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How a British Secretary Who Spied for the Soviets Evaded Detection for 40 Years

April 23, 2019 in History

By Becky Little

In 1999, an 87-year-old British woman held a press conference in front of her home to announce that for nearly four decades, she’d worked as a spy for the . Burke, who later wrote The Spy Who Came In From the Co-op: Melita Norwood and the Ending of Cold War Espionage, noted that Norwood kept repeating “I thought I’d got away with it.” Yet as Burke wrote, she actually did get away with it: even after her outing, the government still declined to prosecute her.

Norwood died in 2005, but people have remained fascinated with her story. In 2013, author Jennie Rooney published a novel, Red Joan, loosely based on Norwood’s life. And in April 2019, a film adaptation premiered in the U.K. and the U.S. starring Judi Dench as Joan Stanley, the fictional counterpart to Melita Norwood, the real-life spy.

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