Secret document reveals Ministry of Defence's media manipulation

Papers released by the Government under the Freedom of Information Act show that the black art of media manipulation played a key part in damage limitation following the death of a military expert, Commander Lionel "Buster" Crabb.

His headless body was washed up on the Sussex shore 14 months after he carried out a covert surveillance operation to examine the sonar equipment fitted to the Soviet cruiser Sverdlov and other warships when they visited Portsmouth in 1956.

After Crabb's mysterious disappearance, officials at the Ministry of Defence found themselves having to deflect some rather persistent and searching questioning about what the naval diver had been doing so close to the ships that had brought the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev on an official visit to Britain. The Government was worried that if it became known that he was spying on the warships, a diplomatic incident could have been triggered .

A secret document prepared at the time set out exactly how government spokesmen and their press officers should deal with the media. They were instructed to say that Crabb, a war hero and holder of the George Medal, had been killed while working on an experimental mine in Stokes Bay, a few miles away from Portsmouth Harbour.

Freedom Of Information: How the Government covered up the death of 'Buster' Crabb (The Independent, 9 November 2007)