The day John Daniell turned 10, his mum told him she had been a spy.

Before long he had a new step-dad who was an active SIS agent, in the midst of the Cold War. Nearly 40 years later, John and his friend investigative journalist Guyon Espiner try to discover the truth behind a story John’s step-dad told him before he died; a story of a joint SIS-MI6 raid on the Czechoslovakian embassy in Wellington to steal codes.

Watch the trailer:

You can listen to the podcast here, or through your favourite podcast app, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher or via RSS feed.

Episode 2 drops at 7am on Tuesday, 9 June.

  • 01

    One Night in Wadestown

    On his 10th birthday, John Daniell’s mum tells him she used to work for the SIS. But that’s just the start of the secrets...

  • Kit Bennetts

    Kit Bennetts portrait

    Kit Bennetts was a former SIS officer and key player in the surveillance and arrest of Dr William Sutch in 1974. He was an anonymous witness - “Mr S” - at Sutch’s trial in 1975, but his real identity was unmasked by Brian Edwards on Radio Windy.

    In 2006, Spy, his account of the Sutch case was published.

    He left the SIS in the mid-1980s, and went on to work for another country’s intelligence agency and Queensland Police.

    He is currently an academic at Southern Cross University in Australia.

  • M*

    G02 M
    M portrait

    M is John Daniell’s mum and a former SIS officer. She was the partner of Jim Stewart, an SIS officer. She left the Service in 1971.

  • Jim Stewart*

    G03 Jim_Stewart
    Jim Stewart portrait

    Jim Stewart was an SIS officer from the 1970s to the mid-1990s. He was previously a radio operator on merchant vessels and a TV repair man.

    An electronics expert, he specialised in listening devices. He worked with the SIS operations team on the Sutch case, the Rainbow Warrior etc.

    Stewart was part of the joint SIS-MI6 team on the Czech embassy raid. He was John Daniell’s step-father and M’s partner. He passed away in 2005.

  • Ben*

    G04 Ben
    Ben portrait

    A former head of the SIS operations team, he led NZ at the end of the SIS-MI6 raid on the Czech embassy.

  • Gerald Hensley

    G05 Gerald_Hensley
    Gerald Hensley portrait

    Gerald Hensley was a former diplomat and head of the prime minister’s department under Sir Robert Muldoon and David Lange. He was the coordinator of domestic and external security from 1987 to 1989 and the secretary of defence from 1991 to 1999.

  • Oleg Gordievsky

    G06 Oleg_Gordievsky
    Oleg Gordievsky portrait

    Oleg Gordievsky was a KGB colonel turned double agent for MI6. He defected to Britain in 1985.

    Gordievsky was credited with a key role in averting nuclear war in the Able Archer 83 exercise.

    He came to New Zealand four times from 1986, where he briefed prime minister David Lange on Russian subversion and penetration of the Labour Party.

  • Dr William Sutch

    G07 Dr_William_Sutch
    Dr Willilam Sutch portrait

    Dr William Sutch was a New Zealand economist, intellectual and senior civil servant. He was identified in the Mitrokhin archive as having been recruited to the KGB in 1950.

    He retired from his position as secretary of industries and commerce in 1965 but retained close ties to power.

    He was arrested meeting KGB agent Dmitri Razgovorov in Wellington in 1974, tried under the Official Secrets Act and found not guilty in 1975. He passed away later that year.

  • Helen Clark

    G08 Helen Clark
    Helen Clark portrait

    Helen Clark was the prime minister of New Zealand and the minister responsible for the SIS from 1999-2008. She was first elected as a Labour MP in 1981, and was considered to be on Labour’s left wing and a strong proponent of the nuclear free issue.

    A Cabinet minister in the Lange government from 1987, she was also deputy prime minister from 1989-90 under Geoffrey Palmer and Mike Moore. She went on to head the United Nations Development Programme from 2009 to 2017.

  • Sir Geoffrey Palmer

    G09 Sir Geoffrey Palmer
    Sir Geoffrey Palmer portrait

    Sir Geoffrey Palmer was the prime minister of New Zealand and minister for the SIS from 1989 to 1990 and the deputy prime minister, attorney general and justice minister from 1984-1989.

    He is the author of Unbridled Power, a critique of New Zealand government and is currently a law professor at Victoria University of Wellington. He has been sitting as a member of the inquiry into Operation Burnham, looking at the conduct of the New Zealand Defence Force in Afghanistan.

  • David Lange

    G10 David_Lange
    David Lange portrait

    David Lange was New Zealand prime minister and minister for the SIS from 1984 to 1989. He signed off on the Czech Embassy and other raids according to his chief of staff Gerald Hensley. He passed away in 2005.

  • Rouben Azizian

    G11 Rouben_Azizian
    Rouben Azizian portrait

    Professor Rouben Azizian was the former Soviet and then (post-1991 dissolution of USSR) Russian diplomat, the deputy ambassador for USSR then Russia to New Zealand from 1991 to 1994.

    He has worked as an academic in NZ and the US since 1994, specialising in international diplomacy and security.

    He is currently professor and director of Massey University Centre for Defence and Security Studies.

  • Sir Bruce Ferguson

    G12 Sir_Bruce_Ferguson
    Sir Bruce Ferguson portrait

    Sir Bruce Ferguson is a former RNZAF officer, chief of Defence Force (2001-2006) and head of Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) (2006-2011).

  • Richard Northey

    G13 Richard_Northey
    Richard Northey portrait

    Richard Northey is a former Labour MP (1984-1990 and 1993-1996), and former president of NZ Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and Citizens Association for Racial Equality (CARE).

    He is a member and one-time chair of the justice select committee, which had an oversight role of the SIS.

  • Paul Buchanan

    G14 Paul_Buchanan
    Paul Buchanan portrait

    Paul Buchanan is a f​ormer US intelligence and defence policy analyst and academic. He specialises in matters of security and international politics and currently runs a New Zealand-based strategic assessment consultancy.

  • Rory Cormac

    G15 Rory_Cormac
    Rory Cormac portrait

    Rory Cormac is professor of international relations at the UK’s University of Nottingham. He specialises in covert action and national security and intelligence.

    He is the author of Disrupt and Deny:​ ​Spies, Special Forces, and the Secret Pursuit of British Foreign Policy​.

  • John Daniell

    G16 John_Daniell
    John Daniell portrait

    John Daniell is a freelance journalist, writer and podcast producer. He is the son of M and the step-son of Jim Stewart.

  • Guyon Espiner

    G17 Guyon_Espiner
    Guyon portrait

    Guyon Espiner is an investigative journalist at RNZ, who has more than 25 years’ experience across radio, TV and print. He is a former political editor of TVNZ and a former host of RNZ’s Morning Report. He presented and co-produced The 9th Floor, a podcast and video series of interviews with five former New Zealand prime ministers, which was released as a book in 2017.

The day John Daniell turned 10, his mum told him she had been a spy.

Before long he had a new step-dad who was an active SIS agent, in the midst of the Cold War. Nearly 40 years later, John and his friend investigative journalist Guyon Espiner try to discover the truth behind a story John’s step-dad told him before he died; a story of a joint SIS-MI6 raid on the Czechoslovakian embassy in Wellington to steal codes.

Watch the trailer:

You can listen to the podcast here, or through your favourite podcast app, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify or via RSS feed.

Episode 2 drops at 7am on Tuesday 9 June.

  • 01

    One Night in Wadestown

    On his 10th birthday, John Daniell’s mum tells him she used to work for the SIS. But that’s just the start of the secrets...

  • Kit Bennetts

    Kit Bennetts portrait

    Kit Bennetts was a former SIS officer and key player in the surveillance and arrest of Dr William Sutch in 1974. He was an anonymous witness - “Mr S” - at Sutch’s trial in 1975, but his real identity was unmasked by Brian Edwards on Radio Windy.

    In 2006, Spy, his account of the Sutch case was published.

    He left the SIS in the mid-1980s, and went on to work for another country’s intelligence agency and Queensland Police.

    He is currently an academic at Southern Cross University in Australia.

  • M*

    G02 M
    M portrait

    M is John Daniell’s mum and a former SIS officer. She was the partner of Jim Stewart, an SIS officer. She left the Service in 1971.

  • Jim Stewart*

    G03 Jim_Stewart
    Jim Stewart portrait

    Jim Stewart was an SIS officer from the 1970s to the mid-1990s. He was previously a radio operator on merchant vessels and a TV repair man.

    An electronics expert, he specialised in listening devices. He worked with the SIS operations team on the Sutch case, the Rainbow Warrior etc.

    Stewart was part of the joint SIS-MI6 team on the Czech embassy raid. He was John Daniell’s step-father and M’s partner. He passed away in 2005.

  • Ben*

    G04 Ben
    Ben portrait

    A former head of the SIS operations team, he led NZ at the end of the SIS-MI6 raid on the Czech embassy.

  • Gerald Hensley

    G05 Gerald_Hensley
    Gerald Hensley portrait

    Gerald Hensley was a former diplomat and head of the prime minister’s department under Sir Robert Muldoon and David Lange. He was the coordinator of Domestic and External Security from 1987 to 1989 and the secretary of defence from 1991 to 1999.

  • Oleg Gordievsky

    G06 Oleg_Gordievsky
    Oleg Gordievsky portrait

    Oleg Gordievsky was a KGB colonel turned double agent for MI6. He defected to Britain in 1985.

    Gordievsky was credited with a key role in averting nuclear war in the Able Archer 83 exercise.

    He came to New Zealand four times from 1986, where he briefed prime minister David Lange on Russian subversion and penetration of the Labour Party.

  • Dr William Sutch

    G07 Dr_William_Sutch
    Dr Willilam Sutch portrait

    Dr William Sutch was a New Zealand economist, intellectual and senior civil servant. He was identified in the Mitrokhin archive as having been recruited to the KGB in 1950.

    He retired from his position as secretary of industries and commerce in 1965 but retained close ties to power.

    He was arrested meeting KGB agent Dmitri Razgovorov in Wellington in 1974, tried under the Official Secrets Act and found not guilty in 1975. He passed away later that year.

  • Helen Clark

    G08 Helen Clark
    Helen Clark portrait

    Helen Clark was the prime minister of New Zealand and the minister responsible for the SIS from 1999-2008. She was first elected as a Labour MP in 1981, and was considered to be on Labour’s left wing and a strong proponent of the nuclear free issue.

    A Cabinet minister in the Lange government from 1987, she was also deputy prime minister from 1989-90 under Geoffrey Palmer and Mike Moore. She went on to head the United Nations Development Programme from 2009 to 2017.

  • Sir Geoffrey Palmer

    G09 Sir Geoffrey Palmer
    Sir Geoffrey Palmer portrait

    Sir Geoffrey Palmer was the prime minister of New Zealand and minister for the SIS from 1989 to 1990 and the deputy prime minister, attorney general and justice minister from 1984-1989.

    He is the author of Unbridled Power, a critique of New Zealand government and is currently a law professor at Victoria University of Wellington. He has been sitting as a member of the inquiry into Operation Burnham, looking at the conduct of the New Zealand Defence Force in Afghanistan.

  • David Lange

    G10 David_Lange
    David Lange portrait

    David Lange was New Zealand prime minister and minister for the SIS from 1984 to 1989. He signed off on the Czech Embassy and other raids according to his chief of staff Gerald Hensley. He passed away in 2005.

  • Rouben Azizian

    G11 Rouben_Azizian
    Rouben Azizian portrait

    Professor Rouben Azizian was the former Soviet and then (post-1991 dissolution of USSR) Russian diplomat, the deputy ambassador for USSR then Russia to New Zealand from 1991 to 1994.

    He has worked as an academic in NZ and the US since 1994, specialising in international diplomacy and security.

    He is currently professor and director of Massey University Centre for Defence and Security Studies.

  • Sir Bruce Ferguson

    G12 Sir_Bruce_Ferguson
    Sir Bruce Ferguson portrait

    Sir Bruce Ferguson is a former RNZAF officer, chief of Defence Force (2001-2006) and head of Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) (2006-2011).

  • Richard Northey

    G13 Richard_Northey
    Richard Northey portrait

    Richard Northey is a former Labour MP (1984-1990 and 1993-1996), and former president of NZ Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and Citizens Association for Racial Equality (CARE).

    He is a member and one-time chair of the justice select committee, which had an oversight role of the SIS.

  • Paul Buchanan

    G14 Paul_Buchanan
    Paul Buchanan portrait

    Paul Buchanan is a former US intelligence and defence policy analyst and academic. He specialises in matters of security and international politics and currently runs a New Zealand-based strategic assessment consultancy.

  • Rory Cormac

    G15 Rory_Cormac
    Rory Cormac portrait

    Rory Cormac is professor of international relations at the UK’s University of Nottingham. He specialises in covert action and national security and intelligence.

    He is the author of Disrupt and Deny:​ ​Spies, Special Forces, and the Secret Pursuit of British Foreign Policy​.

  • John Daniell

    G16 John_Daniell
    John Daniell portrait

    John Daniell is a freelance journalist, writer and podcast producer. He is the son of M and the step-son of Jim Stewart.

  • Guyon Espiner

    G17 Guyon_Espiner
    Guyon portrait

    Guyon Espiner is an investigative journalist at RNZ, who has more than 25 years’ experience across radio, TV and print. He is a former political editor of TVNZ and a former host of RNZ’s Morning Report. He presented and co-produced The 9th Floor, a podcast and video series of interviews with five former New Zealand prime ministers, which was released as a book in 2017.

KGB officer Dimitri Razgovorov flees down Aro Street, Wellington, in September 1974 after the senior civil servant he was meeting, Bill Sutch, was arrested by the SIS.

A dead letter box that was set up on a railing in Wellington’s Central Park. It was used to drop messages into, which would then be picked up by KGB agents and sources.

A KGB cypher pad used to encrypt and decrypt messages.

Oleg Gordievsky, a KGB colonel turned double agent for MI6, with Ronald Reagan. Gordievsky visited New Zealand and briefed then prime minister David Lange.

Prime minister David Lange signed off on the Czech embassy raid but his deputy, Geoffrey Palmer, was left in the dark.

John Daniell and his step-dad, Jim Stewart - who was an SIS officer - in a Paris hotel in 2003.

John Daniell with his mum, "M" - who worked for the SIS before he was born - in Taupo c.1980.

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

New Zealanders protested against visiting US nuclear ships in the 1980s and eventually David Lange’s Labour government banned them, causing the US to visibly downgrade its military, intelligence and security ties with the country.

Dr William (Bill) Sutch, left, arriving at Wellington Magistrate's Court with his wife Shirley Smith and lawyer Mike Bungay in October 1974.

KGB officer Dimitri Razgovorov flees down Aro Street, Wellington, in September 1974 after the senior civil servant he was meeting, Bill Sutch, was arrested by the SIS.

A dead letter box that was set up on a railing in Wellington’s Central Park. It was used to drop messages into, which would then be picked up by KGB agents and sources.

A KGB cypher pad used to encrypt and decrypt messages.

Oleg Gordievsky, a KGB colonel turned double agent for MI6, with Ronald Reagan. Gordievsky visited New Zealand and briefed then prime minister David Lange.

Prime minister David Lange signed off on the Czech embassy raid but his deputy, Geoffrey Palmer, was left in the dark.

John Daniell and his step-dad, Jim Stewart - who was an SIS officer - in a Paris hotel in 2003.

John Daniell with his mum, "M" - who worked for the SIS before he was born - in Taupo c.1980.

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

New Zealanders protested against visiting US nuclear ships in the 1980s and eventually David Lange’s Labour government banned them, causing the US to visibly downgrade its military, intelligence and security ties with the country.

Dr William (Bill) Sutch, left, arriving at Wellington Magistrate's Court with his wife Shirley Smith and lawyer Mike Bungay in October 1974.

Spy secret revealed: SIS and MI6 raided Czech embassy in Wellington

The security intelligence agencies broke into the Czechoslovakian Embassy in Wellington during the Cold War to steal secret codes. Click here to read.

John Daniell on growing up around spies

John Daniell writes about growing up among spies and why he decided now was the time to get to the bottom of an SIS secret and make the findings public in new podcast The Service. Click here to read.

Why we are revealing SIS secrets

The Service's executive producers, Veronica Schmidt and Tim Watkin, explain why they decided classified information should be divulged. Click here to read.

What was the Cold War?

Naomi Arnold details the decades of tension between capitalist western democracies and communist countries. Click to read.

What was the ‘Sutch Affair’?

As The Service reveals SIS secrets from the Cold War, Naomi Arnold delves into New Zealand’s most famous spy scandal - the arrest and trial of Bill Sutch. Click to read.

Spy secret revealed: SIS and MI6 raided Czech embassy in Wellington

The security intelligence agencies broke into the Czechoslovakian Embassy in Wellington during the Cold War to steal secret codes. Click to read.

John Daniell on growing up around spies

John Daniell writes about growing up among spies and why he decided now was the time to get to the bottom of an SIS secret and make the findings public in new podcast The Service. Click here to read more.

Why we are revealing SIS secrets

The Service's executive producers, Veronica Schmidt and Tim Watkin, explain why they decided classified information should be divulged. Click to read.

What was the Cold War?

Naomi Arnold details the decades of tension between capitalist western democracies and communist countries. Click to read.

What was the ‘Sutch Affair’?

As The Service reveals SIS secrets from the Cold War, Naomi Arnold delves into New Zealand’s most famous spy scandal - the arrest and trial of Bill Sutch. Click to read.

* Pseudonyms

Presented and produced by
John Daniell and Guyon Espiner

Producer
William Ray

Executive producers
Tim Watkin and Veronica Schmidt

Additional reporting from the Czech Republic
Robert Brestan

Sound engineers
Adrian Hollay and Rangi Powick

Original music
Anthonie Tonnon

Logo design
Oliver Wall

Shorthand layout
Luke McPake

Developer
Brandon Mikel

Video
Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Images
Claire Eastham-Farrelly, Ana Tovey, Rebekah Parsons-King, National Library, AFP, Alexander Turnbull Library, Andrew Burns, Massey University, Southern Cross University, Merv Griffiths/Evening Post, Ross Giblin/Dominion Post and the Evening Post.

Thank you to Nga Taonga Sound and Vision for providing archival audio

Made possible by the RNZ/NZ On Air Innovation Fund