John Alexander Symonds

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John Alexander Symonds (born 13 July 1935) is an English former Metropolitan Police officer and KGB agent.

Symonds was born in the Soke of Peterborough. He was commissioned in the Royal Artillery, serving from 1953 to 1956.

He joined the Metropolitan Police in 1956, becoming a detective sergeant at New Scotland Yard. In 1969, after having been a police officer for 15 years, John Alexander Symonds was one of three officers charged with corruption following a newspaper investigation into bribery at Scotland Yard. He skipped bail and fled to Morocco in 1972.[1] Symonds claimed later that he had been 'fitted up' and forced to leave under pain of death after having threatened to expose during any trial "the endemic and systemic corruption within the Metropolitan Police service" at the time.[1]

In Morocco, Symonds served as a mercenary, making use of his police and military expertise to train African troops to use the 25-pounder howitzer, an artillery piece that was, by that time, obsolete by British Army standards and had been sold off as surplus to several African countries.[1] It was at this point that Symonds was recruited by the KGB.[2]

Between 1972-80, he was a KGB agent employed as a "Romeo spy" with the codename SKOT. He was directed by his Soviet masters to seduce women working in Western embassies with the aim of obtaining secrets.[3] In 1981, he returned to England.

Symonds revealed himself as a spy to the police and security services in the 1980s, and appeared on the front page of the Daily Express (1985) and in the News on Sunday (1987), but was dismissed as "a fantasist".[1] It was only with the defection of Major Vasili Mitrokhin in 1992 and the subsequent publication of the Mitrokhin Archive in 1999, in which Symonds was named as a spy for the Soviet Union, that his claim gained credence.

Symonds was never prosecuted for any offence related to espionage or spying, and was never interviewed by MI5 or the Secret Intelligence Service. It was confirmed that Symonds was not being prosecuted because he had been offered immunity by the Director of Public Prosecutions office in 1984 in connection with a criminal inquiry.[4][5] This was granted in relation to police corruption inquiries,[6] stated by Symonds to be Operation Countryman.

The publication of Mitrokhin's material launched a parliamentary inquiry by the Intelligence and Security Committee. Its report when published referred to the lack of interest shown by the security services in Symonds' case:

The Committee believes that it was a serious failure of the Security Service not to refer Mr Symonds' case to the Law Officers in mid 1993. We are concerned that it took over 9 months to consult the Law Officers after he was identified in the draft book. We believe that the Service could have interviewed Mr Symonds, at least for the intelligence and historical record.[6]

'Romeo Spy': the movie

Prodigy Pictures were for some time in the pre-production stage of making a movie based on the autobiography of John Symonds.[7] A script had been completed, and Daniel Craig and Jude Law were being considered to play the lead role.[8] However, as at September 2013 the movie appears to be no longer under development.[9]


  1. ^ a b c d "I told you I was a spy". The Guardian. London. 14 September 1999. Retrieved 2008-01-13.
  2. ^ BBC: "The Spying Game", first broadcast on BBC2, 19 September 1999.
  3. ^ "The 'Romeo' spy". BBC News. 1999-09-13. Retrieved 2008-01-12.
  4. ^ Buncombe, Andrew (1999-12-21). "The spy who came in from the past escapes prosecution". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 2012-07-11. Retrieved 2008-01-12.
  5. ^ "Written Answers to Questions - SOLICITOR-GENERAL - Mitrokhin Archive". Retrieved 2008-01-12.
  6. ^ a b "Intelligence and Security Committee - The Mitrokhin Inquiry Report". Archived from the original on 2008-04-24. Retrieved 2008-01-12.
  7. ^ "'Romeo Spy' movie to be produced at Prodigy Pictures Inc". Archived from the original on June 12, 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-04.
  8. ^ "To the big screen with love, the story of the British 'Romeo Spy'". Daily Mail. London. 19 September 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-04.
  9. ^ "In Development".

External links

  • Romeo Spy Blog the blog of John Alexander Symonds
  • BBC Special Report at the time of the release of the Mitrokhin Archive, 13 September 1999
  • City man was spy for KGB a local newspaper report published in the Rutland & Stamford Mercury on 13 September 1999
  • Intelligence and Security Committee - The Mitrokhin Enquiry Report
  • Reply from the Solicitor General on the Mitrokhin Archive, 20 December 1999
  • John Symonds and others escape prosecution, 21 December 1999
  • Judge's Summing Up complete text by Judge at the end of Symonds' trial
  • Nigel West Keynote Speech Nigel West talks about John Symonds at the Raleigh Spy Conference
  • Romeo Spy Book by John Symonds with an introduction by Nigel West.
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