Thursday 24 May 2018

BBC world affairs editor reveals he was targeted by Czech spies

John Simpson spoke to MI5 after honeytrap plot.

BBC World Affairs Editor John Simpson
BBC World Affairs Editor John Simpson

By Sam Lister, Press Association Political Correspondent

The BBC’s world affairs editor has told how he was targeted in a Czech honeytrap plot.

John Simpson said he was feeling “vulnerable” after the breakdown of his marriage when he received love letters from a woman he met in the country.

The journalist realised he was “getting in a bit deep” so went to his bosses, who brought in MI5.

Simpson had been allowed into the closed communist state to cover an international conference in 1983.

ipanews_5cf8fcbf-d982-4e7f-8b6d-a0b2b121dffd_embedded233477886
BBC world affairs editor John Simpson was targeted by Czech spies

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: “A few months later, a letter arrived, a love letter from a particularly attractive receptionist at the hotel where I had stayed.

“I told myself I’d play along with it. Ok, ok, I know that was stupid but my marriage was just breaking up and I felt a bit vulnerable.

“Anyway, the letters kept on coming and one of them contained photos of the girl, glamorous photos.

“‘I’m sorry these aren’t very good’, she wrote, ‘but I took them myself at home’.

“The trouble was you could see the outline of a photographer in one of them. I was getting in a bit deep here so I told the BBC, who in turn told MI5.

“A man in a suit came round to see me and explained it all. I’d never heard the expression honeytrap before.”

Simpson said the woman, known as Anna, had suggested meeting up in Hungary.

The MI5 officer told the journalist that if he had met the woman, a man claiming to be her husband would burst into the hotel room and there would be a fight.

Simpson would then have been detained and told he would only be released if he “signed some statements”.

In 1989, he returned to the hotel and Anna was on reception.

When he said hello to her, “she gave a little squeal and ran into the back office”.

Mr Simpson told the story after days of headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s links to the Czech StB intelligence agency.

The Labour leader has dismissed claims that he passed information to an agent during the 1980s as “nonsense”.

Press Association

Entertainment Newsletter

Going out? Staying in? From great gigs to film reviews and listings, entertainment has you covered.

Editors Choice

Also in Entertainment