Suspected war criminal will not be prosecuted: Nazi hunters offer new evidence against former Lithuanian platoon commander

ANTON GECAS, a former Lithuanian living in Scotland, who has been the subject of a four-year war crimes investigation costing hundreds of thousands of pounds, is not to be prosecuted, authorities in Scotland will disclose today.

Because Scotland has a separate legal system from the rest of Britain, a separate war crimes unit attached to Strathclyde police was set up after the passage of the War Crimes Act in 1991, in effect with the sole purpose of building a case against the retired mining engineer, now 77. Of the dozens of suspected war criminals investigated under the Act for murder or manslaughter during the Second World War, no other has been in Scotland.

Today, the Crown Office in Edinburgh will say, without naming Mr Gecas, that the investigation has been suspended. The news will be a blow to Nazi hunters around the world, who believed the case against Mr Gecas was one of the strongest of the dwindling band of suspects. A separate war crimes unit in England will continue, but has failed so far to bring a case to trial.

Effraim Zuroff, director of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Institute, which presented a list of suspects in Britain to the Home Office in 1986, said last night he was devastated at the news about Mr Gecas. He said he would be sending a transcript of evidence from another officer of the same Lithuanian battalion as Mr Gecas to the authorities, in the hope it might persuade them to re-open the case.

The unit of researchers and officers from Lothian police have spent an estimated pounds 600,000 travelling the world, collecting evidence from victims and fellow officers.

As a young man, Mr Gecas joined a Lithuanian police battalion as a lieutenant in charge of a platoon. The battalion killed thousands of Lithuanian Jews rounded up from city ghettos, towns and villages. By autumn 1941, when few Jews were left in Lithuania, the battalion and others were taken by the Germans to do a similar job in German-occupied Byelorussia (now Belarus).

By 1944, the battalion was being used to help prevent the Allied advance through Italy, and, in September, Mr Gecas's company was captured by the US army. He changed sides and fought for a Polish regiment, and after the war was able to launder his past and come to Britain as a Pole. By 1956, he was a British citizen. He married a 19- year-old nurse in 1959, when he was 43 and worked for the National Coal Board until his retirement in 1981. Mr Gecas has publicly admitted that he joined the battalion, went with the Germans to Byelorussia, and later wore German uniform and fought in Italy. But he says, if Jews were rounded up and killed, he had no knowledge of it. Mr Gecas has avoided making any public comment since a libel action he brought two years ago against Scottish Television failed.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'