Priest admits hosting George Blake after 1966 prison escape

 

A CHURCH of England priest last night said he was ready to go to prison over his role in the prison escape of the double agent George Blake. After the Rev John Papworth's defiant stand police said: "If any new evidence is presented to us we will consider it."

Mr Papworth (75), of St John's Wood, north London, hit the headlines on Friday with his description of shoplifting as "a badly needed reallocation of economic resources". Mr Papworth was unrepentant after the Home Secretary, Mr Michael Howard, said the remarks were "disgraceful".

Mr Papworth yesterday confirmed he had housed Blake and an Irishman, Sean Bourke, who helped arrange Blake's October 1966 escape, for two or three days in Earls Court, west London, after the escape. He said if police came to interview him about it: "I will give them a cup of tea and help them as much as I can."

But one of two men who admitted to helping Blake escape and were acquitted by a jury in 1991 said it would be "lunacy" if action was taken against Mr Papworth.

Mr Pat Pottle (58), a former north London antiques dealer, said: "It would be a ridiculous waste of money and time to charge Mr Papworth, a minor character in the whole thing, for doing what we were acquitted for, even though we admitted it."

Mr Pottle and Dr Michael Randle of Bradford, West Yorkshire, were cleared at the Old Bailey of aiding Blake's escape. Blake escaped from Wormwood Scrubs after serving five years of a 42-year sentence. He ultimately made it to Moscow, where he still lives.

Mr Papworth said that at the time he was asked by two fellow "Ban the Bomb" campaigners to look after Blake for two or three nights very soon after the escape.

Referring to Sean Bourke without naming him, Mr Papworth said Blake and an Irishman stayed with him in Earls Court.

He said Blake stayed in the house all the time but the Irishman came and went to buy cigarettes and other items and that put Blake in a fury. The two men shared a room and took meals with himself and his wife.

"Blake had the freedom of the house, but didn't go outside it," he said. "We sat together for meals in the kitchen. I remember both of them were smokers, and I didn't like tobacco."

Mr Pottle said the "Ban the Bomb enthusiasts" were himself and Mr Randle. "Mr Papworth was staying at a house in the country and we asked him to look after someone who was in trouble. I think he thought it was a Vietnam deserter and was shocked to find it was Blake.