Ricky Tomlinson claims ‘Countdown’ host Richard Whiteley was a government spy

Actor says the 'Countdown' host played a part in sending him to prison in 1973.

Actor Ricky Tomlinson has claimed that late Countdown host Richard Whiteley was once an undercover government spy.

Before he became famous thanks to acting roles in Brookside and The Royle Family, Tomlinson worked as a plasterer and helped to organise the first national building workers’ strike. In 1973, he and his trade union associate Des Warren – known collectively as the ‘Shrewsbury Two’ – were found guilty of “conspiracy to intimidate” and Tomlinson received a two-year prison sentence.

The actor has now claimed that a TV documentary presented by Whiteley and late politician Woodrow Wyatt played a key part in convicting him.

He told the Chester Chronicle shortly after opening a Wetherspoons pub in the city yesterday: “I’ve got documents at home, which are printed ‘confidential’, ‘strictly confidential’, ‘not to be seen’, but it involves the likes of Ted Heath, Woodrow Wyatt.

“And we’ve just discovered that they made a film which went out on television the night the jury were out considering the verdict called Red Under The Bed, and it was so anti-trade union that two of the jury changed their mind and brought a majority verdict in of 10-2 guilty.”

He added: “We found out this week that the film was designed, written, made and paid for by the security services. Woodrow Wyatt was a member of the security services and unbelievably so was Richard Whiteley who hosted the show. Richard Whiteley from Countdown was a member of the intelligence services.”

Bradford-born Whiteley joined ITN after graduating from the University of Cambridge in 1967. He moved to Yorkshire Television three years later and hosted Countdown alongside Carol Vorderman from its first episode in 1982 until his death from endocarditis in 2005.

Vorderman responded to the spy claims on Twitter this morning.