Express & Star

Just how did Dame Vera get on Jackal's hit list?

The perfect smile of Forces Sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn never faltered as she treated her adoring audience – many of them veterans reduced to tears by the music and memories of lost comrades – to the songs that had lifted wartime spirits.

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Dame Vera Lynn at a Garden Party for World War 1 veterans at Buckingham Palace

The poise and professionalism displayed during that glorious 1970 night at Wolves Social Club was still pristine. Age had not blunted the elegance.

The White Cliffs of Dover star whose songs helped humble Hitler had been the Armed Forces’ darling. Her faultless Wolverhampton performance showed Civvy Street was still smitten 25 years after the conflict.

Dame Vera Lynn in 2005

The love affair continued until her death, in 2020, at the grand old age of 103.

Yet a dark shadow hung over Dame Vera – a frequent visitor to our region - as she took the stage. She was an unlikely target of playboy assassin Carlos the Jackal, a ruthless killer whose infamy as a terrorist is only eclipsed by Osama bin Laden: a smooth criminal whose soulless stare was hidden by dark glasses.

The inclusion of her name and ex-directory number on a hit-list, scrawled in red ink and found when Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorist squad raided the Jackal’s London lair seems a little bizarre, akin to discovering Morecambe and Wise in the “marked for death” dossier.

But Carlos, born Ilich Ramirez Sanchez in Venezuela, a cold-hearted hitman who claims to have killed 80, appears to have harboured bizarre grudges.

Venezuelan international terrorist Carlos the Jackal

The Jackal’s list of intended prey also included Prime Minister Edward Heath, violinist Yehudi Menuhin, the film industry’s Sir Richard Attenborough and supermarket king Lord Sainsbury.

Now 74, Carlos is still with us and languishes in a French prison where he is serving three life terms for 16 murders.

Perhaps his long days are dogged by the torment of those who escaped his clutches – Dame Vera and Dickie Attenborough among them.

The details of the surreal hit-list were first made public by author John Follain in his 1998 book Jackal. A string of tabloid papers later gave more details about the incredible plot.

Follain believed Dame Vera was to be abducted, not murdered.

“The Jackal was working for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine at the time,” he said.

“The organisation was short of money, so Vera Lynn could have been a kidnap target as much as an assassination victim.”

The Sunday Mirror claimed it was a close call for the national treasure.

“Dame Vera and others were only spared because the Jackal’s cover was blown after he shot dead two French secret service agents and a former terrorist turned informer in Paris in 1975,” the paper told readers.

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