International Hit Man's True Identity A Mystery

It's a tale worthy of a spy novel: a British man may have appropriated the name of a dead Israeli soldier and been involved in a plot to kill a Palestinian leader. Host Guy Raz speaks with reporter Alistair MacDonald of the Wall Street Journal, who's been following the complicated tale of an international hit man who may — or may not — be named Christopher Lockwood.

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GUY RAZ, host:

Earlier this year, investigators in Dubai seem to be closing in on a suspect who may have been part of that mysterious operation to kill a top Hamas official.

Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was found dead in his hotel room in Dubai, and it quickly became clear that he was killed. By whom, no one can prove for sure. But many fingers have been pointing at Israel.

Now the investigators reviewed hundreds of hours of security camera footage, and they managed to link one of the suspects, a white-haired man in his early 60s, to a name: Christopher Lockwood. That's the name that was on his passport.

Police in France tracked down the cell phone that belonged to him, and in Britain, detectives found his address. But Lockwood never turned up.

The Wall Street Journal has been investigating the story, and one of its reporters, Alistair MacDonald, explains what happened next.

Mr. ALISTAIR MacDONALD (Reporter, The Wall Street Journal): That passport, British police have discovered, the name had been changed for a Yehuda Lustig. Yehuda Lustig was traced back to being born in Glasgow in the 1940s. But interestingly - and it was actually us who turned up this fact, The Wall Street Journal, he died in the Yom Kippur War in 1973 in the Sinai Peninsula.

RAZ: So Christopher Lockwood actually had changed his name from Yehuda Lustig, who was a person who had been dead since 1973.

Mr. MacDONALD: Yeah. So either the ID of a fallen Israeli soldier was copied or Yehuda Lustig is still alive and changed his name now, given the responses of relatives since then, and given the fact that it makes little sense for Yehuda Lustig to change his name and pretend he's dead, you can only assume that his ID was cloned.

RAZ: Now the British police staked out Christopher Lockwood's home. They got a London address. And they watched him. What happened?

Mr. MacDONALD: Well, he didn't show up. And the British police think that he's not going to show up. They've concluded he's not going to come out. And if he does, they say they'll arrest him.

But what they did find is that he didn't really leave many traces of himself. There was no public health records or tax information. He never paid a TV license fee, which is mandatory in Britain if you own a set. So either this guy is the tightest man in the world or he just didn't spend much time there.

RAZ: Clearly, he is involved in intelligence in some way. Let's just assume that he is probably a spy. Was he involved in the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh?

Mr. MacDONALD: Well, our sources indicate that he operates as a sort of a fix-it guy, allegedly for Mossad in the U.K. and in France. He was a sort of a middleman who would facilitate things for them. We believe that he wasn't involved in the actual assassination.

RAZ: Now more than 40 passports were used for apparently as many as 33 different people, 19 of them were British passports.

Mr. MacDONALD: That's right.

RAZ: Two suspects apparently fled to the U.S.

Mr. MacDONALD: Yes, that's right.

RAZ: And you found this out.

Mr. MacDONALD: Yes. My colleague found - I mean, we had a number of sources and also we saw documentary evidence related to the case that suggests that these two did pass through U.S. immigration.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has since said that it doesn't have records of these suspects in its system. But as I say, we were obviously confident of our source. We're going to have to put it in the story.

RAZ: Based on your investigation, does it seem pretty hard not to conclude that the Israeli Mossad was involved in this operation?

Mr. MacDONALD: I mean, I have to be careful here. Obviously, there hasn't been a trial yet and there hasn't been a prosecution, but...

RAZ: But the Israelis have neither denied nor confirmed this? They don't acknowledge this?

Mr. MacDONALD: The Israelis have said basically there's no evidence linking them to it.

Now, if you take a look at the British, for instance, who are quite a close ally to Israel, they have all but accused Mossad of that. I mean, they threw out a member of the Israeli diplomatic team in London who (unintelligible) was Mossad. And they've, in Parliament, accused the Israelis of cloning British passports, likewise of the Irish, likewise of the Australians. I think the French have. So all these countries are allies of Israel have all but accused Mossad of doing that.

RAZ: That's Alistair MacDonald with The Wall Street Journal.

Alistair, thank you so much.

Mr. MacDONALD: Thanks a lot.

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