Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Real James Bond

The Trust

Pepita & Reilly, married
Pepita & Reilly, married

Reilly moved to Prague and started a new business selling patent medicines, as he had when he was younger. His new business venture failed within a relatively short period of time, as did his relationship with Carryll. Such a stream of bad luck would make most men's world crumble but not Reilly's.

In December 1922 Reilly was introduced to a new woman, a wealthy South American beauty named Pepita. The two immediately fell in love with one another and within a week of their meeting they became engaged. In May of the following year, Reilly ceremoniously sealed his 3rd and last bigamous marriage. The couple remained together for only two short years before the "Trust" lured Reilly away forever.

KGB HQ Moscow
KGB HQ Moscow

The Trust was an operation set up by the OGPU, a Soviet military intelligence service and the forerunner to the KGB, to lure political dissidents back to Russia by posing as an anti-Bolshevik group. Those working for the Trust were specifically interested in Boris Savinkov and Sidney Reilly. In January 1924, they tried to kidnap Reilly and take him back to Russia, where he faced a death sentence but were unsuccessful. However, they did manage to capture Boris, who was later tried and imprisoned.

Even though Reilly escaped the Trust the first time, his luck would soon run out. OGPU agents posing as anti-Bolsheviks tried again to lure Reilly back into Russia and in the fall of 1925 they finally succeeded. The moment he crossed the border he was immediately arrested and locked up in Lubyanka Prison, where Boris was also incarcerated.

Sidney Reilly, older
Sidney Reilly, older

During numerous interrogations, they tried to break him but Reilly was stubborn and provided them with little useful information. Soon after Reilly's imprisonment, Stalin personally ordered his execution. On November 5, 1925, he was driven to the Sokoliniki district, where guards often took him for exercise because he was considered a special prisoner with special privileges. Yet, this time he wasn't going for one of his many walks.

That evening, OGPU agent Grigory Feduleev, who was placed in charge of the execution party and three other officers, drove with Reilly in the direction of Bogorodsk. At some point they stopped the car to allegedly fix a mechanical problem with the vehicle. Reilly was allowed to get out of the car to stretch his legs. Boris Gudz, a former member of the Trust, was quoted in The Guardian saying that Reilly walked 30-40 paces from the car before he was shot to death. Afterwards, his body was then taken to a medical unit, where he was thoroughly examined and photographed before being buried in a pit located on the prison's grounds.

Sidney Reilly's body
Sidney Reilly's body

The British government knew that Reilly must have been killed but had no evidence to prove that his execution had taken place. The lack of evidence proving his death led to rumors that he might be alive and may have even escaped from prison. Even later when the Russian government released the photos of Reilly taken after his death, they were met with suspicion. Some believed that the photos were not of Reilly but rather of someone else. It is only recently that this theory was laid to rest. Years after his death, Reilly, often referred to as the "Ace of Spies," has become a legendary figure. In many ways, he continues to live on in literature, films and in the imagination.

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