The French spy who planted the bombs that sank the Rainbow Warrior has been unmasked.

More than 30 years on from the terrorist outrage in the Waitemata Harbour, Jean-Luc Kister has confessed to planting both bombs on the hull of the ship.

The former secret service agent was tracked down by journalists from TVNZ's Sunday programme and he told them the mission was "a big, big failure".

The bombing, which killed photographer Fernando Pereira, rocked New Zealand and shocked the world. It was state-sponsored terrorism and those who carried it out were never properly held to account.


Alain Mafart and Dominique Prieur, who acted as a support team, were the only two caught of a dozen agents. They were sentenced to 10 years' jail but were both back in France within three years.

Kister, who lives in a small northern French city, retired from spy agency the DGSE in about 2000.

He revealed he entered New Zealand in 1985 using the alias Alain Tonel. After the bombing on July 10, he and several others posed as tourists, taking the ferry to the South Island and skiing at Mt Hutt, before leaving the country on false documents about 10 days later.

A photograph of Kister was taken by the manager of a hostel in Methven and passed to police.

In the Sunday interview Kister confirmed each team of agents knew little about the others. Cammas said he knew Mafart from combat dive-school training but until news of his and Prieur's arrest, he did not know he was part of the mission.

Kister was tracked down by TVNZ producer Chris Cooke and reporter John Hudson. The pair spent two days with him in France.

"At the end of the day he was a guy who wanted an opportunity to talk about his role in the bombing," said Hudson.

"It has been on his conscience for 30 years. He said to us, 'secret agents don't talk', but he is talking. I think he wanted to be understood."


Sunday's exclusive investigation, 7pm tonight on TV One.