By Trowbridge H. Ford
Covert operations, especially assassinations, have a habit of being more complicated than they seem because of unexpected surprises, accidents, and mistakes, and the massacre of the al-Hilli family of Claygate, Surrey on September 5, 2012 is no different. While assumed to be after the fact the work of some local psychopath somewhere, it was a conspiracy plot of international.proportions gone again wrong.
Like the plot which ended up up almost assassinating President Ronald Reagan, the murder of the al-Hillis started apparently with the murder of American whistle-blower John P. Wheeler, III, made to look like the Iranian secret service, SAVAK, did it. The only trouble with the conspiracy was his body accidentally fell out of the dumpster where it was placed after his ambush, drugging, torture and murder on its way to the Wilmington, Delaware landfill, making it impossible to contend that he had mysteriously gone missing, thanks to the handiwork by Tehran.
Baroness Eliza Manningham-Buller, former Director of MI5, had made it quite clear that Britain would no longer allow such action to be carried out on its territory, especially by American and Israeli agents, after the fallout from the killings of Dr. David Kelly in England, former Foreign Minister Robin Cook in Scotland, and Deputy GMP Chief Constable Mike Todd in Wales. This meant that any covert action concerning United Kingdom citizens could only be carried out elsewhere.
While Wheeler’s murder helped gain passage of the new START treaty with Russia, it did nothing to end Anglo-America concerns about Iran’s missile and nuclear ambitions. Consequently, CIA and MI6 agents adopted a plan to set up Saad al-Hilli as a spy, working for Tehran. He had the ideal credentials for playing such a role, being employed by Surrey Satellites Technology, a subsidiary of European Aeronautical, Defence and Space, Co, (EADS) aka Airbus. Iran ass most interested in upgrading the capacity of its decaying navy, and French improvements in the area, especially development of the M51 missile for its new class of submarines, was bound to attract Tehran. And it would be easy for Isrel’s Mossad under Meir Dagan’s successor to set him up, as the Agency had done to Wheeler, because Saad was most aggrieved because of the Gulf Wars against Iraq, and most engaged in chatroom rants about how he hated Israel, and its Jews.
Saad had bought a dilapidated cottage in Saint Macaire in the Gironde district of France in 1997, insuring that he would be going to this country the next time he left Britain. Eagle-eyed neighbor living across the street from the Saint Macaire cottage, Russian emigre Vladimir Charov, though, was a serious threat to anything conspiratorial being done there.
The problem then for his assassins was to manipulate him to go somewhere else in France where he could easily be killed, any investigation of it made most difficult because of its isolation, a mass killing of some sort which could not be forgotten about, and a place which could be used to implicate Tehran in the killing ultimately. While Airbus facilities in nearby Toulouse would be an ideal location for the set up, given its importance in the development of the M51 missile, it was also too populated for an easy assassination. A family outing would also be ideal.
British SIS apparently persuaded him to go to France in September 2012 which could facilitate going by the cottage on the way to a rendezvous around Lake Annecy, near where the Airbus facility in Ugine is located, and meeting up with someone else on a secret mission. French foreign intelligence aka DGSE would do something similar with a worker at another Ugine plant, ultimately settling on Syllvain Mollier. a mechanic who worked for the nuclear cladding company CEZUS, a subsidiary of AREDA He had contacts with Airbus in Ugine, and could well get secret information about nuclear weapons and missiles if so inclined. The process required Saad and Mollier working on the assumption that the other was a spy working to sell to or buy from whatever the other was offering for Iran.
The al-Hillis arrived at the campground on the shore of Lake Annecy on September 3rd, and a meeting was arranged by cellphone to the two in the deep woodland near where Mollier lived, south of Ugine. which was about an hour’s drive from where the family was camping.
Finding assassins to do the ambush killings was even more complicated, and drawn out. Ideally, he should have no direct connection to the USA, UK, France, and Israel. William Hershkovitz, spelled Hershkowitz in New York’s Hyde Park, had graduated from college recently from the State University at New Paltz where he practiced making pottery, and playing music. Hating Muslims and Nazis, he decided to join the Iranim program of the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Israeli government in the hope that its promotion of tourism, and various work-studies would lead to a new occupation. It was also a recruiting ground for the Mossad, Israel’s secret intelligence agency,
Hershkovitz went to Israel in July, and started working for the program in the tourist resort of Eilat on the Red Sea.
During August, he trained hard in using weapons, driving vehicles, especially motorcycles, and tracking targets in preparation for an El-Al round trip from Tel Aviv to Parids, making his way then for the meet up with Mollier and the al-Hillis. around Lake Annecy. While it was easy to track them, the meeting proved totally uneventful with their acting as if it was just by chance and they didn’t have any connections, forcing Hershkovitz to kill the cycling Molleir in a barrage of bullets as he wasn’t carrying anything of possible interest, and then the al-Hillis so that he could search the BMW estate to see if any large sums of money and/or secret information were on board, resulting in his injuring his hand, it seems, while opening its bonnet, and leaving a trace of his blood there and apparently while looking under Saad’s floor mart for the same. While he killed the three adults with at least three shots each, at least one to the head and two in Iqbal’ls case, he gave up trying to kill their elder daughter, and was in such a hurry to make his getaway that he never noticed the younger one hiding under her mother’s dead body.
He safely escaped back to Israel, and the massacre would have remained unexplained forever if it were not for what he learned from his Mossad handlers, and the coverage given it and the war on terrorism generally by the medias. Hershkovitz learned that Mrs. al-Hilli’s first husband and likely still so, Jim Thompson, was killed apparently by DCI General Petraeus’s CIA poisoning in Natchez,Mississippi just seven hours after she was killed to make it look like Saad’s family problems were not only financial ones with his brother Zaid but also marital ones with his wife, Iqbal . This murder, though, was not disclosed until years later. Then there was the most lurid coverage of the mystery massacre in the media, especially in the tabloids like The Daily Mail.
It all drove Hershkovitz over the top, becoming a completely different person from when he arrived. He attacked his coworkers, even threatening to kill them. Suicide was threatened. He himself said that he was having nightmares where he “…killed and maimed persons he didn’t even know.” After having the nightmares, a roommate reported that he started “pounding on the walls’ after he woke up.
A week after the massacre on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the Benghazi disaster in Libya occurred, killing four Americans in its consulate, and Hershkovitz thought it was a deliberate diversion to draw away public attention from what he had done in France.
It all culminated with a showdown he had with his work supervisor, chef Palestinian Armando al-Abed, during which they argued increasingly forcefully about who he was, and what he was up top. Ultimately, just on the first monthly anniversary of his attacks, Herschkovitz, who had been directed to change his position, but refused, grabbed a gun away from a security guard where he was working, and shot Abed repeatedly dead, resulting in a shoot-out with the security forces which resulted in his being killed too.
The whole plot had simply self-destructed, though the investigators, especially French prosecutor Eric Maiillaud, and the media simply failed to see it.