Dominique Prieur

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Dominique Prieur (born 1949) is a French military officer who was convicted of manslaughter over her part in the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior.[1] Prieur was also the first woman French secret agent.[2]


Prieur joined the military in 1974 and was recruited as a secret agent in August 1977.[3]

Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior[edit]

Prieur worked in the intelligence-gathering and evaluation wing of the French Secret Service, the Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (DGSE). She was an expert in European peace organisations and was the controller for Christine Cabon.[4] Cabon was posted to Auckland in April 1985, where she infiltrated the Greenpeace office and gathered information for Prieur and her fellow agent Alain Mafart.[4] In July 1985, Prieur and Marfart entered New Zealand from Corsica on Swiss passports issued to their aliases Sophie and Alain Turenge, a newlywed couple on honeymoon.[2][5] Their instructions were to sink the Rainbow Warrior as the French government suspected that it would be used to protest the upcoming nuclear tests at Mururoa atoll in the South Pacific.[2] Prieur's responsibilities were the logistics of the operation, and the evacuation of the agents from the country after the bombing had taken place.[6]

Prieur and Marfart delivered limpet mines to two frogmen to plant on the ship's hull on the night of 10 July 1985.[7] The explosions sank the vessel and killed photographer Fernando Pereira.[1][2]

They were arrested by New Zealand police within 30 hours of the bombing, and originally charged with Pereira's murder.[8] Prieur was transferred to Christchurch Women's Prison and held there awaiting trial.[9] Prieur pleaded guilty to charges of manslaughter and wilful damage in the Auckland District Court, and was sentenced to ten years imprisonment on 22 November 1985.[9][10][11] After serious political pressure from France and her allies,[12] the New Zealand government agreed to a United Nations arbitration ruling in July 1986 that saw the pair transferred to French custody on the island of Hao in French Polynesia.

Prieur's husband, Joel Prieur, an employee of the Defense Department, was posted to Hao shortly after she was exiled there.[13] On 6 May 1988 she was returned to France because she was pregnant, and was heralded as a national hero.[13][14] She never returned to Hao.

Although a UN Arbitration panel found that France had breached its obligation to New Zealand several times by removing the agents from Hao, and failing to return them, it rejected the claim by New Zealand to have Mafart and Prieur returned because the term they should have spent there had already lapsed.

Later career[edit]

In 1989, Prieur was promoted to Major,[5] and by 2002 she had been promoted to the rank of Commandant.[9]

Prieur published a book "Agent secrète" (Secret Agent) in 1995 concerning her role in the bombing. With regards to the death of Pereira, she wrote "We were terrified and appalled ... We hadn't come here to kill anyone."[15]

In 2005, Prieur and Marfart appealed to the New Zealand Supreme Court to stop footage of their guilty pleas being shown on television.[16] The supreme court allowed the footage to go on the air.[16]

In 2009, Prieur was hired as the director of human resources for the Paris Fire Brigade, a unit of the French Army.[15][17]


  1. ^ a b Astier, Henri (8 July 2005). "French Expat Recalls NZ Bombing". BBC News. Retrieved 4 May 2016.[1]
  2. ^ a b c d Dejevsky, Mary (18 June 1995). "Attack on Boat Still Haunts Secret Agent". Independent. Retrieved 4 May 2016.
  3. ^ Guisnel, Jean (7 July 1995). "Dominique Prieur. L'agente secrète refait surface et écrit. En 1985, la DGSE la charge de préparer l'attentat contre le «Rainbow Warrior». Dix ans plus tard, l'ancienne". Liberation (in French). Retrieved 4 May 2016.
  4. ^ a b "A beret, a bottle of Beaujolais and a baguette". Greenpeace International. Retrieved 2016-05-08.
  5. ^ a b Trahair, Richard C. S.; Miller, Robert L., eds. (2009). Encyclopedia of Cold War Espionage, Spies, and Secret Operations (revised ed.). Enigma Books. p. 304. ISBN 9781929631759.
  6. ^ "Saboteur spills the French beans". New Zealand Herald. 2000-06-30. ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 2016-05-08.
  7. ^ "The day Operation Satanic came to NZ". New Zealand Herald. 2002-12-03. ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 2016-05-08.
  8. ^ "Rainbow Warrior bombing". Retrieved 2016-05-08.
  9. ^ a b c O'Brien, Gregory (2007). News of the Swimmer Reaches Shore: A Guide to French Usage. Wellington, New Zealand: Victoria University Press. ISBN 978-0-86473-532-4.
  10. ^ "Greenpeace Bombers". Logansport Pharos Tribume. 22 November 1985. Retrieved 4 May 2016 – via Newspaper Archive.
  11. ^ "Rainbow Warrior: 30th anniversary of bombing by French commandos in Auckland, New Zealand, on July 10, 1985". 10 July 2015. Retrieved 9 May 2016.
  12. ^ "At the end of the Rainbow - National - NZ Herald News". Retrieved 2014-01-13.
  13. ^ a b "France Ends Agent's Exile". Cedar Rapids Gazette. 7 May 1988. Retrieved 4 May 2016 – via Newspaper Archive.
  14. ^ "Spy: French Leader Ordered Sinking". Daily Herald Suburban Chicago. 11 July 2005. Retrieved 4 May 2016 – via Newspaper Archive.
  15. ^ a b "Rainbow Warrior: Where Are They Now?". New Zealand Herald. 5 July 2016. Retrieved 4 May 2016.
  16. ^ a b "Ship Bombers Lose TV Appeal". Gold Coast Bulletin. 27 September 2006. Retrieved 4 May 2016 – via EBSCO. (Subscription required (help)).
  17. ^ Staff (4 January 2009) "Fresh Start for Saboteur" Sunday Mail (South Australia) p. 29