I wrote this article a wee while back and it features on the now defunct Lothian and Borders Police website so I thought it would be nice to preserve it.
It’s a tale right out off John Buchan’s 39 Steps, Buchan’s hero was Hannay, Edinburgh City Police had Merrielees.
On 30th September, 1940, a telephone message was received from Lieutenant Mair of the Scottish Regional Security Office to the affect that a man and a woman, believed to be German agents, had been put ashore off the Buckie coast that day. They had been arrested and were than on their way to London under armed escort.
When arrested, they had various items in their possession including a wireless set, £390 of money, National Registration Cards and sidearms.
A dinghy, (below) which would hold four people, was found on the beach nearby . The message also stated that a man, who could not be described, but wearing a wet coat, left by train via Aberdeen, due in Edinburgh (Waverley) at 4.30p.m. and that he may also have be an enemy agent.
He was carrying two heavy suitcases and was thought to be armed. The message further asked that immediate enquiry be made at all likely places for this man.
All railway stations and other likely places were checked, and a message circulated throughout the surrounding districts. About 6p.m. a case was traced in the Left Luggage Office in the East End, Waverley Station. The case was damp and had sand sticking to it.
The Porter who had attended to the owner of this case said that he had come off the Aberdeen train, spoke with a foreign accent, and that he stated he would return about 9p.m. to uplift the case.
The case was searched by C.I.D. officers and found to contain a complete transmitting set and articles of clothing.
The Porter who had attended to the owner of this case said that he had come off the Aberdeen train, spoke with a foreign accent, and that he stated he would return about 9p.m. to uplift the case. The case was searched by Officers of the C.I.D. and was found to contain a complete transmitting set and articles of clothing.
A watch was kept therefore on the Left Luggage Office. The Detective Superintendent, William Merrielees, borrowed a porter’s uniform, this enabled him to remain close to the counter where the luggage was uplifted.
At 8.58 p.m. Walti was seen coming from the Waverley Steps and continued to the Bookstall, some 20 yards from the Left Luggage Office. He stood there for several minutes, keeping observation on the Office, and when he saw the same porter who had attended to him personally, he walked towards the Office.
The porter asked him if he wanted his case, and Walti said that he did. At which point Detective Superintendent Merrielees, the Detective Lieutenant and other Officers of the C.I.D arrested him.
Walti made an effort to resist, but was overpowered whilst in the act of trying to put his hand into his left-hand trouser pocket. He was searched, and a Mauser automatic pistol was found in his possession.
Immediately after his arrest ,Walti stated “I am not a German, I am Swiss”.
Werner Walti and Karl Drucke were executed at Wandsworth Prison on August 6th 1941. Mystery shrouds the fate of their co-accused Vera Eriksen, she did not appear for trial and no explanation was ever given of her whereabouts. She was jailed until the end of the war, when she was repatriated to Germany where she disappeared without trace.
Willie Merrilees went on to become the Chief Constable of Lothian and Peebles Constabulary from 1950 to 1968, one of the longest serving Chief Constables in the Scottish Police.