18.1 Along with the Birds
Mala was taken to a tiny island called Madihéra in Villingili lagoon, lying northeast of Gan Island, inhibited by birds – the White Fairy Terns. She was placed in a joli – a garden perch erected on sticks and knitted of rope. In this case, the lower bar her knees hang raised to leave her toes inches above the ground. Her arms tied to the overhead bar and the mesh slashed to drop her bottom touching the sand. Mangrove leaves walled this dell somewhere on the beach and blue sky above.
Tony Cooper showed a black and white photo of a tiny image in the middle of a 5 x 7 print. It was a close-up of a package with those letters ‘HMS Mellow – J136 27th March 1944’. A photograph picked from Etherevari.
“Have you any idea what this is?” Tony Cooper asked.
She wasn’t in a shape to speak. Cooper gestured to the marine boy and he dumped a bucket of saltwater on her. She screamed, “A photograph! You are killing me! It’s a photo of a film reel…”
“Who took this picture?” he asked.
“I did,” she admitted.
“At RAF, generator room.”
“Good. Keep talking. What is it about?”
“A ship that sank.”
“Where is the film reel now?”
Mala hesitated. The marine picked the bucket and Tony Cooper waved him to wait. She began to talk, “I think it’s with the Defence Minister.”
“What do you see in the film reel?”
“I didn’t…I saw Prince Mal Vatta!”
“Who is Prince Mal Vatta?”
“A Maldivian prince who died in the trawler that was sunk in the Indian Ocean.”
“Was he dead in the film?”
She shook her head feebly and her eyes on Tony Cooper. She knew he’d hurt her. “He was alive on a British submarine.”
“Throw it down!” cried Cooper, “Don’t try to screw with me!” She screamed.
He continued, “Was he dead?”
“No,” she said meekly.
“It was a German submarine!”
She answered picking words carefully, “I don’t think it was. I don’t know exactly.”
“Anyone else alive?”
“The whole crew…”
Cooper was lost again, “You are lying!”
“No. I am telling the truth.”
Cooper knew it was a German sub that sank HMS Mellow. He referred all that before he began this interrogation. He knew that the prince and two other locals were among those who perished along with 23 crew members. “Why are you doing this?”
“They asked me to do it.”
“Hired? Are you a professional?”
“No, they trained me,” said Mala.
“Are you saying you are secret police?”
“No, they called me and trained me.”
“What did they teach you?”
She replied, “Shoot, photography, radio operation…”
“What else did you steal?” he asked.
“Lost boys’ files from the magistrate’s office. And some items at the tube houses.”
“You went into the tube houses?”
“What were you looking for at the tube houses?”
“For a sign of the lost boys.”
“Lost boys! Can you explain?”
“Some boys gone missing in the fifties. Defence Minister thinks Adaran knows about it and they sent me to dig for it.”
Cooper shook his head, “I’m confused. I’m getting nothing out from you. Nothing is clear. That is not a good sign. You have to be more precise and tell me everything you know. How does this tie up to a ship that sank in the Indian Ocean?”
“No reason. I just took a photograph.”
“And then what?”
“I was told to steal it. I stole it.”
“You stole it on another day?”
“Yes,” she nodded.
“Holy shit!” he cried, “Dump her!”
The marine boy threw another bucket of water down her body.
Cooper enquired, “How many times did you go in?”
“Two times,” she said.
He nodded, “Well, that’s enough for the day.”
There they discovered the tube houses being raided and looted. They developed the negatives and the photographs prove she was looking for something very specific as if she knew what to look for.
Nurse Deeni or Mariam Mala as an infiltrator had done more harm than they thought and she was a serious subject to be held in detention. She had to answer many questions and the Brits at the RAF didn’t know where to begin. She was trained with weapons – trained to kill. She was looking for something else.
Wing Commander John Knet sent a wire as instructed by Group Captain Newton in Colombo to the Commander-in-Chief of the Far East Station, Vice Admiral Vaughan Stone. He ranked the matter of highest secrecy and informed nothing of an outcome to Adaran or to any other party.