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Lt. Cmdr. Lionel Crabb had received numerous awards and medals for his diving work during the Second World War. He later became a civilian diver, taking on a variety of jobs including one for the U.K.’s secret intelligence service MI6. MI6 wanted him to check out a Soviet cruiser called the Ordzhonikidze, which had brought Nikita Khrushchev to the U.K. on a diplomatic mission. Crabb dove down to look at its hull in a U.K. harbour, but was never seen again.
When the body of the “headless frogman” was found the following year, some reports noted that the body was also missing its hands. U.K. officials tried to cover up the death. An inquest was held to determine the body’s identity. The body was eventually identified as being Crabb, based on the diving outfit on the body and other physical features, including scars and possibly even deformed toes.
Theories vary about what happened to Crabb. Some say he was killed by a Soviet sniper or, he died during a Soviet interrogation. Others say the body wasn’t his and Crabb became a Soviet agent. And still other theorists believe he died of oxygen or carbon dioxide poisoning, as he’d become a drinker and smoker over the years and his health was suffering.
Whatever his fate, Crabb’s story inspired factual and fictional books over the years, along with dozens of newspaper stories around the world, including in the Calgary Herald.