The publication of what is said to be a suicide note written “a few minutes before my death” by Hitler’s former deputy appears to add weight to claims that it had actually been penned nearly 20 years before when he was seriously ill.
Photographs of the “summer house” in the ground of Spandau Prison where the 93-year-old died – and the electrical cord he was said to have used to take his own life – seem to deepen the mystery even further.
Conspiracy theories have long suggested that he was murdered and the evidence covered up amid fears he was on the brink of being released – and might disclose embarrassing secrets about his time in British captivity.
His son Wolf Hess has claimed that the UK, US and France – who had long said they were prepared to consent to his release were it not for a Soviet veto – feared a new mood of openness in Gorbachev’s Kremlin would call their bluff.
He also claimed that the contents of the “suicide” note actually refer to a period in 1969 when he had a perforated ulcer in the duodenum and feared he could die.
Sceptics claim clues in the note suggest it refers to events 20 years earlier.
At that time Hess was concerned to express his regrets over his behaviour towards his one-time private secretary “Freiberg”, during the Nuremberg trials when he said: “I had to act as though I didn’t know her.”
The note was also said by his son to have used a sign-off “Euer Grohser”, or “your eldest”, that he had not used for about 20 years.
Peter Padfield, an historian who persuaded the Ministry of Defence to release the documents under Freedom of Information law, said: “The ‘suicide note’ in German appended to the report is surely bogus from the content.
“For instance, passing his regrets to Freiberg – he had done this some twenty years before when his wife and son visited him for the first time in Spandau.
“And by contrast there is no mention in the note of his grandchildren.”
The report also states that Hess killed himself using an electrical extension cable fastened to a rear window handle just 1.4m from the floor.
His son noted in 1992: “Hess was a frail 93-year-old man with no strength left in his hands, who could just barely drag himself from his cell into the garden.
“How was he supposed to have killed himself in this way? Did he hang himself with the cord from a hook or a window latch? Or did he throttle himself?”
The report states that no marks or “material of evidential value to suggest criminal involvement” was found at the scene.
But it adds: “Because of free access to the summer house by all concerned with the prisoner, the lifting of latent finger impressions was not considered practical.”
Hess was jailed for life in 1946 after being convicted of war crimes at Nuremberg.
The circumstances of his detainment at Allied hands are perhaps even more mysterious than those of his death.
Formerly Hitler’s loyal deputy, he took it upon himself to fly a plane to Scotland in 1941, apparently in an attempt to secure peace – parachuting from his Messerschmitt and being arrested by a farmer with a pitchfork.
One theory mooted last year suggested that he had been the victim of an elaborate MI6 sting, when he was persuaded that members of the Royal Family were willing to broker a peace deal with the Nazis.
He died in Berlin’s Spandau Prison on Aug 17, 1987. The report on his death was originally filed between August 25, 1987 and January 1988.