Harold 'Lee' Tracey is a former RAF engineer and MI6 operative.
In 1962, whilst working for MI6, Tracey invented the so-called staircase
receiver, also known as the harmonic receiver, that later became known as the Scanlock bug tracer.
The device was marketed through
Technical Security Ltd.
in London — at the time an MI6 front operation —
and later by Audiotel International Ltd.
The first Scanlock
receiver was sold at a price of GBP 940 and was announced
in an article about boardroom electronic warfare in New Scientist
of July 1975 ,
together with the RFD-1 detector.
The Scanlock Mark 1 was followed by the Mark 2,
the Scanlock Mark 3
and eventually the Mark 4.
In 1978, Tracey left MI6 and founded his own company
Audiotel International Ltd.,
with the initial address at City Road in London.
Here, he developed the next generation:
the Scanlock Mark VB.
It was an immediate hit and became popular
in the UK and continental Europe.
For a long time, the Scanlock Mark VB
was the most successful bug tracer,
even in the US, where his products were marketed by
After a while it became clear that Tracey was more of an engineer than a
business man. In order to attract new capital and to get rid of his
duties, he sold 70% of the company shares to investor Lansing Bagnall.
At the same time, he gave his long-term friend and WWII veteran
a platform to further develop his invention: the
Broom, a non-linear
junction detector that was able to find bugs — or in fact any electronic parts
— even when they are switched off.
Bovill's gatgets were later sold through the shop of Allen International
in Westminster (London), another MI6 front.
In the early 1980s, Tracey further developed the Scanlock receiver
and introduced the Scanlock 2000. He also helped his American friend
and former CIA technician Glenn Whidden,
with the development of the
a computer controlled add-on to the original Scanlock.
In the mid-1980s, Tracey gradually lost interest in
Being a dedicated engineer, he felt that the majority shareholder –
Lansing Bagnall – was investing too little money in development,
and way too much in management.
Eventually, after a huge conflict, Tracey decided to leave.
After Lee Tracey had left Audiotel Ltd., the majority shareholder,
Lansing Bagnall, decided to sell the company, but did this in such a
way that Tracey, who still owned 30% of the company, was left empty handed.
Audiotel was sold to Andrew Martin, who moved the company to Corby
(Northhampshire, UK) in 1987 and would lead the company until his
untimely death in 1997.
In the following years, Tracey became a self-employed engineer and was
involved in several startup companies.
In 2013, way past his retirement age, Lee Tracey was still developing
gadgets and other electronic devices
and was actively trying to market them.
In the early 1970s, whilst working for MI6, Lee Tracey operated
a series of companies that were actually front covers of MI6,
through which the agency was able to buy and sell equipment
without attracting too much attention. The diagram below shows
the situation in 1974:
Allen International was a company that specialized in spy gadgets.
It had an office and a showroom above a bedding shop in Westminster
(London) and even supplied the Q-type gadget for the James Bond
movies. Since 1972, Allen International was run by Tracey's colleague
and friend Charles Bovill. After the company went bankrupt in
1974, he moved to Security Research Ltd. in Guildford (UK) .
The assetts of that company
(i.e. the Broom)
were later acquired by
Audiotel International Ltd.
who further developed the Broom and its successors.
Technical Security Ltd. was Tracey's 'own' company through which
he marketed his bug tracing receivers and detectors.
Above the three companies was CDI Holdings, which was also run
by Lee Tracey. CDI probably stands for Cray Defence International.
After Tracey left MI6 in 1978, he founded
who took over the development and sales of his products.
The following inventions of Lee Tracey are featured on this website:
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