Former British agent and Soviet spy George Blake dies aged 98

26 December 2020, 12:26 | Updated: 26 December 2020, 12:29

Former double agent George Blake has died
Former double agent George Blake has died. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

The former MI6 agent turned Russian spy George Blake has died aged 98, according to Russian media.

The state-owned news agency RIA Novosti said his death was confirmed by Sergei Ivanov, the head of the press bureau of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR).

In 1961, the former MI6 officer was jailed for 42 years for spying for Russia during the Cold War, but he escaped from Wormwood Scrubs in 1966.

Born in Rotterdam in 1922, he moved to England where he joined the Royal Navy and was later asked to join the British Secret Service.

During the height of the Cold War, he leaked government secrets to the Soviet Union, including a secret tunnel the West, including the UK and the US, had built to tap Soviet communications.

He was exposed as a Soviet agent to the British by a Polish defector, Michael Goleniewski, and arrested.

He spent the last 40 years of his life in Russia.

George Blake escaped from Wormwood Scrubs
George Blake escaped from Wormwood Scrubs. Picture: Getty

Blake, who spent the last 40 years of his life in Russia after escaping from Wormwood Scrubs prison in 1966 while serving a 42-year sentence, remained an unrepentant communist to the end.

And although it is known that at least 40 British agents were executed in Russia as a result of his treachery, Blake had always claimed that this was not the case, and that no-one died in these circumstances.

But in a volte-face in 1991, Blake said he regretted the deaths of the agents he had betrayed.

He also insisted that he did not regard himself as a traitor, having never "felt" British.

"To betray, you first have to belong. I never belonged," he said.

Blake, whose life story reads like a spy thriller, never showed any remorse for his activities.

He once said in praise of communism: "I think it is never wrong to give your life to a noble ideal. And to a noble experiment even if it doesn't succeed."

But despite his protestations, Blake will always be regarded by Britain and the West in general as a man who, through his treachery, did more damage than any other person of his generation to the security of the free world.