Britain Covered Up Spy's 1956 Death

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Secret documents released Friday showed that British authorities lied to cover up the fate of a naval commander who died during a scuba diving spy mission near a warship used by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.

Cdr. Lionel "Buster" Crabb, a decorated Royal Navy veteran, disappeared while diving near Portsmouth in southern England on April 19, 1956. Navy chiefs said Crabb was presumed dead after failing to return from a dive to test underwater equipment.

The press and public doubted that was the full story. Russian warships were in Portsmouth harbor at the time as part of Khrushchev's goodwill visit. Crew members reported seeing a diver near one of the ships, prompting an official Soviet complaint to the British government.

It was widely assumed that Crabb was inspecting the ship on behalf of the spy agency MI6 when something went wrong.

According to the documents, the navy did not mount a rescue operation for Crabb because the mission was secret and "a search could not be carried out beside the Russian warships."

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