7 February 2008 Edition
Dog of war thrown to the dogs
SAS MAN Simon Mann, ring-leader of the 2004 abortive Dogs of War-style mercenary coup to seize power and oil fields – which Margaret Thatcher’s son pleaded guilty to funding – has been extradited from Zimbabwe to Equatorial Guinea and into the hands of his intended victim, President Mbasogo.
Mann, the son of an England cricket captain and heir to the Watney Mann brewery empire, went to Eton public school before going on to Sandhurst Military Academy and enlisting in the aristocratic Scots Guards.
He then joined the SAS and is said to have risen swiftly through its elite ranks to become a commander. He served in the usual British Army hot spots, including the Six Counties (in the 2002 Granada TV film drama about Bloody Sunday he actually played Parachute Regiment commander Colonel Derek Wilford).
In the 1990s he set up Executive Outcomes, a private military company (i.e. mercenaries) protecting oil fields in Angola, before going into partnership with another former Scots Guards officer, Colonel Tim Spicer, in setting up Sandline International. Spicer is notorious for his unwavering defence of one of his patrols in Belfast shooting dead an unarmed civilian, Peter McBride, in 1992 even though the killers were (unusually) convicted of murder. Mann’s and Spicer’s Sandline is widely believed to have been breaking a UN arms embargo by running guns during the civil war in Sierra Leone.
Mann came undone in 2004 when a plane from Pretoria carrying 69 former soldiers, most of whom had served with the South African apartheid regime’s ‘foreign legion’, the 32 Battalion, made up of black Angolans, made a pit-stop in Zimbabwe. He was arrested after his men were seized and sentenced to seven years in jail for weapons offences.
Sir Mark Thatcher – Mann’s former next-door neighbour in a millionaires’ suburb of Cape Town and a business partner – walked away from a jail term. The wily ‘Scratcher’ had a charge under South Africa’s anti-mercenary laws plea-bargained down to a fine of half a million dollars and a four-year suspended sentence in return for his co-operation with investigators. Thatcher Junior is now safely back in London, sipping pink gins with Mummy in posh Belgravia.
Mr Mann the Mercenary Man, however, isn’t so lucky. He was handed over last Friday, 1 February, to the none-too-tender mercies of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. Claims that Mbasogo eats his enemy’s testicles are, well, just that – testicles. But the president does have a vicious human rights record and he’s unlikely to treat the former SAS man with kid gloves now that his would-be assassin is finally in his clutches.
Two tits and a vote
NO, it’s not my smutty, schoolboy take on any election campaign but the name of a new campaigning website to lobby politicians for better breast cancer services.
The site, twotitsandavote.com, was set up by Sabrina Dent to try and galvanise women’s political clout, particularly to influence Health Minister Mary Harney.
“I’m fairly certain that if Mary Harney found a lump in her breast she would not be sitting around for four months waiting for a basic diagnostic ultrasound,” Sabrina says.
Nigel’s holy row
NIGEL DODDS’S personal adviser saves souls in his spare time but he’s fighting to save the job he has full-time, working for the DUP Minister for Enterprise and Trade.
Wallace Thompson stepped outside Stormont as secretary of the Evangelical Protestant Society to go on Joe Duffy’s Liveline afternoon chat show on RTÉ Radio in an anti-Catholic tirade to announce: “The Pope is the Anti-Christ.”
Wallace also hit out at the sale of rosary beads in the Church of Ireland St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, an outburst which drew the unwanted attention of the international media.
Now even business leaders have complained, ahead of Wallace being let loose in India where he’s making plans with Nigel to woo investors who are ‘non-believers’ (who knows what he’ll say when he sees India’s green, white and orange flag and finds out it’s a republic!).
Elsewhere, civic figures fear that a personal adviser to the Trade Minister being openly anti-Catholic, sectarian and downright offensive could be used by countries competing with the Six Counties for inward investment.
Wallace has now taken a vow of silence in response to questions on the matter.
A LOYALIST marching band in Scotland hid imitation weapons and camouflage battledress where they practised – in a primary school.
A staff member found the gear in a gym hall in Blairtummock Primary in Easterhouse, Glasgow, which included balaclavas, ski masks, camouflage gear, and white gloves that “relate to the loyalist tradition” (i.e. UDA, LVF or UVF) and were hidden by another school employee who is not a teacher.
Band members are believed to have worn the uniforms and posed for photos in the school before posting the images on loyalist and neo-Nazi websites.
One “source” told Glasgow’s Herald newspaper:
“Police are not particularly bothered about the implications for children. It’s daft boys playing at being big boys. It would seem a member of staff kept the stuff hidden away but, on a day when they were off, another member of staff found them.”
Glasgow City Council won’t name of the flute band or the individual who booked the gym, citing data protection laws.
Ian Wilson, Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland Grand Master, warned those involved that if, as suspected, they are members of a flute band, they will be “out on a limb” and banned from Orange Order parades. “It has happened before and we won’t tolerate our organisation being tarnished with this type of behaviour,” he said.
Glasgow City Council, however, seem less bothered than the Orange Order. A spokesperson said at the weekend: “At this stage we have no plans to suspend any employee.”