A Thorn in Their Side – The Hilda Murrell Murder
Reviewed by Nigel Chamberlain, January 2012
This book could have been a crime novel except the plot was too complicated for a fictional writer to dream up and, unlike most crime novels, the murder is not solved nor are the real perpetrators apprehended. But it comes very close. The sheer scale of the research, compilation and cross referencing of facts, observations and opinions and their interpretation through the eyes of a loyal, retired serviceman and law abiding subject of the British Crown, lead one to the inevitable and chilling conclusion that seeming police incompetence was a cover for state security intervention, liquidation and fabrication.
But what former Royal Navy Commander Rob Green is suggesting, nay affirming, his aunt Hilda Murrell was subjected to couldn’t happen in this country, could it? Well, anybody who was involved in anti-nuclear activities during the 1980s was placed under Police Special Branch surveillance in their own localities. Those asking the more penetrating questions and those encouraging others to join them in actively opposing the nuclear state were subject to more intensive forms of intimidation – and worse – at the hands of MI5 and their sub-contractors. The ‘civil’ nuclear power industry also had a surveillance arm.
Hilda Murrell was one of those anti-nuclear activists whose research and writing was deemed dangerous enough by the security state to warrant their full attention and to prevent her ideas from spreading and challenging those who held power. Although it is hard to comprehend in our post-Cold War environment and less ideological times, those who held power decided that those who fundamentally challenged it, could legitimately be harassed, have their human rights suspended and be marginalised – all in the name of defending freedom and democracy.
The irony is that those who were campaigning for the abolition of nuclear weapons and the prevention of the expansion of the nuclear power industry were trying to achieve it by almost entirely democratic means. Their path to this objective was blocked by official secrecy, non-accountability, compliant politicians and judiciary and the apparatus of state security. And, as Rob Green came to realise, the state here in the
Contrary to received wisdom, endlessly inferred by enquiring police officers and lazy journalists, Commander Rob Green did not leave the Royal Navy a disaffected or disillusioned 38 year-old. He wasn’t infected with Hilda’s anti-nuclear virus, nor had he passed on any sensitive military secrets to her about the sinking of the Belgrano, an act of unprovoked aggression which effectively committed Argentina and Britain to waging war over what they called Los Ilas Malvinas and we called The Falkland Islands, thirty years ago this year.
Rob Green learned, through many years of hard graft and intelligence gathering, that the country that he was unquestioningly loyal to, even prepared to go on a suicide mission to deliver an air-launched nuclear bomb to defend, was rotten at the core and protected by an unscrupulous and corrupt bureaucracy which, if challenged, could react viciously.
Hilda Murrell paid the ultimate price for her quiet and carefully constructed convictions. Only her ideas were a threat. But, of course, that is exactly what those who held power feared the most. Rob Green came to share his beloved aunt’s ideas and has subsequently spent many years doing his very best to help spread those ideas and, at the same time, expose the workings of the nuclear state and bring the perpetrators of her death and their paymasters to account, even if they are now deceased. He has risked prosecution under the Official Secrets Act in so doing.
He deserves our individual and collective support in his endeavour to re-open the coroner’s inquest. Perhaps some in the Fourth Estate can make a contribution too, if they can get past their own gatekeepers, external as well as internal.
But, then again, Rob Green could just have his head full of conspiracy theories and have drawn unsubstantiated conclusions from a series of random observations while the West Mercia Police Force could have been exhaustive in their enquiries and, somewhat belatedly, bang on in convincing the judicial system to convict a then 16 year-old truant from a local foster home and petty criminal for abduction and murder.
Read the book, visit the Hilda Murrell website, then make your own judgement.