Major Michael Marman/Sir Peter Horsely (1986)
A complex case is examined in Sir Ranulph Fiennes' The Feather Men, a
novelisation of an real-life story of intrigue and murder.
The greater story unfolded in this fascinating book need only detain us momentarily: a secret 'army within an army' called 'The Feather Men' was formed during the 1970s, their purpose being to protect and support former SAS staff. Five former SAS men became the targets of a team of contract killers known as 'The Clinic', who were paid to murder them by the son of an Arabic businessman. Four of the sons of this businessman had been separately killed by the SAS men in question during skirmishes in the Dhofar region of the Arab Emirates in the 1960s and -70s, and the fifth son was determined to honour the principle of thaa'r -- the revenge killing of a relative's murderer.
The Clinic had been watching Major Michael Marman, and had determined that he frequently drove along the A303 arterial road, in Wiltshire, south-west England, on personal business.
While doing this, he was habitually alone, and the fact that his vehicle was a relatively flimsy Citroen 2CV meant that a crash was the perfect method to kill him. Nevertheless, the Clinic dared not tamper with Marman's car or deploy a driver to ram him off the road, since their contractual obligation to make the death appear accidental would almost certainly come unstuck under the slightest police investigation. They therefore decided to use a proxy: an apparently random driver who would unknowingly become the Clinic's untraceable instrument of execution, by colliding with Marman.
Through relatively simple research, they discovered a businessman whose offices were in Plymouth and London, and who regularly drove between the two along the A303 road. This was Air Marshal (ret'd) Sir Peter Horsley, former equerry to the Duke of Edinburgh and to the Queen, and ex-Commander in Chief of Britain's atomic strike force, who now worked for an engineering firm, ML Holdings.
Study and surveillance showed that Sir Peter was due to drive from London to Plymouth for a board meeting on 11 November 1986, at a time which would mean he would pass Major Marman in the opposite direction along the length of the A303. The Clinic then entered Horsely's garage during the night of 10-11 November, and, over an eight-hour period, fitted a 'parasite' braking system in the cavities of his BMW, in such a way that it couldn't be seen on immediate inspection. This radio-controlled system was powered by a scuba-diving cylinder of compressed air, which would allow each of the car's brakes to be applied separately, without the control of the driver.
The next day, having practised their technique for weeks with stock cars and models, two of the Clinic members shadowed Horsely, while keeping in radio communication with a second Clinic team, shadowing Marman. As Marman's 2CV and Horsely's BMW approached each other along the A303, the parasite braking system was applied, and Horsely lost control of his vehicle, which was steered across the central reservation and into Marman's path. the ensuing collision killed Marman outright, and severely injured Horsely. Horsely was initially under suspicion of reckless driving, but fortunately had a witness who had been driving behind him, who testified that he had seen a puff of smoke emerge from the rear of Horsely's car immediately before he lost control: at inquest, the local coroner said the accident would remain unexplained. The more definitely so, since the Clinic's parasite brake-system had been secretly removed after the accident while the BMW was impounded at the police garage facility. The Feather Men, who failed to prevent this assassination, ultimately learned exactly how this scenario unfolded when they captured and interrogated the Clinic's chief assassin.
If this scenario sounds incredible, one should bear in mind that the Chief Feather Man, SAS Commander Tommy MacPherson, allowed his name to be used in Fiennes's book, and revealed that part of the proceeds from sales had gone to the SAS Jubilee Fund. The Clinic's unwitting 'guided missile', Sir Peter Horsely --very much a real person -- recounts his side of this grotesque episode in his 1998 autobiography, Sounds From Another Room. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Staged_Vehicle_Accident
In his autobiography, Sounds From Another Room, Horsley says that he was accelerating to about 60 miles an hour when the car began to react strangely. He saw a grey Volvo closing up quickly behind him and as he was about to wave it past, his BMW spun sharply to the left, the brakes screeching, and then sharply to the right and back again. This is remarkably similar to what happened to the Mercedes before it struck the 13th pillar. Horsley was by now desperately trying to maintain control and he went on: “Out of the corner of my eye I saw the grey Volvo accelerating past me at high speed. My car had now developed a mind of its own as it swung broadside and skidded down the road. With a lurch it hit the central reservation, mounted the grass verge separating the two• lanes of the highway and crossed over into the opposite carriageway. I had just time to see a small car approaching from the opposite direction. I hit it sideways on with tremendous force. In a split-second the driver’s horror-stricken face was visible and I heard his hoarse scream.”