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Airey Neave

Airey Middleton Sheffield Neave (January 23, 1916 - March 30, 1979) was a British Conservative MP for Abingdon and a prominent politician. He was killed when a mercury-tilt based car bomb exploded under his car as he drove out of the Palace of Westminster car park. Both the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) and the Provisional IRA claimed responsibility for the killing, but police believed the former.

Neave was educated at Eton College and went on to study law at Merton College, Oxford. He also joined the Territorial Army and became an officer in the regular army at the beginning of World War II. He was sent to France in February 1940 as part of a searchlight regiment. He was wounded and captured by the Germans in Calais on May 23, 1940. He was imprisoned at Oflag IX near Spangenberg and in February 1941 moved to Stalag XXa near Torn in Poland. In April 1941 he escaped from Thorn with Norman Forbes. They were captured near Itow while tryng to enter Soviet-controlled Poland and were briefly in the hands of the Gestapo. In May they were both sent to Colditz Castle.

Neave made an attempt to escape from Colditz in August 1941, but his very poor German uniform disguise led to him being captured while still within the castle. He tried again on January 5, 1942, again in disguise, together with Dutch officer Toni Luteyn. Better uniforms and escape route got them out of the prison and by train and on foot they made it to Switzerland via Leipzig, Ulm and Singen by January 9. He returned to England through France, Spain and Gibraltar. He was the first British officer to make a "home run" from Colditz. He was later recruited as an intelligence agent for MI9. He also served with the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, investigating Krupp. He wrote several books about his war experiences.

Neave became a member of parliament in 1951, but his career was held back by a heart attack he suffered in 1959. Said to have master-minded Margaret Thatcher's campaign for the Conservative Party leadership in 1975, at a time when he allegedly supported covert "civil defence" actions against Harold Wilson's Labour government, Neave was rewarded with the post of head of her private office. He was then appointed shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and was poised to attain the equivalent Cabinet position. He was killed a few weeks before the general election which brought Margaret Thatcher to power as prime minister. His wife Diana was subsequently elevated to the House of Lords as Baroness Airey of Abingdon .


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