Shot at, bombed, imprisoned and arrested for murder. His is the story the establishment doesn’t want you to read.
Captain P. J. “Red” Riley is an ex-SAS soldier who served for eighteen years as an MI6 agent.
Riley escaped internment in Chile during the Falklands war during an audacious top-secret attempt to attack the Argentinian mainland.
He was imprisoned in the darkness of the Sierra Leonean jungle, and withstood heavy fire in war-torn Beirut and Syria.
In 2015, he was arrested for murder but all charges were later dropped.
In this searing memoir, Riley reveals the brutal realities of his service, and the truth behind the newspaper headlines featuring some of the most significant events in recent British history. His account provides startling new evidence on the Iraq war, what Tony Blair really knew about Saddam Hussain’s weapons of mass destruction before the allied invasion, and questions the British government’s alleged involvement in the death of Princess Diana.
Chaotic, darkly humorous and at times heart-wrenchingly sad, Kisses From Nimbus charts the harrowing real-life experiences of a soldier and spy in the name of Queen and co
Firstly, I would like to thank the author, Clink Street publishing, and blog tour organiser Rachel Gilbey for the chance to publish an extract from his autobiography today.
In this opening short chapter, my aim is to capture the reader’s interest:
SUNDAY 20th JANUARY 1990 14.35 HOURS
A mark, a target, a victim. What do you call a person you are about to kill? I certainly don’t want to personalise this whole sordid business by applying a name, but I will at least apply a gender – Male. That’s it then – He. He was sleeping peacefully on his back. How odd, I thought. Surely most people sleep lying on one side or the other in the foetal position. It gives them the comfort of still being in the womb I suppose. But lying, quite still, face up, seems to be making it so easy for me – just asking to be suffocated.
I had spent the past twenty-two years of my life in the British Army. The last six of which were in the now famous and very much publicised Special Air Service. Now, after leaving the Army, I have been recruited and trained as an agent in Her Majesty’s Secret Intelligence Service, otherwise known as MI6 or SIS.
It is well known that, being SAS trained, it is quite easy for me to live for at least a fortnight with nothing more than a pair of old leather bootlaces to suck on for sustenance, and, with steely cold resolve, I can send a heavily armed terrorist to his maker with just a well-aimed swift jab here or there – what a load of bollocks! I know I have to kill this man but I don’t know how to. I have no weapon. No trigger to pull, before I close my eyes to avoid the instant when white hot metal smashes into soft body tissue. I have my hands, of course, but they hardly seem adequate and they are shaking.
Throughout my Army career, the closest I ever came to hand to hand combat was as a young soldier in basic training, being taught the finer points of bayonet drill. This consisted of fixing a six-inch steel bayonet to the end of my self-loading rifle, which had to be kept highly polished to avoid the risk of infection. The rifle also had to be kept in pristine condition to avoid I know not what and, charging towards a sack full of straw whilst screaming some ridiculous obscenity, plunge the bayonet hard into the sack. A twist for maximum internal organ damage, keep on screaming, withdraw the bayonet and continue running to the NAAFI truck for sausage baps and tea.
My training as a killer continued but the much-preferred method was with a gun. I spent days, weeks, months even, on rifle ranges across the United Kingdom and Germany. From one hundred metre ranges for pistols and small submachine guns, to the fifteen hundred metre ranges for support weapons, such as the Bren gun or the new, state of the art, general-purpose machine gun. Whatever the weapon the emphasis was always the same – shoot to kill! Shoot to kill has always been an overriding policy of the British Army – there is no other way. Aim for the centre of the target to maximise the possibility of a hit. It matters not where the target is hit, since, in the heat of battle, it can be argued that a wounded soldier could be more of a liability to his comrades than a dead soldier. Whilst the enemy are dealing with their wounded they are less likely to be able to return fire. When it comes to killing, it is generally agreed that it is better to have as much distance as possible between the dispatcher and the recipient. A double tap from a pistol if necessary, but a better option would be a burst of automatic fire from a machine gun at two hundred metres or so. An even better option would be a single shot from a sniper rifle from as far away as a thousand metres, which would surely avoid witnessing the last look of horror as the bullet slams into the victim. Best of all, of course, is to get on the radio and call for air support for fighter ground attack aircraft to carpet bomb the complete area and keep the whole nasty business as impersonal as possible. So yes, I suppose I do qualify as a trained killer, but firing rockets, or bullets at some barely discernible target hundreds of metres away somehow doesn’t seem like killing, even if you keep your eyes open and watch the targets fall.
What I am contemplating now is killing a man whose face I can clearly see, a young man, a handsome man, and I have no weapon to make things easier. The bed he is sleeping in is a hospital bed, a small private room with just one bed, two chairs, a small bedside cupboard and a hand wash basin. The single window in the room looks out onto a dirty grey stone wall. I draw the curtains across to prevent any casual, unsuspecting, passer-by witnessing a murder. Even with the curtains drawn there is still enough light in the room to clearly see the man’s face.
My recently completed training to become a fully operational SIS agent certainly made no mention of ‘How to kill a sleeping man without alerting nearby nursing staff’. What I had been taught included basic ‘Tradecraft’ (the skill of being as ‘grey’ as possible and being perceived as anything but a British Secret Agent). My training also included surveillance and anti-surveillance techniques, loading and unloading dead letterboxes to collect and receive messages covertly, photography, practical disguise, communications, defensive driving, and a police advanced driving qualification.
I quietly left the room and walked, a little nervously, towards the toilets and the hospital exit. Although the young female nurse on duty was clearly of Asian descent, she was dressed in a western-style blue and white nurses uniform. She looked up and seemed to eye me suspiciously as I approached the nurse’s station.
‘Everything okay Mr Riley, is there anything I can help you with?’ she said in perfect English with, what I guessed, was a Lancastrian accent.
‘No thanks,’ I replied, ‘He’s sleeping like a baby.’
‘Can I get you a cup of tea or ‘owt?’ she asked.
Definitely, I thought, a Lancastrian accent!
‘No, we are just fine thanks.’ I smiled, ‘Be good if he can get a couple of hours’ sleep. I’ll give you a call if we need anything.’
‘Right-o luv,’ she said.
On second thoughts she could be from the other side of the Pennines I suppose.
As I washed my hands I stared hard at myself in the mirror. Are you insane, are you really capable of doing this? Why not just keep on walking towards the exit and leave the poor bastard in peace?
My handlers in London had made it abundantly clear to me that if, or more likely when, the shit hit the fan, I would be completely on my own. Part of the deal I have signed up for is to be totally deniable to the United Kingdom government. I have been assured that everything possible will be done to help me, but it will be done covertly. Overtly, it will be denied that I have anything whatsoever to do with the British Secret Intelligence Service.
Returning to the room I gave the nurse a friendly smile as I passed, which was acknowledged with nothing more than a nod. Back in the room, he was still fast asleep and thankfully, still on his back. Feeling reasonably confident that we were unlikely to be disturbed, I convinced myself that it had to be now or never. It had to be now. Suffocation seemed to be my only realistic option but there were only two pillows in the room and he was sleeping soundly on both of them. I decide not to risk waking him by trying to get to one of the pillows. On the side of the wash basin, there was a small face cloth which I decided would have to be my weapon. I examined the face cloth. It looked and felt rather porous. I carefully folded the weapon once, then twice. It was still big enough to cover his nose and mouth, but it continued to look somewhat inadequate for what I was about to do. Perhaps soaking the cloth with water would make the material stick together more, I thought, and therefore make the weapon more efficient. I soaked the cloth under the running water. I didn’t want it to be too hot or too cold. For some obscure reason, it was important for me to have the weapon at just the right temperature. I approached the bedside knowing what I had to do next. He was resting peacefully, taking short, regular and shallow breaths. Facing directly towards the ceiling, his position seemed to make it almost too easy for me to cover his mouth and nose with the improvised weapon. Getting to within an inch of his face his eyes opened wide, and he frantically grabbed my wrists with both his hands. With unexpected strength, he pushed my hands away and gasped for breath. He had an odd expression of bewilderment on his face as he stared into my eyes. After such a rude awakening, it took a few moments for him to seem to understand what I was trying to do. His expression changed. He assumed, what appeared to me to be a faint smile. He then nodded to me and closed his eyes. I again went about my planned suffocation, but for some reason, I hesitated and stopped short of actually snuffing out the young man’s life. His eyes remained closed. He raised his hands, but this time not to push me away, instead he brought his hands together as if in prayer. His body relaxed. His arms fell to his sides. He stopped breathing. Lying motionless his face very quickly turned a deathly grey. As I stood in amazement the weapon dropped from my hand and I realised for certain that he was dead.
Born in 1946 in Lancashire P.J ‘Red’ Riley joined the British Army at the age of eighteen. After basic training he volunteered for Pilot Training and qualified as an operational helicopter pilot going on to service in Germany, Northern Ireland, Canada, Belize and Cyprus. He was later appointed Flight Commander SAS Flight Hereford. At the age of thirty-six years old he left the Army Air Corps and transferred to the SAS. In 1989, when Riley left the army he was quickly recruited by MI6 where he served until 2015. Now retired Riley splits his time between the UK and Spain