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Rendlesham: Still no 'smoking gun' in latest UFO files

PUBLISHED: 06:00 11 August 2011

Press cuttings from the incident in 1980

Press cuttings from the incident in 1980

Archant

Previously unreleased photographs and Governmental disclosures relating to the Rendlesham UFO incident have been made public for the first time.

The latest batch of hitherto classified Ministry of Defence (MoD) files includes grainy black and white pictures, taken several days after the sightings in 1981 by USAF airmen at RAF Woodbridge, showing a police officer inspecting the supposed landing site in Rendlesham Forest.

Among stacks of memos and correspondence between military staff and ministers, is a series of parliamentary questions tabled between 1998 and 2001 by retired Chief of Defence Staff, the late Lord Hill-Norton, on aspects of the Rendlesham UFO incident - often described as Britain’s Roswell.

UFO expert Nick Pope, who spent three years investigating sightings for the MoD and has written extensively on Rendlesham, said his employers had been frustrated by Lord Hill-Norton, whom they once described as being seen as “a champion of the case”. Mr Pope continued: “It was clear this incident was of defence significance and people like Lord Hill-Norton were prepared to say the MoD’s policy and public stance didn’t stand up to scrutiny.

“Part of the embarrassment for the MoD was that no one cordoned the area off or carried out a thorough investigation of the scene. This smacks of incompetence rather than cover-up.

“The Americans didn’t want to touch it because it had happened outside the base, and weeks had elapsed before it arrived with the MoD.”

The newly released documents also include a letter from a Suffolk police inspector to author Georgina Bruni, dated 28 July 1999, in which he describes his officer’s role in the incident as “minimal” and says witness testimony had been “substantially embellished” as years passed. The letter says the three PCs called to the scene on December 26, 1980 were unimpressed by what they saw and remain “unconvinced [the] occurrence was genuine”. The officer said the area was swept by powerful beams from the Orfordness lighthouse and “I know from personal experience that at night, in certain weather and cloud conditions, these beams were very pronounced and caused strange visual effects.”

Mr Pope said the MoD used these alternative theories to its advantage, adding: “My view of Rendlesham was always clear that, though we don’t know exactly what happened, it was not the lighthouse or a police car’s lights. But these things were found useful for the MoD policy of always down-playing things.

“There were dogfights between believers and sceptics within the ministry - and Rendlesham became the battlefield.

“The MoD press office always deliberately used phrases like “little green men” and “flying saucer” as part of its media strategy to try and either kill or spin a story.

“The MoD was not pleased and seized upon the lighthouse theory. Even though a forester had only put it out as a possibility, the MoD spun it as a certainty.”

Mr Pope, and his decision to publish a book about his experiences, is himself mentioned in the new documents, which suggest his writing may have led to an increase in letters and sighting reports made to MoD “from 373 in 1995 to 609 in 1996.”

He admits that the newly publicised files are unlikely to alter the opinions of either sceptics or believers, saying: “It has been a while since I worked in that role but I think there are a few files yet to see the light of day and some that have been destroyed.

“Some have been released but have extracts blacked out - and all this is unlikely to change minds. The lack of spaceship in a hanger ‘smoking gun’ will keep sceptics sceptical.

“But there are reasons for information to be withheld. If conspiracy theorist think that under the black ink there are stories of crashed ships and aliens, they are sadly mistaken. It’s more likely to be about military radar capability, for example.”

Interestingly, among the 34 new files released today, MoD officials admit that lack of funds and “higher priorities” had prevented a full-scale study of the thousands of UFO reports they had received since the Second World War.

A secret four-volume report concluded in 2000 that UFOs did not pose a threat, eventually leading to the closure of the MoD desk in 2009.

The National Archives’ eighth batch of UFO files includes 9,000 pages containing some extraordinary accounts of sightings up and down the UK between 1987 and 2007:

In 2003, a mother and daughter reported seeing “worm-shaped” UFOs over East Dulwich in London. According to testimony they later gave to the MoD’s UFO desk, the two police constables who attended the scene were joined by two men dressed in “space suits and dark glasses who called themselves “Mork and Mindy”. The woman complained of being made “to look foolish”.

Other highlights from the files include mysterious lights seen moving over the Pyramid Stage at the 2003 Glastonbury Festival, UFOs spotted by the pilot and passengers of an aircraft over the Channel Islands in 2007, and F-16s scrambled to intercept UFOs over Belgium in 1990.

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