MI5 were more like bumbling Inspector Clouseau than fictional espionage hero George Smiley in their pursuit of alleged Russian spy Katia Zatuliveter while she was working for a Portsmouth MP, her barrister has said.
Tim Owen QC launched a scathing attack on the Security Service for the way its agents had investigated the former parliamentary researcher - who worked for and had an affair with Mike Hancock, 65, MP for Portsmouth South.
Insisting there was no evidence against his client, he likened the spooks to the comedy Pink Panther character made famous by Peter Sellers rather than being like Smiley - the spymaster in John Le Carre’s novels such as Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
Mr Owen was speaking on the final day of a hearing of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac) which will rule on whether Zatuliveter should be deported.
The session, held in central London, heard that MI5 had never thought to test for authentication a diary Zatuliveter submitted to them which seemingly corroborates how she felt about her lover and employer.
The pair met in April 2006 and quickly embarked on an affair.
Mr Owen said: ‘On any view it reveals an extraordinarily poor investigative approach, more akin to Inspector Clouseau than George Smiley.’
Zatuliveter, 26, began working for the politician five years ago.
The Government believes she is a member of Russian intelligence and was intentionally used to target and seduce Hancock who sat on the Commons Defence Select Committee and chaired the All Party Parliamentary Group on Russia. She denies this and says their four-year affair was real.
The proceedings finished Friday afternoon in closed session and it will be some time at the end of November when a decision is made whether Zatuliveter is deported.