Ash (real name Anthony Sean Howel, hence his initials which spell ASH) was the hidden secondary antagonist in the novel Snakehead by Anthony Horowitz. Ash was the one who had killed Alex Rider's parents.
Ash was presumably English, although he is mentioned as looking very Middle Eastern, and he was presumably born in London, given that he went to work for MI6 with his close friends Ian and John Rider, both brothers. (John later became Alex Rider's father, Ian was his uncle.) Anyway, Ash was at desk duty or something insignificant and, in his words, "nobody noticed I existed." He liked women, particularly Jack Starbright, John Rider's housekeeper, and he went out with her, but never dated her professionally. Ash became obsessed with MI6 and wanted to become more prominent, but he was never recognized by Alan Blunt, the director, nor Mrs Jones, his deputy.
One day, Blunt sent Ash and John Rider out to Malta, off the African coast, where a killer named Yassen Gregorovich was going to kill a criminal named Cuxco. Yassen's mission was successful, but at the last moment, due to a clock being wrong, Yassen was betrayed and noticed the MI6 agents in town, and ran, but was chased by Ash, and Yassen knifed Ash in the gut, causing him to suffer for ever. Yassen nearly eviscerated Ash, but Ash was rescued by medics and given painkillers and other remedies. But Ash was always in pain - Blunt humiliated him by saying it was his fault the operation screwed up, and he further humiliated him by giving him a desk job. Ash now hated MI6 and stopped being the patriot he used to.
A new organization devoted to assassination and corruption was being formed at the time, named Scorpia and Ash immediately volunteered to become an assassin. He ventured tentatively into Scorpia and eventually left MI6 when he knew he would get more money. He then had to kill, of course, to prove his worth, and was given the task of killing John Rider, because Scorpia had tried to kill John in Albert Bridge in London but had failed because John tricked them and faked his death. So Scorpia felt betrayed and wanted it done right. Ash had to prove himself to them, and in doing so, he had to smuggle a bomb into John Rider's plane.
Ash claimed he never wanted to do it, but he did, and was welcomed immediately afterwards into Scorpia. Not only did the bomb kill John, it also killed his wife, Helen, who was travelling. Three year old Alex Rider was lucky he had an illness and so couldn't fly.
Sometime after his treachery, Ash infiltrated the Australian Intelligence Secret Services to spy on them, but he claimed he was doing it out of duty. He got accepted.
Meeting Alex Rider
Ash first met Alex Rider, (who was his godson) in Australia, when the Australian intelligence had set a set-up for Alex, to prove if he was a good agent, by putting down mines in a forest at night. Ash met Alex and told him the mine would blow if he moved. He said he'd go and get help and then he disappeared and Alex made it off the mine in time but wondered who Ash was. He never saw Ash properly because of the darkness in the forest.
Later on Alex went to Thailand to Bangkok to meet Ash in his mission to destroy the snakehead and met Ash, and got angry at realizing he was the soldier in the wood who was with him on the mine. He recognized his voice. A sullen silence grew between them, especially when Ash refused to talk about Alex's father, as to which Alex had flown a thousand miles to hear about. Alex almost got to leave but Ash then said that he would eventually talk. After nearly being killed by the snakehead, Alex finally got to hear about John and the night in Malta. But then as soon as they got to Thailand's coast they were seperated and taken onboard different parts of the ship. Ash was taken off to the snakehead, since he was a traitor, and made to report, but Alex was taken as prisoner. Alex escaped and witnessed Winston Yu on board, being his most evil. Little did he know Winston Yu was Ash's own boss.
They were sailing to Australia, and Alex spent the whole night awake under Winston Yu's bed. Later on, he escaped the ship and made it into Australia, and tried to contact Ash, but then Yu turned up, and turned a gun on Alex, having beaten up Ash (or so it seemed) and then he threatened (and was good on his threat) to send Alex to a dismemberment center, but Alex escaped it and blew it up.
Later on, Ash was with Winston Yu about to blow up a fault and set a tsunami, but then Alex made it in with the SAS, and he entered the room, but an SAS man barged in and shot Ash down, almost killing him. But Ash managed to live and confess his betrayal and evil ways, including Alex's parents' murder, which destroyed Alex, but then Ash finally died from his gunshot wounds.
- Alex Rider and Jack Starbright has never known his full name.
- Ash is seen smoking at several points in the book, and his
name may possibly be a reference to this. Alex also notes that it is surprising that Ash smokes, considering the fact that he chooses to look after himself in so many other ways.
- Ash's role in the book is similar to that of Alec Trevelyan/ Janus (a.k.a. Agent 006) in the James Bond movie GoldenEye.
- In the missing chapter of Snakehead, "CODA," it is explained how Ash betrayed the Riders and joined SCORPIA. It has also mentioned the otherwise unknown full name that made up his initials "A.S.H."
- Ethan Brooke mentioned that one of their agents was cremated and sent back in an envelope while infiltrating the Snakehead, them being turned to ash, which is what Anthony called himself.