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Two British friends took this UFO picture then vanished after a visit from sinister men in dark suits Daily Mail Exclusive Story - Behind the Paywall

Two British friends took this UFO picture then vanished after a visit from sinister men in dark...

A dark, stormy night in the town of Pitlochry, in the Scottish Highlands. The August heatwave had finally broken with a spectacle of thunder, lightning and torrents of rain, and outside the back door of a town centre hotel, a group of young chefs gathered to cool off after a hot night in the kitchen.

Usually, there'd be banter, of the bawdy kind, cigarettes and a bottle passed around, but tonight was different. Two of the group were discussing, animatedly, an incident they'd witnessed a few nights earlier.

At about 9pm, while walking high in the glens, in Calvine, on the edge of the Cairngorms, they'd seen something that had scared them out of their wits: a huge, solid, diamond-shaped object, about 100ft long, hovering silently in the sky over their heads.

It could have been a scene from The X-Files or Men In Black, but this was rural Scotland.

Luckily, they'd had a camera with them and managed to capture some images as they cowered in the bushes. They'd taken these to the Daily Record, Scotland's largest circulation newspaper.

On a dark, stormy night in Scotland, a group of young chefs saw a huge, solid, diamond-shaped object, about 100ft long, hovering silently in the sky over their heads

The young men were excited and terrified in equal measure: this was dynamite. Had they seen a UFO? Were they going to be rich and famous? Was Earth about to be invaded?

As they chatted, a dark car pulled up outside the hotel and two mysterious figures, dressed in black suits, emerged from the back seat. They called to the two chefs by name.

'Cigarette break's over lads,' one of them barked to the rest of the group. 'In you go and mind your own business.' The pair were then led off somewhere 'for a chat'.

Two very different young men were on breakfast duty the next morning, as one of the original members of the group, retired chef Richard Grieve, tells me today.

The pair were 'visibly shaken' by whatever was said to them, he remembers, though they refused to divulge specifics, saying only that the men 'were from the Royal Navy'.

'Not long after that it all went a bit hush-hush and they started talking about being followed around Pitlochry.

'Their demeanour changed. They stopped showing up for work, went off the rails and one began drinking heavily. He was sacked soon afterwards.

'The other, who was usually outgoing and larger than life, became introverted and sullen. Within a few months of the visit from the men in the car, they both left the hotel. I haven't seen them since.

'Whatever it was they knew, they were not meant to see it. They never really talked about it but one of them said: 'It was the Americans.'

Breaking his silence after 34 years, Richard Grieve, now 55, spoke exclusively to the Mail to describe what happened that mysterious night in 1990

As an investigative journalist, university lecturer and committed ufologist, the 'Calvine Incident', plus the provenance and whereabouts of the photographs the chefs took that night, have fascinated me for more than 15 years.

My pursuit of the truth has seen me follow a trail of evidence from the Highlands of Scotland to the highest, and most secretive, echelons of the US Pentagon.

I first stumbled upon the story when the MoD disbanded its UFO desk in 2009 and released thousands of files. There, among some laughable accounts of encounters with weather balloons and seagulls, I found the heavily weeded Calvine file containing a poorly photocopied image of the chefs' picture.

After years of dogged sleuthing, along with fellow experts and enthusiasts, I finally tracked down the original image to the home of a retired RAF press officer, Craig Lindsay, who'd kept it hidden on a bookshelf for 32 years.

When we spoke in 2022, Craig, then in his 80s and still living in Scotland, confessed: 'I have been waiting for someone to contact me about this for more than 30 years.'

Since it was published exclusively in the Daily Mail that year, the Calvine picture has become one of the most talked about, and so far unexplained, UFO photographs in the world. Millions viewed it online and #CalvineUFO trended on Twitter.

Even today — almost two years later — my inbox remains busy with requests for information and new theories about the origin of the diamond-shaped object. Some believe it is an alien craft intercepted by RAF jets as it cruised above the Scottish Highlands.

But this idea is rejected by military personnel, who asked for their names to be kept secret. They point to prototype stealth technology developed by the United States since the late 1970s.

Hopeless Diamond, Have Blue and Aurora have all been mentioned as code names for such projects. The latter, a mythical hypersonic spy plane, was rumoured to have operated from a base in Scotland around the time the pictures were taken.

Others are equally convinced the photo must be a clever hoax along the lines of Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster.

But what is missing from my postbag is anything from the two men I really want to speak to: the photographer and his friend.

Richard Grieve aged 21

'It is like they have vanished off the face of the Earth,' said Richard Grieve, who recalls working alongside the two chefs in the kitchens at Fisher's Hotel, Pitlochry, in the summer of 1990.

Although he can't remember the exact names of his colleagues, the name 'Kevin Russell' is written on the back of the black and white print that Craig Lindsay managed to keep hold of.

Craig said he remembered it being sent by courier from the Daily Record to his office at RAF Pitreavie Castle, near Dunfermline. The newspaper told him they were seeking a comment for use in their exclusive story. Craig immediately faxed a copy of the print to the MoD's UFO desk in London.

The Record also provided Craig with a contact number, at the Pitlochry hotel, for the men. Sadly, Craig couldn't recall any more details about the witnesses themselves, but he remembers their incredible story clearly.

They told him that as they cowered in bushes, they first heard and then saw a military Harrier jet fly down the valley beneath the UFO. Then, as they fired off shots on their camera, they saw this, or another, jet return and circle around the object, as if the pilot was escorting it, before departing. Then the diamond craft shot vertically into the sky and vanished without making a sound.

Craig typed up a summary of their account and faxed it to the MoD. He also arranged for the Record to send the lad's negatives to London. Then he waited for the newspaper to publish its exclusive... but no story appeared.

Craig says he was instructed to 'leave it to London' and for 32 years he did as he was told — but not before stashing one picture in a copy of 'Great Aircraft of the World' on his bookshelf.

For 18 months I have been working with a documentary film crew to find the elusive Kevin Russell, but despite worldwide publicity no one has come forward to claim ownership of the photograph.

Undeterred, some colleagues and I compiled a database of 140 Kevin Russells — a frustratingly common name — who are of the correct age. Some were born in Scotland and others live abroad.

The closest we got was a Kevin Russell who, according to the electoral roll, was working as a hotel kitchen porter half a mile away at the time, but, when approached, denied all knowledge of the picture.

It could well be, of course, that the photographer deliberately chose to obscure his identity by putting a different name on the print. Or it could be Kevin is still frightened and doesn't want to come forward.

One thing his former colleague Richard Grieve is sure about, however, is that both the young men were very scared after their close encounter — both with the UFO and the men in the black car. And he's sure they couldn't have made up the image as a hoax.

During the tourist season in Pitlochry, temps could work 16-hour shifts, cooking for up to 150 hotel guests. There was no time for high jinks.

Soon after the photos were developed, Richard said, one took a bus to Glasgow to deliver them to the Daily Record. Then the dark car arrived.

The chef's cryptic remark to Richard that 'it was the Americans' might explain why, despite many attempts, the MoD stubbornly refuses to reveal what they know about these baffling photographs.

Officials say the negatives were returned to the newspaper and the only records that survive have been transferred to The National Archives. Everything else has been destroyed, including Craig's summary, the analysis of the images by RAF and MoD specialists and the missing images.

I find it difficult to believe this type of evidence would be destroyed, as it was used to answer a Parliamentary question and to brief ministers at the time: the late Labour MP from Doncaster, Martin Redmond, used to table dozens of questions on UFO sightings back in the 1990s, including at Calvine.

Also, a government response was prepared in readiness for the Record newspaper exclusive which never appeared.

A comparison of the original Calvine image (left) with the photocopy faxed from RAF Pitreavie to London in August 1990, and the photocopy of the Calvine sighting released by The National Archive in 2009 (right)

As for its authenticity, my Sheffield Hallam University colleague, photography specialist Andrew Robinson, carried out a detailed analysis of the image donated to the university by Craig Lindsay. He saw no evidence it had been manipulated in any way.

So where are the other images and negatives? What happened to Kevin Russell and his friend? And what do the photographs actually show?

Ever since the Calvine photo went viral on social media, the internet has been buzzing with theories, some even more far-fetched than the idea that aliens had visited Calvine.

Some claimed the triangular UFO is actually the top of a mountain peeking out of the Scottish mist in the glen below — or even a Christmas tree ornament suspended from a tree by fishing wire.

But if the photographs were a prank they fooled the RAF, the MoD and the Pentagon. The MoD file says scrutiny of one of the missing images revealed a second jet in the distance, making a hoax even more improbable. Indeed, the paper trail suggests the images were the subject of at least three separate analyses by UK and US government agencies.

The first was summarised in a briefing prepared for Defence Minister Ken Carlisle in 1990. It said experts were confident the jet in the photograph was a Harrier, even though none were known to be flying in Scotland on that evening. And the minister was told experts had 'reached no definite conclusion regarding the diamond-shaped object'.

The briefing warned that the MoD 'has been asked for comments almost certainly for inclusion in a forthcoming story'.

But former Daily Record news editor Malcolm Speed cannot explain why his paper did not publish their exclusive. Speed remembers being shown the photographs by the picture editor Andy Allan.

'It looked amazing then and I was surprised it was not published,' he said. 'When I quizzed him about the photographs Andy told me the RAF said they were fakes.'

Andy Allan died in 2007, so it's impossible to ask for his version of events. As Malcolm Speed says: 'Was Andy misled by the RAF? Even if they were fakes, why weren't they published? It does not make any sense.'

When I first started following up leads on the photographs I was struck by the date of the sighting: August 4, 1990. This was two days after Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait, triggering the first Gulf War.

For the rest of that year, thousands of military personnel and hundreds of ships and warplanes — including the futuristic American F117A stealth fighter — were mobilised in the build-up to the aerial attack on Iraqi forces that began in January 1991.

The aircraft had been in development for at least 15 years and some of the prototype designs, including one called the Hopeless Diamond, resemble the craft photographed in Scotland.

Earlier this year the US government admitted it had flown prototype aircraft that resemble alien craft — some of which have been seen and reported as UFOs. The Pentagon said, 'some of these systems had a 'saucer' or triangle-shaped appearance and were capable of hovering aloft'.

So was the Calvine UFO one of them?

The American Department of Defence's All Domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO), which has a mission from Congress to resolve unexplained UFOs, released the first volume of its historical investigation in February.

It says all the evidence about UFO sightings points to 'misidentified authentic highly sensitive national security programs'.

The declassified version also refers to a sighting in the 1990s when an unnamed military witness saw a UFO 'exhibiting a peculiar flight pattern' near a US military facility, possibly Area 51 — the top-secret military base in the Nevada desert, where experimental aircraft and weapons systems are thought to be researched.

'The seemingly strange characteristics reported by the interviewee match closely with the platform's characteristics, which was being tested at a military facility in the timeframe the interviewee was there,' the report says.

AARO's investigators said knowledge of its existence was restricted on a 'need-to-know' basis to a very small number of people.

Could this be what the chefs saw over Calvine?

So, is the truth still out there — hidden at Area 51? And Kevin Russell, if you are reading the Daily Mail, please get in touch. Whatever it was that you saw is no longer a secret!

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