Four years ago, retired Beeston doctor Margaret Siriol Colley published her account of the mysterious death in 1935 of her uncle Gareth Jones. She has now complete prequel More Than A Grain Of Truth, which unravels his path to tragedy.
ANDY SMART reports
Nottingham Evening Post 19.08.05 ( illustrated with photos)
Death on the brink of war
THE murder of international journalist Gareth Jones at the hands of bandits in the wilds of pre-war Mongolia reads like a Hollywood thriller — but it is all tragically true. It is a story that has intrigued his niece Margaret Siriol Colley, a retired GP from Beeston, for 15 years.
She has already written one book about the death of the young journalist, a witness to pivotal events that led to the Second World War.
And, in The Manchukuo Incident published in 2001, she came to the conclusion that forces far more powerful and sinister than a bunch of outlaws were behind Gareth Jones’ death.
His one-time boss, Prime Minister David Lloyd George, said Jones was a man “who knew too much”.
“That part of the world is a cauldron of conflicting intrigue and one or other interests concerned probably knew that Mr Gareth Jones knew too much of what was going on,” he said.
It is that mystery that adventurous Dr Colley, who is Welsh-born but has lived and worked in Beeston for more than 40 years, has spent much time trying to unravel.
In her second book, written with the help of her son Nigel and based on her uncle’s diaries, articles, letters and family memories, she paints the extraordinary picture of Gareth Jones who, she says “accomplished more in his short life than most men are able to, even when blessed with longevity”.
The result is a remarkable testimony of a man who not only knew too much but died too soon.
Dr Colley writes: “Gareth’s predictions of future disputes and impending hostility in the danger zones of the period was uncanny
“Sadly, his extensive knowledge and wisdom was lost with his death, and the memory of Gareth was airbrushed out of history until this biography was written.”
Emerging triumphantly from Cambridge in 1929, fluent in German and with a passion for travel, he was recruited to work for Lloyd George as a foreign affairs adviser and was immediately privy to the affairs of state.
He became fascinated by the Soviet Union and Stalin’s so-called Five-Year Plan for Collectivisation and Industrialisation.
After his first visit to Russia, he predicted it would boost the nation’s productivity — but at the expense of human happiness.
When he returned two years later, with Jack Heinz, heir to the food empire, he witnessed the true squalor of peasant life: starvation, rationing, drunkenness ... and liquidation.
Bravely, he wrote a series of newspaper articles about what he had seen but was promptly denounced by western Moscow correspondents.
It took him months to regain his confidence to comment on political matters but in 1934 he put his toe back in the water with a visit to Germany where he revealed details of the Night of the Long Knives when Hitler ruthlessly eliminated Ernst Roehm and his Brownshirts.
He wrote: “Typical of the Germans was that a flower garden was in the spot where the men were to be shot. The SS men in the cars were anxious not to drive over the flowers and took the utmost care that not a single flower should be trampled on. Then they shot 19 men.”
In late 1934 Gareth Jones, fearless but somewhat naive, set off on a ‘round the world fact-finding tour’. He would not return alive.
In the US he unwittingly raised his political profile with a series of hard-hitting anti-communist articles for William Randolph Hearst’s newspapers. He learned soon after that he was now on a Soviet secret police blacklist.
From America he travelled to the mysterious and politically volatile Far East. Margaret Colley writes: “Innocently, he was to enter a hornet’s nest of intrigue and conspiracy” and she suggests that both the Russians, because of his exposé of the horrors of Stalin’s Five-Year Plan, and the Japanese, who might well have feared he was about to reveal their military build-up for an invasion of China, had good reason to see him dead.
On his final journey into-Inner Mongolia, travelling in a vehicle supplied by a Soviet spy group posing as trading company, he was captured by Japanese-controlled Chinese bandits. Despite a ransom being paid, the kidnappers killed him, shooting him three times.
So who ordered his death? The Russians? The Japanese? A collusion between them both?
The news of his murder devastated his family and shocked the Welsh nation.
And 70 years on, the answer to the question:
‘Who killed Gareth Jones?’ remains unanswered.