Mehmet Ali Agca, 62, spent 29 years in jail for shooting Pope John Paul II in Rome in 1981
The would-be assassin who shot Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in 1981 had a secret English girlfriend at the time but didn’t tell her about his sinister plot.
Mehmet Ali Agca, 62, spent 29 years in jail for the attack and for murdering a newspaper editor but he now claims to be a reformed character and spends his time feeding stray cats and dogs in Istanbul.
He says he’s relieved that the Pope didn’t die when he shot him four times as he drove through crowds of worshippers in St Peter’s Square.
John Paul, who died in 2005, later pardoned Agca and even visited him in his jail cell to show his forgiveness.
Agca told the Daily Mirror: ‘It was destiny. And it was destiny he survived. I am very glad he didn’t die.
‘The Pope became like a brother to me. When he died I felt like my brother or my best friend had died.’
Agca, who claims the Soviet Union ordered the assassination, also revealed that he had an English girlfriend at the time but didn’t tell her he was planning to kill the Pope as he thought it might upset her.
He said: ‘I already knew I was going to shoot the Pope but I didn’t tell my English girlfriend. It wouldn’t have been fair on her.
Agca shot John Paul with a 9mm Browning Hi-Power semi-automatic pistol and then fled through the crowds and threw it under a lorry before being apprehended by security and a nun
John Paul II in his Popemobile after being shot by Agca in 1981 in St Peter’s Square, Rome
Pope John Paul II forgave his attempted assassin and even visited him in jail in 1983
‘You know I had an English girlfriend? I met her in Tunisia in December 1980. Her name was Edith. We met at the Intercontinental Hotel in Hammonasset. I was travelling on a false passport and she would have known me as Farouk.
‘I already knew I was going to try and kill the Pope but I didn’t tell her.
‘She worked in a large London department store like Harrods. I can’t remember which one.
‘She was very, very beautiful and I had a great time with her.
‘She was six or seven years older than me. But she certainly didn’t know her boyfriend was already planning to kill the Pope.
‘I do sometimes wonder what happened to her.’
He now lives in a quiet suburb of the Turkish city in a small apartment and lives of the proceeds of his 2013 memoirs.
He says he spends about £200 a month on food for stray animals.
He said: ‘I think of how I shot the Pope on most days… not every day now but most days.
‘I’m a good man now. I try to live my life properly. When I shot him I was 23. I was young and I was ignorant.
‘I remember how rational I felt. I fired the gun and then it jammed.’
He shot John Paul with a 9mm Browning Hi-Power semi-automatic pistol and then fled through the crowds and threw it under a lorry.
He was apprehended by a Vatican security chief, a nun and several spectators.
All four bullets hit the Pope – two lodged in his colon, one hit his left index finger and the other injured his right arm but he survived.
Pope John Paul II sitting in his bed at the Policlinico Gemelli hospital in Rome after he was wounded in St. Peter’s square by his would-be assassin Mehemet Ali Agca on May 13, 1981
The daily mail’s front page on May 14, 1981, the day after the pope was shot in Rome
The Pope forgave Agca and visited him in his cell in prison in 1983 and later pardoned him
Agca was extradited to Turkey in 2000 after serving almost 20 years in jail in Italy for shooting the pope. He was then put on trial for an armed robbery in 1979 (pictured)
Agca holds up an issue of Time magazine, given to him by a journalist, outside a military recruitment center after being released from prison in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2006
Agca had also murdered left-wing newspaper editor Abdi Ipekci in Istanbul in 1979.
He was sentenced to life in jail for shooting John Paul but the Pope forgave him and after his recovery, visited him in prison.
Agca said: ‘There are some things I cannot talk about. In that 22-minute private meeting with the Pope when he visited me in jail there are some things I have never discussed what he told me. It was very special.’
In 2000 Agca was pardoned at the Pope’s request and extradited to Turkey where he spent another 10 years in jail after he was convicted of murdering Mr Ipekci and raiding two banks.
Pope John Paul II blesses followers a few seconds before being shot and seriously wounded 13 May 1981
A copy of a letter sent from Mehmet Ali Agca May 12 to Pope John Paul II. The Turkish gunman who shot and nearly killed the Pope John Paul on May 13, 1981, appealed for clemency in a handwritten letter sent from jail
He claims the Soviets were behind the plot but is reluctant to go into detail. He said: ‘It was they who plotted the assassination – they wanted him dead.’
Agca had studied history, languages and finance at universities in Ankara and Istanbul and planned to become a professor.
He paid the equivalent of £10,000 in today’s money for the gun which he bought from a former Nazi on a street in Vienna.
Agca is single and never married. He worked as a car salesman for a while after prison but now earns enough from book royalties and hopes to make a movie of his life.
He said: ‘I am planning to make a film or some sort of documentary on what happened. I am hoping Hollywood will be interested.’
He added: ‘I managed to learn some English when I was in prison. I read The Da Vinci code – it’s a very primitive book about what happens in the Vatican. I also read Tom Clancy.
‘I would very much like to visit London if I could get a visa.
The would-be assassin of Pope, Mehmet Ali Agca, is flanked by gendarmes as he enters a courtroom in Istanbul August 9, 2000
‘I’m up to date on Brexit – perhaps that will change everything.’
Agca is banned from Italy but made a secret trip back in 2014.
He recalled: ‘I went back to Rome, back to the Vatican.
‘I wasn’t allowed to but I went in to the forests of Serbia and got across the border into Hungary and then made my way down to Italy.
‘I went into St Peter’s Square on December 27 – to the exact spot where I shot the Pope. I took some flowers with me, roses.
‘It was the exact time, 5.20pm, that he visited me in jail on December 27, 1981.
‘Some people recognised me but there was no trouble, no problems at all. The police were very nice to me.’
In 2015 he decided to visit Russia.
He said: ‘I went to Moscow. I see the Kremlin as like al-Qaeda.
‘I met some very senior people but they told me, ‘This is Russia now not the Soviet Union. We owe nothing to you’.
‘If they had wanted to kill me that was the time to do it. But they didn’t. I believe in God. I respect all religions – Muslims, Christians and Jews.’
Agca said his main focus now is feeding the cats and dogs.
He said: ‘Animal rights are as important as human rights. I spend around £200 a month feeding them.
‘It is the right thing to do – they all know me and come running when they see me. They are all so innocent. We must look after them as well as we look after people.
‘I feel like the Pontiff of stray animals in Istanbul.’
Mehmet Ali Agca in an Istanbul court, in Turkey, after being extradited from Italy in 2000