Fearsome dog of Falklands war is revealed

Captured in the conflict with Argentina, Alfredo Astiz proved a headache for Britain

Alfredo Astiz, the last prisoner of war ever to be held in Britain, following the Falklands conflict, was considered so deadly by the British government that it wanted to get rid of him "as soon as possible". An Argentine naval commander, Astiz was captured by British military forces who retook the island of South Georgia in the southern Atlantic in April 1982.

The Argentine occupation of South Georgia in March 1982 precipitated the Falklands conflict between Britain and Argentina. Astiz led a group of marines posing as scrap metal merchants who landed on the island before raising the Argentine flag. British forces retook the island a month later and Astiz and his men surrendered.

But Astiz's capture caused a major headache for the British, according to Foreign Office files opened at the National Archives under the 30 years rule.

As soon as his identity became known, Swedish and French diplomats asked London to question him about his involvement in the kidnap of a 17-year-old Swedish girl and the murder of two French nuns in Argentina. Before the Falklands conflict, Astiz had been a member of a notorious special unit deeply involved in kidnapping, torturing and killing opponents of the ruling Argentine military junta.

Later dubbed the "Blond Angel of Death", Astiz infiltrated opposition groups, identified their members and arranged for their kidnap. Last year, Astiz was found guilty of crimes against humanity by an Argentinian court, which heard evidence that he and other members of the unit were complicit in the murders of up to 20,000 fellow citizens during Argentina's so-called "Dirty War" during the 1970s and early 1980s.

Astiz and his men were initially held prisoner on a Royal Navy ship at Ascension Island. He was kept prisoner after his men had been freed to return to Argentina. One memo from an MoD official, dated 18 May 1982, states: "My Secretary of State's [John Nott] main concern is that we have already steered very close to the wind in our treatment of Astiz – his custody on board ship is a breach of Article 22 of the Geneva Convention and there is, of course, the point that we have shown discrimination in our handling of him compared with the treatment given to his men.... Mr Nott feels that the only course of action is to get him off our hands as soon as possible."

In just a few days, he had assaulted a guard and later fashioned a "primitive dagger" from a bed spring, according to the documents.

After Astiz was flown to the Royal Military Police Barracks in Chichester, the British government became involved in a diplomatic row with Sweden and France, both of which requested that he be handed over for questioning about the kidnappings and murder.

According to Whitehall lawyers, Astiz could not be handed over to another country, and English courts did not have the power to try Astiz, as the crimes of which he was accused did not involve British nationals. The documents show that they were also concerned for the safety of British prisoners held by Argentina.

William Spencer, a specialist at the National Archives, said: "Of all the prisoners captured by the British, Astiz was the only one who was transported all the way back to the UK. Unaware of his history at the time of his capture, it soon became apparent that the British had one of the most dangerous individuals in the Argentine forces."

News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Worldwide ticket sales for The Lion King musical surpassed $6.2bn ($3.8bn) this summer
tvMusical is biggest grossing show or film in history
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

English Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: ENGLISH TEACHER REQUIRED - Humbe...

Chemistry Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: We are looking for a Qualified C...

Year 6 Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education are currently...

Year 1 Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Year 1 Primary Supply Teachers ne...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits