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‘Betrayal’: Dundee hairdresser had secret life as Nazi spy

Jessie Jordan was recruited to pass letters and sketch drawings of the UK's naval bases.

Jessie Jordan: Was spying on the UK. STV

Reporting by Hayley Bouma

A spy working undercover as a hairdresser may sound like a plot from a novel, but that’s exactly what happened in Dundee ahead of the Second World War.

Jessie Jordan was a Glaswegian hairdresser who married a German waiter and moved to Hamburg.

After her husband died, she moved back to Scotland with instructions from the Nazis.

Historian Andrew Jeffrey said: “Jessie came back to Scotland in 1937 on a mission to track down her natural father.

“But by then she had been recruited by the Abwehr, the German Secret Intelligence Service.”

Jessie was asked to do two things, pass letters between Nazi spies in the United States and Germany, and provide sketches of high profile navy bases.

Andrew says: “Her drawings were amateurish.

“But, she sketched the naval armament depot at DM Crombie; it had all the explosives there.

“Sketching that is at a different level than acting as a simple cut out, which could be put down to simple naivety of just plain stupidity.

“This on the other hand was something quite different; it was a pre-mediated decision to betray the country.”

Jessie owned a hairdresser on Kinloch Street in Dundee.

She started acting suspiciously so one of the ladies, who worked for her, Mary Curran, stole documents from her handbag before they were handed to the police.

The files were sent to intelligence agency MI5 and were also shown to the FBI.

The case led to the arrest of a spy network in America as well as high profile German spies across Europe.

Some believe this episode and cases like Jessie’s led to the signing of a treaty between five allied countries including Britain and the US.

Security Expert, Professor Phillips O’Brian said the treaty is now known as the 5 Eyes Agreement.

He explained: “It’s been one of the most long lasting arrangements ever.

“This treaty is specifically about signals intelligence which is about eavesdropping on communications and interrupting communications flow which they did really well during the Second World War.”

It’s not known why Jessie spied on her home country, but her case provided crucial evidence to the country during the Second World War.

Andrew Jeffrey believes Jessie’s actions were pivotal to Great Britain, he said: “Jessie was of very little value as a German agent, almost none in fact.

“But as a source of intelligence to the allies in WW2, she was of enormous importance.

“And, it all came about as a direct result of opening her mail over a steaming kettle on Ward Road in Dundee.”


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