Former MI6 chief dies after illness

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The Independent Online

Sir david Spedding, who broke new ground when he became the youngest head of the Security Intelligence Service, MI6, has died at the age of 58 after a long illness.

Sir David played a crucial role in security matters and was known in Whitehall circles as "C" for "chief" when he reached the top position in 1995 after a career spanning more than 30 years. He was knighted in 1997 and retired in 1999.

His career was away from the public eye but there was controversy over his possible co-operation with the CIA in organising the coup that brought General Augusto Pinochet to power in Chile in 1973.

The role of "C" was the inspiration for "M", the creation of the James Bond author, Ian Fleming. Traditionally, "C" writes memos in green ink, and is the only member of the service who is allowed to do so.

The Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, said: "[He] was an effective leader of a service whose contributions to Britain's security ... has to be unsung, but is substantial."