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Former MI5 Double Agent Dies From Alcohol Intoxication

A former MI5 double agent died from alcohol intoxication, 25 years after he was jailed for trying to pass secrets to Russia, a coroner’s court heard.

Michael Bettaney, 68, was found dead at his home in Ware, Hertfordshire, by his partner on 16 August 2018. He was convicted of 10 crimes under the Official Secrets Act at the Old Bailey in 1984 for photographing secret documents for the KGB.

Senior coroner Geoffrey Sullivan said Bettaney had battled alcoholism.

The former spy had been drinking rum in the sitting room when his partner last saw him on the morning of his death, the court heard. He was found slumped next to a chair at 18:45 GMT that day. A Hertfordshire Constabulary investigation took place but found there were no suspicious circumstances.

In 1982, Bettaney was said to have copied classified information which he intended to pass to the KGB. He was arrested the day before he planned to hand over the information in Vienna. Bettaney was caught after a British agent in Moscow informed MI5 it had a traitor in its midst. He was jailed for 23 years in 1984 and released on parole in 1998.