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HE was Hitler's right-hand man, the deputy entrusted with the Fuhrer's darkest secrets.

But was it really Rudolf Hess who flew into Scotland to negotiate a deal between Germany and Britain?

The strange case of Hess is still the most baffling mystery of the Second World War.

On May 10, 1941, Hess climbed into a twin-engined fighter-bomber and took off from an airfield near Munich.

A few hours later, a man claiming to be Hess was captured in fields in Eaglesham, near Glasgow, with his wrecked aircraft abandoned nearby.

Official history books insist the prisoner was the real Hess and he was rightfully jailed for life at the Nuremberg trials.

But historians have questioned the official line for nearly 30 years.

Was the tall, striking man found in a Scottish field really the deputy Fuhrer... or was he a skilled impostor?

Now, 60 years on from that mysterious flight, the row over whether the real Rudolf Hess ever set foot in Scotland has burst into life again with two new books.

Each claims different versions of events, each based on previously 'closed' evidence. But both suggest a cover-up at the highest levels in British society.

A new book, to be published next week, will claim that the man who landed a Messerschmitt Me-110 plane in fields at Eaglesham was indeed Hess.

The book, Double Standards, alleges that the leading Nazi was in cahoots with key members of the British aristocracy, who secretly spirited him away, replacing him with an impersonator.

It is based on secret files held by the then Duke of Hamilton, who appears to have been in on the plan.

But further new evidence uncovered by a leading conspiracy theorist on the affair, Hugh Thomas, is due to be published in the summer and will contradict that version.

Thomas insists the real Hess never reached Scotland. He was probably shot down on the instructions of either SS leader Heinrich Himmler or Hermann Goering of the Luftwaffe while on his way to a secret meeting in Sweden.

The German-speaking man who was captured in Scotland - by a farm-worker armed only with a pitch-fork - was a double sent in his place, Thomas claims.

And the phoney Hess even stood trial for Nazi war-crimes at Nuremberg and was caged in Spandau Prison for rest of his life.

"I have seen some sections of this book Double Standards already," says Thomas, who lives in Wales.

"And I certainly welcome it if it produces any kind of new evidence. But I cannot agree with the central theory that the real Hess landed in Scotland.

"I understand the authors believe that Hess was switched for a double after his arrival in Scotland. The impostor was arrested while Hess was concealed. But there are too many problems with that story."

Thomas says that, among other discrepancies, the plane that landed in Scotland could not have made such a long flight.

He claims the weather reports which Hess consulted, and were found in his home later, didn't tally with conditions over the North Sea - but did match reports for the Baltic.

And how would the conspirators have smuggled a German lookalike into Britain?

"But at least these authors seem to agree that the man who spent all those years in Spandau was never Rudolf Hess," he says. "That backs up what I have been saying all along - that the British government have lied, lied and lied about Rudolf Hess.

"I have counted 140 times over the years where they have insisted in official responses that the right man was locked up. And they know it's not true."

But what was in it for the impostor? Why would anyone agree to maintain a gruelling pretence that left him to languish in jail till the day he died?

"No one knows the answer to that," says Thomas. "But we do know that it was a favourite Nazi trick to offer to spare the lives of a man's family members if he agreed to be killed himself.

"Who knows what you would be prepared to do if you thought it was the difference between life and death for your wife and children?"

Since 1973, Thomas, a former surgeon, has been convinced the British Government covered up the truth about Hess.

While posted in Berlin, Thomas was sent to examine the prisoner held in Spandau. The real Hess claimed he had been shot through the left lung during the First World War. But the prisoner had no scars.

The book Thomas wrote in 1979, The Murder of Rudolf Hess, prompted a huge outcry against the author.

But when the man claiming to be Hess finally died in 1987, two post-mortems confirmed the absence of a bullet injury. Thomas is adamant there is more evidence, such as the fact that the prisoner drank whisky and ate steaks, while Hess was a teetotal vegetarian.

The British Government still insists the right man was jailed.

Yet the relevant files will not be released for 40 years.

Historians want to know why are they still secret if there is nothing to hide.

"The year in which the British papers will be released has recently been extended from 2017 to 2041," says Thomas.

"That's 100 years after Hess's original flight, which is just ridiculous.

"I won't be around by then, but I don't believe there is anything new to discover. It's a ploy to keep us thinking we don't already have all the information.

"I now believe that when they finally open the store, all they'll find is toilet paper. The Andrex puppy will run out."

Double Standards: The Rudolf Hess Cover Up, published by Little Brown & Co.
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Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Apr 15, 2001
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