PRICELESS: Mysterious Preston spy may have bought rare Fabergé egg

A Faberg� egg
A Faberg� egg
  • Maxwell Naesmyth Wilcock lived in Preston before embarking on a life of mystery
  • The Preston man suspected to be a spy was a 6ft 10in giant with size 19 feet
  • He spent the final months of his life in a dingy London flat, before dying of pneumonia in hospital
  • His family now believes he may be the ‘stranger’ who bought a Fabergé egg in 1952
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A Preston man suspected to have been a spy could be the mystery person who bought a priceless Fabergé egg worth millions from a London shop in 1952.

The family of “enigma” Maxwell Naesmyth Wilcock, who lived in Fishwick Parade and Deepdale Road in Preston in the 1930s and 1940s before embarking on a life of mystery, believe he could be the customer, referred to only as “A Stranger” as he lived close to the premises.

Maxwell Naismith Wilcock in Russia's Red Square

Maxwell Naismith Wilcock in Russia's Red Square

London jewellers Wartski sold an egg known as the Nécessaire in London in 1952, and a jeweller told a national newspaper a man had simply “walked in off the street and paid £1,250 in cash”. He was listed only on records as a ‘A Stranger’.

The Evening Post previously reported how last year, Max’s cousin Robin Maudsley, 63, of Meadow Street, Deepdale, Preston, learned he may have banked a Fabergé egg in a vault in Preston, and are still trying to get to the bottom of the mystery, which could yield a fortune.

Today he said: “I saw an article about the Fabergé eggs in a national newspaper and immediately thought that must have been my uncle. We already know he had an egg but don’t know where it came from.

“Strangely Max lived a few blocks away from the shop in London in 1952 – was this him?

I saw an article about the Fabergé eggs in a national newspaper and immediately thought that must have been my uncle.

Robin Maudsley

“Two people – Max’s fiancee, Lily, in San Francisco, and an elderly woman who was a friend – have each claimed they saw Max with a Fabergé egg.

“I last spoke to him in 2009 and he said he wanted to come back to Preston to right a wrong, and to give us something from a safety deposit box in Preston.

“We suspect he must have meant the egg. I think he had been carrying the egg around with him put it in a safe in Preston, probably in a bank, when he realised how much it was worth.

“It is difficult for us to find out more because he was known by 13 different aliases.”

Maxwell Naismith Wilcock's student card for Paris University

Maxwell Naismith Wilcock's student card for Paris University

Dr Wilcock, who was also known as Dr Fenshaw, Mr Fetherstonehaugh, and Mr Wilcox amongst other variations of his name, spoke eight languages, and had nine degrees.

A 6ft 10in giant with size 19 feet, he travelled to far flung places and never told anyone what he did.

Certificates show him rising through the ranks of the Knights Templar masonic and religious organisation, while various passports show stamps from hundreds of countries he had visited.

He went to Germany, Ethiopia, Jordan, Belgrade, Greece and Syria among other countries in the 1950s and his family say he carried a green diplomat card.

Despite his remarkable life he spent the final months of his life in a humble, dingy London flat and died of pneumonia in a London hospital.

There are thought to be around 50 Fabergé eggs in the world. The jewelled eggs were created by designer Peter Carl Fabergé and his company between 1885 and 1917 for the Russian tsars.