Sacked spook returns to haunt his spymasters

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* The former MI5 chief Dame Stella Rimington enjoys a lucrative second career as a spy novelist, but another ex-employee of our intelligence services encounters rather more obstacles to his literary endeavours.

Richard Tomlinson, pictured left, sacked by MI6 in 1995, recently had his house raided and computers confiscated by French and British police, concerned his planned novel, The Golden Chain, would break the Official Secrets Act. He was jailed for a year in 1997 for publishing memoirs of his time in the service.

Acting on the rumoured novel, Treasury solicitors wrote to him this week demanding he "immediately submit the work for authorisation... and not further disclose the work in whole or in part".

He has again flipped two fingers at Scotland Yard, however, by publishing eight draft chapters online. A police spokesman confirms an investigation is under way into a possible breach of the Secrets Act.

"It's bizarre they are considering prosecuting me," declares Tomlinson, from his bolthole near Cannes.

"The book is about funding for al-Qa'ida, and I hadn't even heard of al-Qa'ida when I left MI6.

"Why don't they bother Stella Rimington? It's one rule for the big people and another for the small."

Critics of the eccentric former spook question his credibility, notably over his assertions of secret service involvement in the death of Princess Diana. It remains to be seen whether the authorities will take his recent offerings more seriously.

* Before Andy Warhol even conceived the famed soup tin paintings, Peter Blake had, arguably, fathered pop art with his Captain Webb Matchbox work.

Blake, now Sir Peter, went on to design the iconic cover for The Beatles' album Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and enter the Royal Academy.

His latest artwork, printed here for the first time, is a portrait of the late DJ John Peel, champion of untold obscure bands.

The piece adorns the cover of John Peel - Right Time, Wrong Speed: 1977-1987, the first of a trilogy of albums celebrating Peel's life. Contributors include The Cure, The Jam, Buzzcocks, Joy Division and Undertones.

Sir Peter tells me: "John's family gave me a selection of photos to work from. I chose this one because it shows him thoughtful and pensive, but not melancholy. It is celebratory, not a tombstone."

* The bushmen of the Kalahari desert, who claim to have been driven from their ancestral lands by the Botswanan government to make way for proposed diamond mining by De Beers, have celebrity backing from Colin Firth and Julie Christie.

The tribes have also pressured Erin O'Connor, Lily Cole and Somali model Iman into halting promotional work for De Beers. The latest target is the supermodel Linda Evangelista now appearing in adverts for the jeweller.

Survival International has written to Evangelista: "We hope you will agree that, until the Bushmen are allowed back, and De Beers confirms that it will not mine until that happens, De Beers is not a company right-thinking people would wish to be associated with."

Evangelista is considering the letter.

* The magazine publisher Felix Dennis - an eruption of hair, banknotes and outrageous one-liners - is 84th on Britain's rich list with a fortune of £715m (although he says he has too much money to track).

Dennis estimates that he would be "£100m to £150 richer if I had not gone off the deep end" - a reference to his excessive use of drugs, prostitutes, private jets and gold bath taps at the height of his debauchery.

"That's a lot of girls," he tells today's Press Gazette. "It was really dumb and I am glad I stopped, but I can't deny it was wonderful to do it."

On the subject of journalists, Dennis adds: "You think more people will read your trash with the more prurience you put in it."

Unfortunately true!

* Asteroid-gazing aviator, motorbike rider and Lib Dem frontbencher Lembit Opik has sparked lurid discussion after suggesting he may have a skeleton in his closet comparable to those of ill-fated colleagues Charlie Kennedy (alcohol) and Mark Oaten (affair with a rent boy).

During a grilling on Radio Five Live, Opik, engaged to weatherwoman Sian Lloyd, was asked if he had such a secret. He replied that he was "as flawed as the next person". Just what - if anything - might he be hiding? Rumours range from a possible "double life as a garden gnome" to Lembit having been beamed down to earth from a UFO. Some of the starker suggestions are unfit for publication in a family column, but I will naturally keep you updated should anything (true) pass the lawyers.

pandora@independent.co.uk

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