When the state of Israel was being formed after the Second World War, British troops were among peacekeepers attempting to maintain law and order in Palestine, their role bringing them into constant conflict with a Jewish terrorist organisation known as the Stern Gang.
In May 1947 one of the gang’s members, Alexander Rubowitz, vanished from his home in Jerusalem. He was known to have been under investigation by British undercover agents led by Captain Roy Farran. The agents were suspected of being behind Rubowitz’s disappearance, and Farran was tried for his murder and acquitted.
A much-decorated Commando war hero, he later returned to his parents’ home near Wolverhampton. But before his departure from Palestine posters appeared throughout Tel Aviv warning: “Captain Farran’s time will come. We shall go after him to the end of the world.”
In late April 1948 the captain went to Scotland on holiday. He was still there on MAY 3rd when a package addressed to him arrived at the Farran family’s home. It had been posted in the East End of London, and it appeared to contain a book. Such a parcel was expected, as Captain Farran’s book Winged Dagger was about to be published. Thinking the package contained an advance copy, his 26-year-old brother Rex opened it.
There was a blinding flash and an explosion blew out the room’s windows. Pieces of Rex Farran’s flesh hung like stalactites from the smoke-blackened ceiling, and he died shortly afterwards in hospital.
The next day a British news agency in Paris received a phone call from a man claiming to be a member of the Stern Gang. He said they had sent the letter-bomb “to punish Farran for the murder of a Jewish youth.”
Scotland Yard launched a major investigation which spread to the Continent, but the killers were never caught.