updated 3/4/2006 9:58:47 PM ET 2006-03-05T02:58:47

The only German spy to evade capture in Britain in World War II first surfaced in London in 1940 and set off a panicked search amid fears he was an advance man for a Nazi invasion, newly released security service documents show.

Wilhelm Morz had operated first in Czechoslovakia, followed by Holland, and both countries fell to German forces not long after he vanished, according to previously classified documents.

Then in June 1940, the 34-year-old Morz was spotted in Britain for the first time — on Regent Street in central London.

Denmark, Norway, France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands had by then already fallen to Adolf Hitler. Winston Churchill became the British prime minister in May 1940 and many assumed Britain would be the next to fall. The Battle of Britain occurred in July, and in August, Hitler declared a blockade on the British Isles and began air raids on central London.

The Security Service began a frenzied hunt for Morz, circulating his photo to police across Britain, according to the documents released by Britain’s National Archives under the Freedom of Information Act.

‘Dangerous double-crosser’
A 1939 Secret Intelligence Service report said Morz was suspected of being involved in the disappearance of British agents. The document also says he is “well-known to our organization as a very dangerous double-crosser.”

Police searched hotels, nightclubs and bars in London where Morz, a ladies’ man, was believed seen. They interviewed women who had been spotted talking to the Gestapo agent.

The Secret Service, one file shows, was infuriated to discover it had allowed one woman, Dawn Karland, to depart without shadowing her.

On Sept. 4, 1940, a letter on the stationery of the Metropolitan Police shows the urgency Britain’s domestic spy agency M I5 attached to the capture of Morz.

“His appearance in London was thought to be significantly connected with the making of arrangements for the landing of enemy troops here and the MI5 asked that every possible effort be made immediately to locate and arrest this man,” the letter says.

The files contain numerous reports of Morz being sighted. On each occasion the Gestapo agent evaded capture.

“The police have detained and questioned about a dozen people in the belief that they had caught him. Nevertheless if he is here, he still evades us. ... He is in fact one of the cleverest secret agents the Gestapo has,” a September 1940 document says.

Fate unknown
By 1941, British agents conclude that he had evaded capture and left Britain, but the search for the Gestapo agent, and comments about him, continue in bits and pieces as late as 1955.

No one in Britain seems to know what happened to Morz, and Germany’s current governments do not comment on such cases.

An April 28, 1955, a letter in the Secret Service files from a man identified only as J. Russell King suggests the spy may have returned home.

“We spent some months looking for this man in 1939, when he was supposed to have visited the U.K. He was, of course, a known German agent. We did not find him and have had no information on him since that time.”

But King quotes a letter to the editor in a German daily on March 30 saying Wilhelm Morz was living in Frankfurt.

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