Belfast Telegraph

Only living relative of NI-born superspy Harold 'Lee' Tracey heartbroken as he’s located a week after funeral

Samuel's uncle Harold ‘Lee’ Tracey in his RAF days
Samuel's uncle Harold ‘Lee’ Tracey in his RAF days
Samuel Brooks
Spook: Harold ‘Lee’ Tracey in 1999 demonstrating listening devices
The funeral for the MI6 spy
Leona O'Neill

By Leona O'Neill

A long-lost nephew of a 93-year-old British superspy - buried with full military honours after he died seemingly with no next of kin - has been found.

Former RAF man Harold 'Lee' Tracey, who was originally from Co Tyrone, died in Shropshire in May.

After a search for family members proved unsuccessful, it was feared that the pensioner would have no one at his funeral.

However, the Shrewsbury RAF Association stepped in and Mr Tracey was given a hero's send-off with over 250 military veterans standing in salute of the man who invented some of the top surveillance equipment used today. Now, a family member has been found.

Samuel Brooks said he was told a week after the funeral that he was the sole heir to the estate of his long-lost uncle.

The two had last met when Samuel was just a boy of eight.

Back then Mr Tracey - who was working as a spy for MI6 - promised he would take him from the children's home he was in to come and live with him and his wife Maria.

"I was born in Nottingham," explained Samuel. "My father was a street fighter, he fought with his fists for money. He was violent, he was bad to my mum.

"He set up home with another woman who had kids so my dad put me in a children's home.

"When I was in the children's home I would watch the other kids go out with their parents and no one ever came to visit me. Then all of a sudden I got a visit from Lee, who told me he was my uncle. He was along with his wife and they started taking me out on day trips. I was around eight.

"I remember we used to go out on a boat on the River Trent. He was a brilliant man, so intelligent and interesting to talk to. I loved when they came to see me.

"The visits went on for a long time and I distinctly remember Lee saying to me: 'Sammy, I'm taking you out of here'. Because he was raised in an orphanage too.

"Then my father found out that he had been coming to see me and he stopped it all. I never saw Lee again."

Mr Tracey had a long and mysterious life as a secretive MI6 operative. As part of his work he would covertly bug hotel rooms, diplomats' shoes, plants and everyday items like pens on politicians' desks. For many years Lee stole secrets directly from the mouths of Britain's perceived enemies.

In later years he developed much of the technology used in today's surveillance operations, including hi-tech bugging equipment and police bodycams.

Samuel added: "I didn't have any inkling about Lee's spy work.

"As an eight-year-old boy, even without knowing all that stuff, I was looking at him and I thought he was brilliant. If Lee had managed to get me out of that children's home things would have been so different. I would have been just like him. I love inventing stuff. What I do now to pass my time is get a big old van from the scrapyard and do all the repairs, weld it and turn it into a campervan.

"I have won awards for them. I love making things too, like him."

Samuel said he was heartbroken to find out that his uncle, who had once given him his only ray of hope while he was living in a children's home, had passed away. "We weren't aware that he had died," Samuel said.

"The first I heard about it was I got a knock at the door two weeks ago. It was a man who said he was from heir hunters Finders International. He explained everything about how Lee had died and that I was his only surviving relative.

"It was out of the blue. I hadn't thought about that time in my life in many years. All the memories came flooding back of the children's home and Lee coming to visit. It brought back some bad memories, but also nice ones of the days I went out along with Lee and his wife."

Samuel said he wants people to know that Mr Tracey "does have a family".

"He has got me," he added. "What I intend to do is get Lee's ashes, find out where his wife is buried and I want to put them both together. That would be nice.

"We don't know what will happen now. I have been notified that I am the only heir. All his innovations, his books, his designs, everything will be left to me, I think.

"Not being there at the funeral has left me heartbroken.

"If I had known where he was I would have been there every day with him. He could have come and lived with me and my wife here and we would have looked after him because he gave me hope and a little joy when I had none in that children's home. And that meant so much to me.

"I would have wanted to have repaid him for doing that."

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph