I have already indicated the 'trigger' that set me on the road writing Alpha to Omega. I suppose up to that point, I had been pretty naive about the relationship between Universities (and other educational establishments) and the Security Services. Like 99% of the population!
I was, of course, aware of the likes of soviet spies such as Burgess, Philby, Blunt et al (recruited in the 1930s while at University) and had read the groundbreaking Spy Catcher book. John le Carre novels also constituted bedtime reading. What I was unprepared for was the extent to which the tentacles of the Security Services (not just British) pervaded Higher Education. During my first year teaching in Oxford, my ignorance remained undisturbed. Then circumstances changed quite dramatically and a somewhat bizarre picture began to emerge. It was rather like an artist painting a landscape. At the beginning, there was just a 'colour wash' of information. But as the years wore on, so the content of the picture became much clearer. Anyone, however, who has read or knows anything about the activities of the Security Services will know that for every clear picture, there is another hidden behind it.
If you want recent proof of this, just look at the murder of Gareth Williams in 2010. 'On loan' (so the story goes) from GCHQ in Cheltenham to MI6 headquarters in London, he was found dead inside a padlocked holdall in his flat in central London. The view of the police who discovered his body, was that it was a neat job. This is police-speak for a professional killing. But within a few days, stories started to circulate about 'weird sex practices that had gone wrong'; his employers or the powers that be had decided to paint another picture, to draw attention away from the sensitive nature of the case.
And how did Gareth Williams come to be working for MI6? Certainly not by accident! I think it is unlikely (though not impossible) that he was recruited while undertaking his first degree at Bangor University in North Wales. I have little doubt that he was 'talent spotted' while studying in Manchester for his PhD, although he may not have been aware of it; at least not until the latter stages. His move to St Catharine's College, Cambridge for post-doctoral studies was probably the pivotal moment. There he would have been nurtured and his recruitment finalised. (A number of the Cambridge colleges, as well as Oxford, have a long history in this respect) Moving him to GCHQ, given his undoubted talents, was the obvious choice. The moment MI6 brought him to London and installed him in one of their 'safe houses' - in this case, 36, Alderney Street - was the final confirmation of his status.