Sunday, November 7, 2010


A nuclear physicist of Italian origin based at the British Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell, Professor Martelli was arrested in April 1963 and charged with breaches of the Official Secrets Act. He was acquitted at his trial because he demonstrated that he had no security clearance and therefore no access to classified information, and his possession of espionage paraphernalia was no crime. He acknowledged  clandestine meetings with a Soviet intelligence officer, but insisted that he had been gathering evidence with which to entrap the KGB man. The case was an important defeat for MI5 and showed the importance of obtaining a confession from suspects in espionage cases. Martelli was later appointed professor of physics at the University of Southampton.