The KGB veteran Melita Horwood has died in the UK aged 93
Mrs. Norwood, code name Hola, was a secretary with the British Non Ferrous Metals Research Association in the 1940s. She is believed to have passed on vital information of Britain’s nuclear program developments to the KGB for more than four decades.
Melita Norwood’s secret role was uncovered only six years ago when she was a 87-year-old great grandmother. Mrs. Norwood had worked for the Soviet intelligence service for many years and passed on a significant number of British atomic secrets to the USSR. Back in 1932 she joined a laboratory involved in nuclear research.
A lifelong communist, she was recruited by NKVD (the government’s secret-police organization in the USSR in 1934-46) in 1937. She passed on top-secret information of the Western countries’ nuclear programs to the Soviets up till 1985.
Mrs. Norwood worked as a secretary in the British Non Ferrous Metals Research Association which was one of the parent organizations involved in the postwar nuclear bomb project code-named Tube Alloys. The association conducted research on nickel and copper used by the British while developing a technology to produce isotopes of weapons-grade uranium 235. Experts believe that information supplied by Mrs. Norwood might have helped the Soviets to accelerate the development of the above technology.
MI5 began suspecting Melita Norwood of spying for the Soviet Union back in 1945. By 1965 the British counterintelligence agency had become confident that Mrs. Norwood was a KGB operative. But MI5 took no action because the British had no proof of her wrongdoing.
Mrs. Norwood was disclosed by a KGB archivist Vasili Mitrokhin who defected to the UK in 1992. However, she was not prosecuted due to lack of sufficient evidence. The British government and public got access to the so-called Mitrokhin archive only in 1999. Having considered a fairly old age of the agent Hola and a lack of strong evidence against her, the British authorities decided to play down her case.
A lifelong member of the British Communist Party and the Movement for Nuclear Disarmament, Mrs. Norwood was a classic example of a “spy by the political convictions.”
“What it is done, it is done... I believed that my access to some information could have been a deterrent to Great Britain, United States, and Germany, though I do not approve of spying activities against one’s own country, my late husband was opposed to my actions,” said Mrs. Norwood to the press following her disclosure.
Mrs. Norwood was already a woman of advanced age when she started scribbling her memoirs using services of a professional writer, also a socialist. The memoirs were rumored to contain a few facts which might lead to legal proceedings against the ex-KGB spy. “I would like to write a full report because I want to make myself clear in respect of a couple of things,” said Mrs. Norwood at the time. But the memoirs never materialized.
Mrs. Norwood was a diehard communist and never accepted any money from the KGB. She even refused to accept the Order of the Red Banner. Melita Norwood admired Josef Stalin and hated Mikhail Gorbachev. It was reported on Tuesday that she had died at a nursing home.