The clever plot has gripped readers and film fans for half a century.
At the heart of Frederick Forsyth’s masterpiece, The Day Of The Jackal, is a notorious fraud which exposed how anyone could apply for a birth certificate and passport in the name of a dead child.
But on the 50th anniversary of the thriller, Forsyth has thrown one more unlikely twist into the drama by admitting that he personally stole a dead boy’s name and details in order to convince himself the storyline could work in real life.
Just as the fictional Jackal assumes the identity of a dead boy in his attempt to assassinate the President of France, so Forsyth scoured a graveyard for the names of suitable children, he told The Mail on Sunday.
Having found one, the author then obtained a birth certificate and applied for a passport in the name of a boy called Duggan – later used in the novel.
At the heart of Frederick Forsyth’s masterpiece, The Day Of The Jackal, is a notorious fraud which exposed how anyone could apply for a birth certificate and passport in the name of a dead child
Forsyth admits that it was completely illegal. ‘I did exactly what the Jackal did,’ he said. I found the grave of this little boy – James Oliver Duggan – in a churchyard in the Home Counties.’
Forsyth also gave a fake witness to support his application. He said: ‘I just invented a church minister in North Wales – somewhere where I thought the Passport Office wouldn’t bother to check.
‘All of it went into the package, along with the fee and the birth certificate for a person who no longer existed because he’d died as a child.
‘I used a local newsagent as a poste restante, asking him if he’d be so kind, for a very small fee, to take in my mail while I was away abroad.’
Then Forsyth, who wasn’t going anywhere, waited. ‘About two weeks later, there it was. A fat package with a passport in it in the name of James Oliver Duggan,’ he said. ‘I never used it internationally. I just tested the system and it worked.’
But on the 50th anniversary of the thriller, Forsyth has thrown one more unlikely twist into the drama by admitting that he personally stole a dead boy’s name and details in order to convince himself the storyline could work in real life
The writer got the idea from West Africa where he had been reporting on the Biafran War. ‘I was told about it by a white mercenary who was there on false papers,’ he said.
The ‘Jackal Fraud’ has been a topic of huge controversy, notably when it emerged that members of the Metropolitan Police had used the identities of dead children to infiltrate protest groups.
Rogue MP John Stonehouse used a similar technique when he faked his own death in 1974. The loophole has since been closed.
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