Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Vera Atkins: WWII Spy Boss

What Really Happened to Noor Inayat Khan?


Noor Inayat Khan <em>(Public Domain Image)</em>
Noor Inayat Khan (Public Domain Image)
A new witness came forward with information about Noor's end. The witness was a German who had worked at the Pforzheim prison and knew Noor as an Englishwoman who had parachuted into France.

War crimes attorney Alexander Nicolson found other witnesses who said that "Nora Baker" had been detained at Pforzheim where she was singled out for mistreatment. The woman instructors feared would be too fragile for dangerous work had showed a surprising mettle. She had made two escape attempts when first captured so she was kept in solitary confinement, manacled and fed the lowest level of rations allowed at the prison.

This new evidence led Vera to review old evidence she had considered unreliable. Christian Ott had recalled four British female agents taken to Dachau. She had previously believed there had been only three but now thought the fourth was Noor.

An interrogation of Karlsruhe Gestapo member Max Wassmer confirmed that four British female agents were taken to Dachau. His description of one of them convinced Vera that one was Noor.

However, Vera still had few specifics about the precise circumstances under which the four had been murdered at Dachau. Ott claimed that Wassmer had said he was present when the four were killed. In this hearsay version, the four women were ordered to kneel down. They held hands with each other as they faced a mound of earth. Then each was shot through the back of the neck.

However, Wassmer denied telling this story. Ott insisted Wassmer had told it -- but that he, Ott, had not found it believable. The air of romanticized heroism in this description of their final moments rendered it suspicious.

Vera, as well as the loved ones of the four, thought it more likely that the female agents at Dachau had been beaten or tortured before being killed.

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