John Alexander Symonds

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John Symonds, codename SKOT, 1973

John Alexander Symonds (born July 13, 1935) is a British former Metropolitan police officer and KGB agent. He was born in the Soke of Peterborough, and was Commissioned in the Royal Artillery from 1953-56. He joined the Metropolitan Police in 1956, becoming a Detective Sergeant at New Scotland Yard, until 1972 when he fled the UK while facing charges of corruption.[1]

Between 1972-80 he was a KGB agent employed as a "Romeo spy" with the codename SKOT. The role he was allocated by his Soviet masters was the seduction of women working in Western embassies with the aim of obtaining secrets.[2]

In the 1980s Symonds had revealed himself as a spy to the police and security services, 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, where 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 for any charge because he had been offered immunity by the Director of Public Prosecutions office in 1984 in connection with a criminal inquiry.[3][4] This was granted in relation to police corruption inquiries,[5] 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 to 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.[5]

Police Corruption[edit]

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. 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 experience and Army 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 had effectively been recruited by the KGB.[6]

'Romeo Spy' the movie[edit]

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]

See also[edit]


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

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