The Spy Who Fell to Earth

Espionnage / Current Affairs

by Ahron Bregman

Shortly after midday on June 27th 2007, a man plummets to his death from the balcony of his fifth-floor London flat. Did he jump, or was he pushed?

He is identified as an Egyptian millionaire who has been living in the UK since the early 1980s. His name is Ashraf Marwan, an international businessman and arms dealer, married to Mona Abdel Nasser, the daughter of Egypt’s legendary leader President Gamal Abdel Nasser. But that is only a part of the story, as Marwan was also perhaps the most important spy of the second half of the twentieth century.

A few years previously, the academic Ahron Bregman had blown Marwan’s cover, unmasking him as having worked for Egypt’s biggest enemy, Israel. But there was a twist, one that even the most audacious writer of fiction might baulk at inventing. Soon after Bregman had exposed him, Marwan made contact. After meeting, the two became friends and remained in contact for almost five years right up until the time of Marwan’s death.

The day before he plunged to his death, Marwan phoned, sounding anxious and shaken, and asked for an urgent face-to-face meeting. It was scheduled for the next day, but never took place. Around the time they were due to meet, Marwan’s body was found in the private rose garden below his flat in central London.

This is the story of what came to be known as “The Marwan Affair”, which shocked the public and intelligence community. Some questions can never be answered. Was Marwan a double or even a triple agent? And how did this reckless man escape detection for so long? It is based on contemporary diary notes, together with messages exchanged with Marwan over the years, which tell the inside story of Ahron Bregman’s relationship with the spy some call the greatest secret agent of the twentieth century.

Ahron Bregman was born in Israel in 1958, where he served in the army, reached the rank of captain and took part in the 1982 war in Lebanon. In the late 1980s he left Israel in protest at the military’s violent suppression of the Palestinian uprising (the Intifada) against the Israeli occupation and settled in the UK, where he completed a doctorate in War Studies. He is the author of THE FIFTY YEARS WAR with Jihan el-Tahri (BBC), the companion book to a six-part BBC/PBS television documentary series, ELUSIVE PEACE (Penguin), the companion book to a similar three-part series, ISRAEL’S WARS (Routledge), A HISTORY OF ISRAEL (Palgrave) and, most recently, CURSED VICTORY (Penguin). He teaches in the prestigious War Studies Department at King’s College London.


THE SPY WHO FELL TO EARTH is being adapted into a TV documentary by Salon Pictures and Kew Media, to air on Netflix in 2019.