The terrorist debut in Britain in 1973 of the man who became the best-known terrorist working for the Popular Front for Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) , Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, alias ‘Carlos the Jackal’ was memorable for its incompetence. ‘Carlos’ had first arrived in Britain in 1966, accompanied by his wealthy Venezuelan mother and two brothers, as a sixteen-year-old student of the English language. The immigration officer who interviewed them at Heathrow noted that they were ‘a well-dressed family’ but correctly deduced that the ‘unusual forenames of the children- Vladimir, Ilich and Lenin – ‘might have some bearing on the political colour of the family….’
‘Carlos’ subsequently studied at Moscow University but told the Metropolitan Police Special Branch (MPSB) that he had been expelled in 1970 for ‘anti-Soviet sentiments’. Following intelligence on his involvement with the PFLP, in December 1971 he was made subject by Home Office Warrant to letter – and telechecks. F Branch later reported:
” Neither check… .has produced significant information to connect Ramirez Sanchez with Arab terrorist activity and it is probable that once he became aware that the authorities were interested in him (his home had been searched in December 1971 and he was aware of A4 surveillance) whatever plans had been made for him by the PFLP were abandoned.
A4 reported that he appeared ‘very edgy’ during visits to the ophthalmic department of St George’s (then at Hyde Park Corner) and later to an optician, from which he emerged wearing dark glasses.”
Though the Special Branch and Security Service lost track of ‘Carlos’ during 1972, it was later discovered that he spent the next few years travelling, often on forged passports, in Europe, the Middle East and Latin America, on operations for the PFLP and paying several visits to Britain. On 30 December 1973, during one of these visits, ‘Carlos’ knocked on the door of the surprisingly unprotected St John’s Wood home of Joseph Edward ‘Teddy’ Sieff, an ardent Zionist and chairman of Marks and Spencer. The door was opened by the butler, whom ‘Carlos’ ordered to take him to his victim. ‘Carlos’ fired a single shot which was deflected by Sieff’s front teeth and failed to kill him. The gun then jammed and ‘Carlos’ ran away.
Extract from “The Defence of the Realm – The Authorised History of MI5” by Christopher Andrew (pub. 2010)