A CHANCE trip to a museum led a Poole writer to argue that a man hanged as a traitor may have been the victim of a miscarriage of justice.

The life of Oswald John Job, convicted of treason in the Second World War, is the subject of a book by Ed Perkins called Britain’s Forgotten Traitor, published by Amberley on April 15.

Ed, who lives in Hatherden Avenue, Parkstone, and is married to novelist and teacher Frances Maynard, first came upon Job at the Imperial War Museum in London.

A map that formed part of a 'Secret War’ display in the museum, showed that two spies, who were executed in Britain during the Second World War, entered the UK through Poole.

One was a Belgian and the other a Londoner called Oswald John Job who was executed at Pentonville in 1944. The writer decided to focus on him.

And he quickly discovered that it was the Poole port security officers who first spotted that Job might be a Nazi agent.

Ed worked as a journalist on papers including the Bournemouth Daily Echo, the Dorset Echo and the Southern Daily Echo, and a spell at Monkey World’s Adoption Centre.

"I became fascinated by espionage many years ago after interviewing David Cornwell, better known as the spy novelist, John le Carré, in Ashley Cross," he said. They stayed in occasional contact right up to le Carré’s death last December.

"Oswald John Job intrigued me because he was an ordinary man who, through his own fault, got caught up in something extraordinary. And it cost him his life," he said.

"There is no doubt that he was a scoundrel. As a young man he had been jailed for his part in a jewel raid and was later convicted of fraud.

"Ditching his family, he moved to Paris where he married a French woman and successfully ran two businesses.

"All was going well until 1940 when German boots marched down the Paris boulevards and the Occupation of France began."

Job was promptly locked up in prisons and internment camps with other British exiles. But, from the start, he was willing to strike a deal with his captors to get out.

Three years later, he did just that. Job was released on condition that he carried out a mission for the Germans. It involved carrying valuable jewellery to Britain as payment for a German spy and then sending messages back reporting on bomb damage and morale using a code and secret ink.

Job made his way to Portugal from where he was put on a flying boat, arriving at Poole with a story about his escape.

What he didn’t know was that the German spook to whom he was to deliver the jewellery as payment, was a double agent working for MI5. So MI5 knew a courier or spy would be coming.

"It was the sharp-eyed port security officers in Poole who saw the diamond cluster ring and tiepin on Job and immediately alerted MI5 headquarters," said the author.

"The Poole officers let Job go, as instructed, but tracked him to the Merville hotel in Bournemouth, then on by train to London."

One, Major Edward Humphreys, then sent a sketch he had drawn of the ring and tiepin Job was carrying to MI5 headquarters.

Less than a month later, MI5 and Scotland Yard officers swooped and arrested Job. Within four more months he was found guilty of treachery and hanged.

"The question before the jury was, did he intend to carry out his spying mission when he arrived in Britain?" said Perkins, whose solicitor daughter, Tamasin, went to Parkstone Grammar and St Peter’s schools.

"There was plenty of evidence of his guilt and even more was discovered after his execution.

"But my own view is that he was an unscrupulous chancer who thought, by the time he got to England, that he was away from his German masters who had given him little or no money to risk his life.

"I believe he thought that he could forget the mission and hold on to the ring and tiepin, worth about £10,000 in today’s money. Then sell it in his own time. It would be more profitable for him than spying.

"If that were the case, he was a guilty man but not guilty on arrival at Poole of intending to spy. Though many readers, I am sure, will disagree."

* Britain’s Forgotten Traitor, by Ed Perkins, is published by Amberley Publishing.