A FORMER Bolton man has told how East German secret police spied on him for years with the help of two British informers.

A large file produced by the Stasi, chronicles seven years of Professor David Childs' public and private life at the end of the Cold War in the 1980s.

The former University of Nottingham lecturer - whose father was a former Mayor of Bolton - was closely analysed with help from two British spies acting for the East Germans including one identified only as "Gwynneth".

It is believed she was a former lecturer recently named as a spy in a national newspaper.

She is alleged to have compiled information on many of her fellow British academics, an accusation she denies.

The revelations come amid growing concern that a number of British academics passed information over to the East Germans.

Prof Childs has spoken openly to the BEN about his shock at discovering the lengths the Stasi went to to document his public - and private - life.

The file describes him as an "outspoken anti-communist" which he said he fully admits to, but it also - falsely - accuses him of "having on-going ties with the secret police".

He said: "It claims I was part of the nuclear disarmament movement which was also completely untrue and the whole thing fills me with great sadness.

"My character was completely detailed in the file. It was a shock that I had been analysed so much over the course of around seven years. It was so descriptive, detailed and thorough."

Prof Childs first discovered the file's existence in the early 1990s. He had become increasingly aware of being followed by the secret police on his frequent trips to the former communist country.

So when the German government allowed access to the files after the Cold War ended, the 65-year-old ex-television journalist said he went to the "grim surroundings" of the Stasi headquarters to request a look at his file.

He said: "After the collapse of the Berlin Wall which ended the communist regime and reunited Germany, it became possible for anyone who thought a Stasi file may have been written about them to take a look at the information.

"It was a difficult process for the East Germans as the search was time-consuming so I had to convince the authorities that I had a file. Luckily in my case they thought that it was likely."

The seven-year file dates back to 1983, detailing Prof Child's activities in Britain starting with detailed notes on one of his lectures at Bradford University. It also covers talks at Dundee, Nottingham, Loughborough and London.

Prof Childs added: "It was frightening to see that people had taken so much time to write down so many things about me." A search is still under way for earlier material.

The Childs file says the informer, "Gwynneth", was a "reliable source in the operation area". It also names another informer called "Metro".

But the government believes there were many other academic informers employed by the Stasi working in Britain's universities during the 70s and 80s.

Surprisingly for Prof Childs, the document does not detail his frequent German visits and he believes such files were destroyed by the authorities in Berlin to protect East German informers.

Yet the academic, who lived in Bolton town centre and in Tonge Fold until he was 19, is convinced he was stalked by the Stasi on his frequent visits to Berlin.

"It is rather frightening to think about what could have happened to me when I went to Germany," he said.

"On one occasion I was in Germany and I had to return to my room to get something I had forgotten.

"As I was going upstairs I saw the receptionist telephone my room and when I walked up the stairs two men, who looked very much like they could have been Stasi, were coming in the opposite direction.

"My hotel room was unlocked and the four ends of my briefcase had been forced open. They must have been trying to find some microfilm in there."

The documents refer to competitions between Stasi departments over who could fit bugging and surveillance equipment the fastest.

Prof Childs claims that he always suspected his German hotel rooms were bugged and believed his activities were constantly caught on camera.

He said he even used to bid the Stasi goodnight whenever he turned out the light and went to bed.

The revelations have come following the recent unmasking of former East German spies, which is putting Home Secretary Jack Straw under pressure to issue a full statement about those accused.

Prof Childs said he feels nothing but pity for the British spies. He said: "I feel sad that they so misjudged the situation but I feel glad that they were so completely wrong."

"From a moral point of view their actions were awful as they were putting their colleagues and fellow Britons in danger. But whether it was against the law is for the courts to prove."

He firmly believes that more revelations are to come. He added: "Throughout the 1980s, I frequently gave guest lectures in America at the Universities of Harvard, Texas, Baylor, California, Winconsin and John Hopkins. It will be interesting to see whether these occasions were monitored too."

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