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Spies, Secret Agents and a Connection to UFOs and Monster-Hunters

My previous article was on the matter of me, UFO researchers Robin Cole and Matthew Williams, and a certain whistleblower who I termed “The Sandman.” And, on how, in the 1990s, we were all carefully and quietly watched by personnel in the U.K. intelligence community: Government Communications Headquarters, the Provost and Security Services, and Special Branch. And all (and only) because of our interests in UFOs and aliens. There were, however, others, too, who were watched by U.K. Intelligence at that same time. One of them was someone who you might think would not have had any kind of involvement in this saga. And, yet, there was involvement. Quite a lot, too. His name: Jonathan Downes. Although primarily known as a cryptozoologist and the Director of the U.K.-based monster-hunting Center for Fortean Zoology, in the mid-to-late 1990s Jon wrote regularly – and extensively – for a whole range of newsstand UFO-related publications that existed at the time. The scenario of Special Branch monitoring the activities of full-time monster hunters such as Jonathan Downes, purely because of the fact that they happen to have friends in Ireland sounds wholly outrageous; however, it is something that Jon himself can corroborate:

“It was a Friday lunchtime in early May 1996. My ex-wife, Alison, and I were beginning to suspect that we had strayed into a particularly far-fetched and badly scripted episode of The X-Files. We were sitting in the departure lounge of Plymouth Airport, waiting to put Tony ‘Doc’ Shiels, [a renowned Irish monster-hunter and magician] on his plane back to Ireland, after one of his occasional visits. Suddenly, the airport lounge seemed to be full of security guards. There were only about half a dozen men in uniform; but there were a number of rather sinister-looking me in black suits, wearing sunglasses, and looking quite menacing. A man in plainclothes, who introduced himself to Tony as a senior police officer, came over to us. I was engaged, at the time, in assembling my tape-recorder so I could tape an interview with Tony.

“But, at the sound of the words: ‘Mr. Shiels, can I see your boarding-pass?’ which was accompanied by the practiced flash of a warrant card in a leather wallet, [I was] prompted to put my tape-recorder away very quickly. They conversed in low voices. I didn’t try to overhear their conversation; but I gathered that Tony had shown the policeman all the relevant travel documents, and that all was in order. I decided that this was the right time to go to the lavatory. Sitting in the thin-walled, Formica-lined cubicle, I was effectively invisible, and so could overhear snatches of a conversation between one of the Men in Black and someone else over a walkie-talkie. I only heard some of what they said, but the words ‘Special Branch‘ were mentioned on several occasions. I was also shocked to hear my own name.”

Jon concluded to me: “Slinking out as soon as the coast was clear, I rejoined Alison and Tony. They told me that, with no notice whatsoever, Tony’s plane had been canceled. I began to feel somewhat scared. The policeman came over to talk to Tony again, and the public address system asked Alison, as the owner of our van, to report to the Information Desk. She was asked to move our van on the grounds that it was causing an obstruction. It wasn’t. And Tony was told that his flight would now be departing three hours late. The Men in Black were still milling around. I just sat there feeling very paranoiac. I still don’t know to this day what it was all about. The harassment, such as it was, continued all afternoon; but we were, by this time at least, in such a state of advanced paranoia, that even innocent occurrences were open to vicious misinterpretation. Was the target of this activity me or Tony? Were the motives magical; ufological; or, as seems more likely, political? Or was Tony guilty of being Irish in the wrong place and at the wrong time? [It was] a week when security at all airports and military bases had been stepped up – because of a rumored IRA blitz to coincide with the 80th anniversary of the Easter uprising.” The mystery was never resolved.


Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.
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