Christopher Guest More was a 23-year-old undercover camera operator on a BBC true crime TV series when he staged this picture, aiming a Glock automatic pistol on his father’s country estate in Cheshire in 2002. A year later he was one of four masked men who tortured and murdered a cannabis grower in ‘media research’ that he called Reefer Madness.
He was hunted by Interpol for nearly 16 years, longer than it took to find Osama bin Laden.
Christopher Guest More
The former undercover reporter for BBC and Channel 4 was able to run a maritime charter business in Malta and North Africa using a British passport issued a few weeks after the murder and cloned in the name of a real person living in a long-term care home in England.
Guest More’s father, also confusingly named Christopher Guest More, was a millionaire commercial detective known to London lawyers and journalists as the Ultimate Hacker. He was jailed for nine months in 2004 after admitting taking clothes and cash to his son in Spain, just eight days after the murder of Brian Waters (42) at Burnt House Farm, Tabley, near Junction 19 on the M6.
Waters died of 123 injuries. His son was forced to watch as the cannabis grower was beaten, whipped, burned with acid, shot with a staple gun and suspended headfirst in a barrel of water.
Guest More junior was extradited from Malta in 2019 and after three trials at Chester Crown Court in 2021 he was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder. His undercover partner, James Raven (42) with a previous prison record for violence, was arrested within minutes of the murder and is still serving a life sentence, with a minimum of 24 years.
Paul Atkinson, the author of Undercover Killers at the BBC, is a former Manchester police sergeant. He worked undercover for the BBC, notably exposing the Chelsea Headhunters gang of football hooligans with the Irish reporter Donal McIntyre, and the extent of racism inside the police training academy at Bruche, near Warrington, for the BAFTA award-winning report The Secret Policeman, with undercover reporter Mark Daly.
At the BBC in London, Atkinson watched the undercover killers in the early stages of their plan to fake a TV movie of American hundred-dollar-bills rolling off a printing press in Manchester for the BBC true crime series Crooked Britain.
But not until Atkinson saw evidence during the third trial of Guest More at Chester Crown Court in 2021, could he confirm his suspicion that the two BBC undercover reporters, Guest More and Jimmy Raven, had used stolen police secret intelligence files to select targets for their undercover filming in Crooked Britain.
The Crooked Britain team had visualised a covertly shot movie of fake banknotes rolling off a printing press. With access to the stolen police intelligence files, it was more than likely that Guest More and Raven would select a certain printer in Ashton-under-Lyne as their target: the man was listed as previously convicted for forgery and was already under observation by elite police detectives from the National Crime Squad.
Worse still, for the rule of law as expressed in RIPA (the Regulation of Investigative Powers Act 2000), Raven and Guest More deceived the printer into a fake deal to sell his business to a mysterious Mr Big, using two ‘innocent’ men from Liverpool as salesmen. ‘Mr Big’ was played by Guest More’s father, performing a further deception at the printworks which was already under daily surveillance by the National Crime Squad.
BBC movies were used to convict the printers and the salesmen, although the killer cameramen were obviously unavailable to be questioned about their tactics and methods. The sheets of hundred-dollar-bills seen on TV were monochrome, printed on one side only and technically not even counterfeit, since they could never have been accepted as cash.
In a long forgery conspiracy trial at Manchester Crown Court, Judge Bernard Lever found that the Crooked Britain team had broken six of director general Greg Dyke’s guidelines for accuracy, fairness and respect for truth and that the BBC undercover reporters had been “a couple of villains”.
Police intelligence leaks and the BBC
“The BBC and the National Crime Squad were both using the same NCIS intelligence to investigate the same suspects at the same time.”
The book describes how “an avalanche of police intelligence secrets fell into the hands of professional criminals” in Manchester in May 2002 after “someone snatched a briefcase containing a paper printout of the secret documents from a detective inspector on Manchester Piccadilly railway station”.
“Managers at the National Criminal Intelligence Service NCIS, who were handling spies, informers and police officers posted undercover in North West England had neglected a fundamental principle of espionage, that the secrecy surrounding the work of the spies must be total – that one single leak can wreck everything.
“The leaked 82-page ‘intelligence document’ was legally protected by the Official Secrets Act and packed with explosive facts. Even a casual reader could tell which organised crime groups [OCGs] in North West England ‘had been infiltrated by covert officers and covert human intelligence sources [police informers]’. Code names of undercover assets were quoted and ‘all of the targets in each operation had their homes and cars bugged and were under electronic surveillance’.”
The police found one copy of their stolen files in the bedroom of a second millionaire private detective. Stephen Hayes, a former police officer who worked with both the Guest Mores, said his copy of the reports had been pushed through his letter box with a note saying “Read this”. No further action against Hayes followed the raid and Guest More junior told a jury that his “media research” had been based on the leaked NCIS files.
Intelligence-led policing: a British FBI?
In the early years of the long manhunt, Det Chief Insp Phil Jones, head of the Cheshire murder squad, said the Burnt House Farm murder showed “the serious danger of television companies employing convicted criminals as researchers”.
But Atkinson suggests something even more serious, that the leak of the NCIS intelligence reports was the outcome of a number of Westminster government schemes to create a ‘British FBI’. This idea was trialled by prime minister Margaret Thatcher in the aftermath of the Cold War.
Redundant counter-intelligence agents at MI5 and spooks at the GCHQ listening station in Cheltenham could stop spying on the Soviets and start spying on drug dealers and homegrown OCGs. This apparently neat idea became known as ‘intelligence-led policing’ requiring undercover spies and police ghost squads as eventually revealed when the Scotland Yard Special Demonstration Squad was closed down after 40 years undercover in 2008.
Prime Minister Theresa May’s undercover policing inquiry is not due to report until 2023, but a BBC drama series, Sherwood, has already examined some of the consequences of ‘intelligence-led policing’ where spooks, who are often neither police officers nor lawyers, have been breaking laws, especially RIPA 2000.
Investigative train crash
The Woodward Graphics printworks in Ashton-under-Lyne appears to have been the scene of a three-way ‘investigative train crash’ in 2002, much of it recorded on hidden cameras belonging to both the BBC and the police.
NCIS and the National Crime Squad, both no longer in existence, were assisting the United States Secret Service into finding the source of forged American one-hundred-dollar bills, while the criminals Guest More and Raven were simultaneously using leaked police secrets to construct movies for the BBC. Paul Atkinson says this “doomed the cannabis grower Brian Waters to a dreadful death and condemned at least two innocent men in Liverpool to long prison sentence”.
Undercover Killers at the BBC
One reviewer of the book warned readers that “if the interplay between cops, forgers, private eyes, journos, judges and killers begins to remind you of Line of Duty, Spiral or The Wire, it will be important to remember that everything you’ll find in Undercover Killers at the BBC is the real thing”.
“Neither James Raven nor Christopher Guest More was working for the BBC at the time of these offences. With regard to the past, more than fifteen years ago a BBC undercover investigation exposed serious crime and led directly to the conviction and sentencing of an international gang.”
Publication of Undercover Killers at the BBC on 2 August prompted this online comment:
Undercover Killers at the BBC, by Paul Atkinson, ISBN 978-1-3999-3017-8, was published by Bastion Books UK on 2 August and is available in Kindle or paperback for £8.40 via Amazon Books