Cold-war espionage: Mystery of the headless diver resurfaces again

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The Independent Online

Lionel "Buster" Crabb, the ex-Navy diver who slipped into the waters off Portsmouth 51 Aprils ago and was never seen alive again, resurfaced yesterday with the usual froth of hot air.

Known to have been poking about the hull of the Russian warship Ordzhonikidze that brought Soviet President Nikita Krushchev to Britain, his body was found 14 months later minus its head. Now, old Russian salt Eduard Koltsov has claimed he was the one who removed it. Crabb was planting a mine, says Koltsov, and so he did what any patriotic Russian diver would have done: he slit the saboteur's throat.

This version was instantly dismissed as fanciful, on the grounds that, had the mine gone off, World War Three would have ensued. But, given that the Prime Minister at the time was Anthony "Suez" Eden, it is not very much more silly than the other explanations for Crabb's mission given at the time and since.

All we do know for sure is that a "Mr Smith" had checked himself and Crabb into the Sallyport Hotel the day before, and that, after Crabb failed to return, "Mr Smith" took himself, their belongings and the relevant page of the hotel register into the historical black hole where they have remained. Obsessive government secrecy has kept them there ever since.

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