Craig Williamson

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Craig Williamson1.jpg
Major Craig Williamson was in charge of 'target selection'
BornCraig Michael Williamson
Alma materUniversity of South Africa

Craig Williamson is a former South African police major, exposed as a spy in 1980, who was involved in a series of state-sponsored overseas bombings, burglaries, kidnappings, assassinations and propaganda during the apartheid years.

Having admitted carrying out a number of the crimes, Craig Williamson applied for and was granted amnesty by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for the 1982 bombing of the ANC office in London, and for the murders of Ruth First in 1982 and Marius Schoon's wife and daughter in 1984.[1]

Although no charges have been brought against him, Williamson was accused by Eugene de Kock, the commander of an apartheid-era police hit squad, to have been responsible for the February 1986 murder of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme.[2] He was also alleged to have masterminded the October 1986 plane crash which killed President Samora Machel of Mozambique[3] and the targeting UN Commissioner for Namibia Bernt Carlsson on Pan Am Flight 103 on 21 December 1988.[4]

South African "superspy"

Infiltrating the IUEF

In the late 1970s, Craig Williamson had inveigled Lars Eriksson, director of the International University Exchange Fund (IUEF) in Geneva, into employing him as deputy director and help in the award of IUEF scholarships to African students. He was thus able to infiltrate the banned African National Congress (ANC) and, at the same time, make high-level contacts in Sweden which provided most of the IUEF's funding. The IUEF was founded by the Swedish Social Democratic Party (SDP) for the purpose of financing the education of African students. Among the other directors at this time were Pierre Schori, a senior SDP official (later Sweden's deputy foreign minister, MEP and ambassador at the UN) and two other leading Social Democrats Mats Hellström, Sweden's minister for foreign trade, and Bernt Carlsson, secretary-general of the Socialist International (1976-1983).[5]

The Three Musketeers

Craig Williamson, as deputy director of the IUEF, worked closely with Pierre Schori, Mats Hellström, and Bernt Carlsson, who were known in IUEF circles as the "the three musketeers." The IUEF, which played a leading role in financing students associated with the African National Congress and other organisations acting against apartheid, gave Williamson access to valuable information that was used to target these potential leaders for harassment and murder. In fact, the arrest and death of Steve Biko, the well-known leader of the Black Consciousness Movement, at the hands of the South African secret services, was attributed to information Williamson gathered at the IUEF. Despite warnings from members of the ANC and some intelligence services, that Williamson was acting in the service of South African intelligence, he was not removed from his position. In fact, Williamson became one of Sweden's most important collaborators for South African affairs. Only after Williamson's role was exposed in the British Observer newspaper in 1980, was he forced to leave the IUEF, and this affair eventually forced the shutdown of the organisation.

The significance of Williamson's early relationship with two of "the three musketeers", Schori and Hellström, becomes important in light of the events of 1986. By 1986, Schori had become one of the leading figures in the Social Democratic Party, and had developed close personal relationships with such international individuals as Henry Kissinger, Armand Hammer, and Michael Ledeen (Ledeen played a key role in Iran-Contra). In ElR's 1986 report on the Palme assassination, Schori was identified as potentially involved in a cover-up of the assassination, because of his international connections, both East and West. Between 1983 and 1986 Williamson's colleague at the IUEF, Mats Hellström, was Sweden's foreign trade minister, at the time when Sweden's Bofors-Nobel, a key member in the "munitions cartel," exported hundreds of millions of dollars of munitions to keep the war going between Iran and Iraq.

After leaving the Socialist International in London in 1983, the third of "the three musketeers", Bernt Carlsson, returned to Sweden and became a close adviser to Olof Palme, assisting Palme in his capacity as official UN mediator for the Iran-Iraq War. A year after Palme's murder, Bernt Carlsson was appointed UN Commissioner for Namibia and began working with the South West Africa People's Organisation (SWAPO) to achieve independence for the territory which for decades had been illegally occupied by apartheid South Africa. On 21 December 1988, having been persuaded to break his journey from Brussels to visit the De Beers conglomerate in London, Bernt Carlsson boarded Pan Am Flight 103 bound for New York and died over Lockerbie, Scotland, when that flight was bombed. Craig Williamson is understood to have engineered the third musketeer's demise.[6]

Operation Longreach

Eugene de Kock also accused Craig Williamson of syphoning off IUEF funds to establish a dirty tricks operation in Pretoria known as Longreach in order to target apartheid's opponents both in South Africa and abroad. Reporting to the State Security Council (SSC) and funded by General Neels van Tonder's Military Intelligence (MI) and security police slush funds, Longreach had an extremely vague mandate which effectively gave it unlimited authority. Longreach's speciality was foreign operations which, thanks to Williamson's experience, were focused on Europe and the United Kingdom. Virtually all documentation relating to Longreach was destroyed prior to 1994 during the presidency of F W de Klerk. However, some of South Africa's covert operations in Europe - especially Scandinavia - were uncovered, and revealed two Longreach members working with Swedish sympathisers.

The Uppsala group was handled through a front organisation Casalee Group which was based in Antwerp until the late 1980s when Belgian police raided the premises in connection with alleged gun-running. The office was closed and Casalee relocated to England where it continued to operate under a different name Defence Company Ltd (Defco) which offered MI's Directorate Covert Collection and Armscor a springboard in Europe.[7]

In October 1985, MI drew up a top secret report for General van Tonder confirming that the Anti-Apartheid Movement (AAM) were planning to meet in Stockholm in February 1986:

"Historically, the ANC receives 50 per cent of its funding from Sweden and enjoys the support of Mr Olof Palme, the Swedish premier, who is at the forefront of European action against South Africa," the report pointed out. The most chilling paragraph read: "Action proposed previously against Mr Palme should now be given urgent attention." Someone - presumably Van Tonder - wrote in black ink against this passage: "Agreed!"

By 20 November 1985, it was evident that the SSC had sanctioned the proposed Swedish operation code-named Slingervel. Brigadier Tolletjie Botha had personally put Williamson and his Longreach group in the picture about what the SSC wanted. Next to the final paragraph of Brigadier Botha's memorandum someone had handwritten:

"Inform Williamson how it is to be done, please!"

This would have been an instruction from the senior intelligence officer, doubtless prompted by the fact that Williamson came from a police milieu and knew little or nothing about military discipline. It seems that there was scant respect for the Fat Man's abilities in certain military circles, but he had to be tolerated.[8]


Again using IUEF funds, Williamson set up the South African News Agency (SANA) to recruit and use journalists for apartheid South African counter-intelligence purposes.[9] British journalists John Ashton[10] and Ian Ferguson are believed to be SANA recruits.

Bombing and burglary

PAC office in London

In 1982, a burglary took place at the Pan Africanist Congress office in London. Two suspects were arrested. One of them, a Swedish journalist, Bertil Wedin, was eventually acquitted by an English court. Wedin admitted, however, that he was working for South African intelligence and that he had been recruited by Craig Williamson. The other suspect, SADF Sgt Joseph Klue had diplomatic immunity as a member of staff at the SA embassy in London and was ordered to leave the UK.

ANC office in London

Craig Williamson applied for amnesty in 1995 from SA's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) for bombing and conspiracy to bomb the London offices of the ANC and the SACP in March 1982. In the British House of Commons in June 1995, Peter Hain MP asked through the then Home Secretary, Michael Howard, that the UK police should interview and consider extraditing Williamson to stand trial for the London bombing.[11] Michael Howard turned down Hain's request.

On 15 October 1999 amnesty was eventually granted by the TRC to Craig Williamson along with eight others: John Adam, Peter Caselton, General Johannes Coetzee, Eugene de Kock, John McPherson, Roger Raven, James Taylor and Wybrand Du Toit.[12] Following the TRC hearing, South African law lecturer at Technikon SA, Anton Alberts, commented to the woza news agency:

"If you look at the Lockerbie disaster - this is very similar. I think Britain would like to see these guys are prosecuted in England even though they get amnesty here."

ANC office in Stockholm

In 1986, the ANC office in Stockholm was blown up. Williamson and Wedin were accused by a number of sources, but no charges were brought against them.

Target selection

In 1996, Craig Williamson was interviewed in advance of his amnesty hearing at the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. During the interview, Williamson confirmed that he served on President P W Botha's State Security Council and was in charge of 'target selection' of those individuals and groups who were considered a threat to the apartheid South African regime.[13]

Ruth First

Williamson ordered the assassination of Ruth First, who was an exiled campaigner for the Anti-Apartheid Movement, close friend of Sweden's prime minister, Olof Palme, and the ANC author of a pioneering study of Namibia. She was also the wife of the South African Communist Party's leader, Joe Slovo. She was killed by a letter-bomb in Maputo, Mozambique on 18 August 1982.[14]

Marius Schoon

Williamson addressed a letter-bomb to exiled anti-apartheid activist, Marius Schoon, in Angola but killed Schoon's wife Jeanette and daughter Katryn on 28 June 1984. In June 2000, TRC amnesty for this killing and that of Ruth First was granted to Williamson[15]

In April 2008, a South African court ordered Williamson to pay Schoon's son exemplary damages for the trauma caused to the two-year-old Fritz having had to witness the brutal murders of his mother Jeannette Schoon and elder sister Katryn.[16] Williamson, however, who was a silent partner in Cigarettes Tobacco Cigars Pty Ltd, trading as Carnilinx,[17] had hidden all of his assets. And although court orders were made to sequestrate him, none of his assets were in fact sold and he was declared insolvent in South Africa.[18]

Williamson currently works from Botswana where he owns that country’s only cigarette manufacturer, Benson Craig Pty Ltd.[19]

Samora Machel

Minutes of the apartheid State Security Council in January 1984 recorded Craig Williamson as plotting the overthrow of the government in Mozambique. Two years later, President Samora Machel was killed on 19 September 1986 when his Tupolev airliner crashed in the Lebombo Mountains, near Mbuzini, South Africa.[20]

Olof Palme assassination

On 21 February 1986, Prime Minister Olof Palme addressed the Swedish People's Parliament against Apartheid in Stockholm. Seven days later, Palme was shot and killed after attending the cinema with his wife. The subsequent Stockholm police investigation into the murder was criticised for its lassitude and incompetence for not quickly solving the crime. Five days after Palme's murder, Swedish journalist Per Wästberg reported twice to the Swedish police that apartheid South Africa must have been involved, but no action was taken by the police. Ten years later, Williamson was named by Eugene de Kock in a South African court for Palme's murder, as were three others: Anthony White, Roy Allen and Bertil Wedin. However, no South Africans were ever charged with the Palme assassination (nor was anyone else, save for Christer Pettersson, who was acquitted on appeal).[21]

Williamson interviewed

Craig Williamson was interviewed in Pretoria on 23 April 1996. This is an extract:

Tor Sellström: There are also some people who have mentioned your name in connection with the Palme assassination.
CW: It is fantasy.
TS: Is it plausible to talk about a South African link to the Palme assassination?
CW: I do not think that anybody here hated Olof Palme. If they were going to kill a head of state, hell, there are a lot of people before Olof Palme that would have been on the list. I really do not understand why Olof Palme. If they were prepared to do such a thing, I think that there would have been quite a few other targets. One day I saw a newspaper article which said that the murder was done by Koevoet under my command and that we had camped in the forests outside Stockholm in winter. Some journalist asked me and I said:
"Yes, we actually went overland from Africa with casspirs, all the way from Johannesburg. We drove in casspirs to Sweden. We did the operation and nobody saw us. Then he said: 'You are joking!' I said: 'Well, please, do me a favour.' They said that it was Koevoet people. I said that 'we were trained in desert warfare and now you tell me that we went and camped in the forests outside Stockholm in the middle of winter. That nobody saw us, that we crept into the city and killed the Prime Minister and left. And that nobody found one trace. That is really quite good."
Now there is some lunatic here in Pretoria (Eugene de Kock) who keeps telling the Swedes that I was the commander and that he bought the gun. He is a madman. He wants money.[22]

Williamson accused

In February 2014, the Swedish Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper revealed its findings after a report that South Africa lay behind the assassination of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme. Novelist and journalist Stieg Larsson's long-term partner Ewa Gabrielsson had provided Dagbladet with 15 boxes of material that Larsson had compiled on his quest to solve the murder. Much of the paperwork focused on Cyprus-based Swede Bertil Wedin, with documents stating that the suspected mercenary may have been in contact with South African security services in the run up to the murder of the fierce anti-apartheid critic Palme. SvD reported that Wedin had confessed four years before the murder in a British court case that he had been in touch with South African agent Craig Williamson.[23]

Building upon the Dagbladet story, the BBC Radio 4 programme "Document" of 28 July 2014 - presented by Gordon Corera - confirmed the South African narrative for Olof Palme's assassination. Corera cited the following as potentially being implicated in Palme's murder:

Peter Caselton
Eugene de Kock
Bertil Wedin and
Craig Williamson.

The accusers were: convicted burglar Edward Aspinall, lawyer Peter Calcara, journalist Duncan Campbell, former editor of Searchlight magazine Gerry Gable, former ANC intelligence chief Barry Gilder, journalist Stieg Larsson, Guardian journalist David Leigh, anti-apartheid activist Tor Sellström and Jan Stoklasa.[24]

ANC leadership

In 1987, plans for kidnapping the entire ANC leadership in London were uncovered. The thwarted operation was generally attributed to South African intelligence. Two Norwegians with a mercenary background and a British national were initially arrested, but never charged - a fact that at the time gave rise to newspaper allegations of possible involvement by British intelligence.[25]

Godfrey Motsepe

On 4 February 1988, the ANC representative in Brussels, Godfrey Motsepe, narrowly escaped an assassin's bullet.

Dulcie September

On 29 March 1988, the ANC representative in Paris, Dulcie September, was shot and killed. Williamson's protégé – former SADF Sgt Joseph Klue – and South African spy, Dirk Stoffberg, were in the frame for both the Brussels and Paris shootings.

Bernt Carlsson

On 21 December 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 was sabotaged over Lockerbie, Scotland.

Of the 270 fatalities, UN Commissioner for Namibia, Bernt Carlsson was the highest profile victim leading to allegations that Craig Williamson and the mercenary Lt-Col Eeben Barlow of South Africa's Civil Co-operation Bureau (CCB) were responsible for the Lockerbie bombing.[26]

According to Kurt Seinitz in the Austrian newspaper Kronen Zeitung:

"It would have been easy for South African secret service agents, who had infiltrated Sweden's anti-apartheid movement, to exchange Carlsson's tape recorder in a hotel room against one containing the bomb. And then placing it inside one of those 'ubiquitous' Samsonite suitcases, so beloved by the peripatetic Bernt Carlsson.[27]

David Webster

On 1 May 1989, social anthropologist and anti-apartheid activist Dr David Webster was assassinated by the CCB outside his house in Troyeville, Johannesburg.[28]

Anton Lubowski

On 12 September 1989, SWAPO activist Anton Lubowski was assassinated in Namibia by the CCB because he was about to expose evidence of mass murder (Lockerbie Bombing) by the apartheid regime with potentially disastrous consequences for the West's vested economic interests in Southern Africa.[29]


Craig Williamson was one of the main collaborators with Peter Worthington in the pro-apartheid video The ANC method - violence which was distributed by Citizens for foreign aid reform throughout Canada in 1988.

In the summer of 1988 the US-produced film Red Scorpion was made on location in South-West Africa (Namibia). South Africa helped finance the movie and the South African Defence Force provided trucks, equipment as well as extras. The action-packed movie was a sympathetic portrayal of an anti-communist guerrilla commander loosely based on Jonas Savimbi, the leader of UNITA – the Angolan rebel movement – supported by both Washington and Pretoria. The film's producer, Jack Abramoff, was also head of the International Freedom Foundation (IFF). Established in Washington in 1986 as a conservative think-tank, the IFF was in fact part of an elaborate intelligence gathering operation and, according to Craig Williamson, was designed to be an instrument for political warfare against apartheid's foes. South Africa spent up to $1.5million a year – until funding was withdrawn in 1992 – to underwrite Operation Babushka, the code-name by which the IFF project was known.

An article about the "enigma" Craig Williamson in the South African Sunday Times of 20 September 1998 entitled "The spy who never came in from the cold" concluded with the Williamson dictum:

"I respect a person who's willing to die for his country, but I admire a person who is prepared to kill for his country"[30]

In a television interview early in August 2001, Williamson told the BBC's Tim Sebastian that the actions he took during the apartheid era had to be seen against the background of the Cold War and were in support of the West. The NATO bombing of Belgrade in 1999, he said, killed far more civilians than his dirty tricks brigade ever did.[31]

External links

See also


Related Documents

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
Document:Gordon Corera travels to Stockholm to investigate the assassination of a prime ministerRadio programme28 July 2014Gordon CoreraIn BBC Radio 4's investigative history series - 'Document' - Gordon Corera investigates the assassination of the Swedish prime minister Olof Palme and explores what Britain knew, starting with boxes of documents including papers written by the late Stieg Larsson (deceased 9 November 2004)
Document:Olof Palme — South African Spies Likely Murdered Sweden Prime MinisterArticle12 March 2018Ludwig De BraeckeleerTop Secret Apartheid Intelligence Report says that Olof Palme must “now be seen as an enemy of the State”
Document:Pan Am Flight 103: It was the Uraniumarticle6 January 2014Patrick HaseldineFollowing Bernt Carlsson's untimely death in the Lockerbie bombing, the UN Council for Namibia inexplicably dropped the case against Britain's URENCO for illegally importing yellowcake from the Rössing Uranium Mine in Namibia.
Document:PanAm-Rätsel LOCKERBIE: Es war Südafrika!…so wie bei Olof PalmeArticle6 October 1996Kurt Seinitz"It would have been easy for South African secret service agents, who had infiltrated Sweden's anti-apartheid movement, to exchange Carlsson's tape recorder in a hotel room against one containing the bomb. And then placing it inside one of those 'ubiquitous' Samsonite suitcases, so beloved by the peripatetic Bernt Carlsson."


  1. "BBC Hardtalk: Craig Williamson" Wednesday, 8 August, 2001
  2. "South African Links Top Spy To the Slaying Of Olof Palme"
  3. "Will we ever know the truth about Samora Machel?"
  4. "Major Craig Williamson: the 'real' Lockerbie bomber"
  5. "Palme murder: The South African connection and the Swedish police link"
  6. "Craig Williamson: the untold spy scandal"
  7. "John Bredenkamp Puts His Foot In It"
  8. "Total Onslaught: Apartheid's Dirty Tricks Exposed" by De Wet Potgieter (pages 95-98)
  9. State operative Craig Williamson gives evidence
  10. "Leaflet written in 1988 by John Ashton" with the help of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa
  11. "As an Opposition MP in 1995, Peter Hain, sought the extradition of Craig Williamson"
  12. "Amnesty for bombing ANC's London office"
  13. "1996 SABC interview of Craig Williamson"
  14. Amnesty granted for murders of Ruth First and Jeanette and Katryn Schoon
  15. In 2000, Foreign Office minister, Peter Hain, says "Williamson would face trial if he ever came to Britain"
  16. "Apartheid spy ordered to pay up"
  17. "SARS drama spills over into the UK"
  18. "Fritz Schoon's two points of correction"
  19. "SARS Wars: Massive data leak alleges British American Tobacco SA's role in bribery and corruption"
  20. TRC report into Machel aircrash
  21. "Did Apartheid's Police Murder Sweden's Prime Minister?" New York Times, September 29, 1996
  22. "Craig Williamson (National Party — Military intelligence officer and commander of foreign operations — Deputy Director of the International University Exchange Fund — Member of the President's State Security CouncilExecutive Outcomes.)"
  23. "'South Africans killed Palme': Stieg Larsson"
  24. "Gordon Corera travels to Stockholm to investigate theories about the 1986 assassination of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme"
  25. "Oliver Tambo's address to the ANC's 48th National Conference"
  26. "Lockerbie: J'accuse....Eeben Barlow"
  27. Document:PanAm-Rätsel LOCKERBIE: Es war Südafrika!…so wie bei Olof Palme
  28. "Biography of Dr David Webster"
  29. "Lubowski: Who pulled the trigger?"
  30. "I admire a person who is prepared to kill for his country"
  31. "Williamson interviewed in 2001 on the BBC"
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