A former British intelligence operative who is believed to be behind the highly controversial and unverified "Trump dossier" has vanished without a trace from his home in Surrey.
It's hardly surprising given the fact that Christopher David Steele has become the name on everyone's lips after being unmasked by the Wall Street Journal.
"Christopher Steele, 52, fled from his home in Surrey on Wednesday morning after realizing it was only a matter of time until his name became public knowledge," The Telegraph reported Thursday, adding that the former spy was "terrified for his safety."
So, who is Christopher David Steele?
Citing people familiar with Steele's activities Mark Hosenball of Reuters noted that Orbis Business Intelligence was hired by England's Football Association (FA) to investigate FIFA. Reportedly, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) met Steele before opening a major investigation into alleged soccer corruption.
Hosenball noted that during the presidential campaign the former British operative was initially hired by FusionGPS, a US-based political research firm, to investigate Trump on behalf of his Republican rivals.
"Steele was kept on assignment by FusionGPS after Trump won the nomination and his information was circulated to Democratic Party figures and members of the media," he noted.
Richard Behar, the Contributing Editor of Investigations for Forbes magazine, shed some light on Steele's past. Citing a diplomatic service list published by the British government the journalist wrote that Steele was posted to the UK's Moscow embassy in 1990 with the title of "Second Secretary (Chancery)."
"It's unclear how long he remained in that position, but he subsequently served as a 'First Secretary' with the UK's Foreign & Commonwealth Office in 2003, as well as 'First Secretary (Financial)' at the UK's Paris embassy in 1998," Behar remarked.
According to the Daily Mail, Steele's name first appeared on a list of MI6 agents back in 1999. Reportedly, the list was published online by former British spy Richard Tomlinson.
The US mainstream media started to circulate parts of Steele's controversial dossier on Tuesday. The document in question contained unverified and even bizarre information about US President-elect Donald Trump's alleged ties with the Russian intelligence.
However, the allegations were immediately dismissed by the US President-elect as nonsensical and "fake."
"I win an election easily, a great "movement" is verified, and crooked opponents try to belittle our victory with FAKE NEWS. A sorry state!" Trump tweeted.
I win an election easily, a great "movement" is verified, and crooked opponents try to belittle our victory with FAKE NEWS. A sorry state!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2017
Interestingly enough, after the US mainstream media called "an ex-MI6 agent" a source of the controversial report, the UK government issued a so-called D-Notice to British media, asking them not to print the operative's name, the Register tweeted Wednesday.
"In view of media stories alleging that a former SIS officer was the source of the information which allegedly compromises President-elect Donald Trump, would you and your journalists please seek my advice before making public that name," the document said as quoted by the Register.
Still, both US intelligence community and the UK government refused to have anything to do with either the "dirty dossier" or its alleged author.
"I emphasized that this document is not a US Intelligence Community product and that I do not believe the leaks came from within the IC," US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper stated just before the Wall Street Journal unmasked the former British spy.
For her part, UK Prime Minister Theresa May told a press conference Friday that it was "clear" that Christopher Steele "hasn't worked for the UK Government for years."
"Intelligence insiders now claim the Trump dossier is a 'complete fraud'," Trump tweeted Saturday.