The Inept Spy Chief Who Almost Got a Government to Place an Entire Country Under Martial Law
Kenneth Folkes wanted to earn a reputation, and a he did – but not one he wanted. His name would forever be linked to Sydney Ross, a small time criminal and conman. Born in 1909, Ross held a series of short term jobs, mostly as a laborer, and in the 1930s, he piled up 17 criminal convictions and did time behind bars for theft, burglary, false pretenses, fraud. In 1939, he was sentenced to nearly four years for breaking and entering and theft. In this prison stint, he befriended an older convict, Alfred Remmers, a former policeman who had been fired for burglaries committed while on night beat duty, and was now behind bars for forgery.
Ross was released from prison on March 28th, 1942, with nothing but a battered briefcase, some clothes, and a train ticket. A day later, he had met New Zealand’s Prime Minister, had a car, money, accommodations, and the undivided attention of Major Folkes. The SIB head saw in the released convict an answer to his prayers, and unwisely, trusted him. Between the spy catcher and conman, New Zealand’s government almost declared martial law. Forever after, the country retained a healthy skepticism of its intelligence services.