people.

Hayden did a year in jail. Rather unfairly, and entirely inevitably, nobody from The Sun was ever prosecuted. Apparently they’re allowed to bribe intelligence officers with envelopes full of cash (assuming an exchange or offer of money was ever made in the first place. Decades later Rebekah Brooks admitted in court to authorising the payment, but I’m not sure I believe a word she says).

Lancaster and Hayden arrive at court.

Lancaster and Hayden arrive at court.

I would contact the lawyer who defended Hayden, former Lieutenant Commander David Lancaster, but he’s not exactly high profile these days either. Lancaster was an equity partner in Hampshire law firm Warner, Goodman and Street, and had a lot of RN personnel on his case book, Wrens in particular. In this sense Lancaster was a logical choice for Hayden to make: by all accounts the lawyer did a good job for his RN clients, which made him fairly popular amongst the rank-and-file. He stood up for their employment rights, and rebuffed lazy prosecutions from the service’s Regulating Branch, which was often profoundly unethical.  He succeeded against the Ministry of Police too. David Kelly could have done with someone like Lancaster in his corner.

They got him in the end, though. An undercover reporter from the regional BBC programme Inside Out pretended he’d been charged with possession of a Class A drug, and approached Lancaster for help. He then used a hidden camera to film Lancaster offering him some rather too handy advice. As a result Lancaster was struck off and sentenced to three years, over what was an imaginary fifty quid wrap of cocaine, for a case that didn’t exist. Hardly cutting-edge journalism. I have a pretty strong suspicion it was the Ministry of Defence police who stuck the BBC team onto Lancaster in the first place.

Oddly enough the reporter chiefly responsible for Lancaster’s retreat-from-view has also gone-to-ground: he hid out in mid-Wales for a couple of years then re-emerged as an author. His past does not appear in his author bio.

Puzzling business all round, no?


(I can’t suppose this might be anything other incidental, but one of Lancaster’s wins against the Minstry of Defence police was presided over by a Judge Andrew Chubb, yet another ex-Navy officer, whose charred body was found in the ashes of his garage a few days later. His garage had exploded. The widow Chubb might know something more about it but she moved to Australia and refused to leave for a second inquest. People have always speculated on Chubb’s death, because his life included not only a mysterious explosion but a divorce, a big house, and a possibly crazy mistress, but there are plenty of other reasons why people might be murderously angry with judges. The Daily Mail is the sort of paper where you can read your fill on this: here.)


Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Write a Comment