LONDON (AP) _ Police on Sunday confirmed the death of a metallurgist involved in secret defense work – the fifth such case in the past eight months in which authorities have been unable to establish the cause of death.
A sixth scientist, a research expert on submarine warfare equipment at the University of Loughborough, vanished in January.
The government has rejected opposition demands for an investigation, saying there was ”no evidence of any link (in the deaths) at this stage.” But Home Secretary Douglas Hurd has ordered police involved in the individual cases to contact each other about the deaths.
John Cartwright, the defense spokesman for the centrist Liberal-Social Democratic Party alliance, renewed his call for an inquiry by the governing Conservative Party following Sunday’s confirmation of the metallurgist’s death.
Even if all the cases were suicides, he said, ”it must raise some question about the pressures under which scientists are working in the defense field.”
Police in Thames Valley confirmed Sunday that Peter Peapell, 46, a lecturer at the Royal Military College of Science at Shrivenham near Swindon, died on Feb. 22 from carbon monoxide poisoning.
An inquest returned an open verdict, making no ruling on the cause of death. Police said Peapell was found underneath his car in the garage of his home. The car’s engine was running and the garage door was shut, according to the report. His wife told reporters he was happy and had no reason to commit suicide.
Cartwright said he believed there were ”grounds for concern” and urged police to reinvestigate Peapell’s ”worrying” death.
Last Monday, David Sands, 37, a computer expert at a subsidiary of the British defense contractor Marconi Co. Ltd., was killed when he drove his car, loaded with gasoline cans, into an abandoned cafe in Surrey.
Press Association, Britain’s domestic news agency, said Sands had just completed three years’ work on a secret air defense radar system for the Royal Air Force at Easams, a subsidiary of Marconi and part of Britain’s giant General Electric Company.
Last year, two other Marconi scientists also died.
Vimal Dajibhai, 24, a programmer with Marconi Underwater Systems who reportedly was working on Britain’s self-guided torpedo Stingray missile, was found dead last August beneath a suspension bridge spanning the River Avon in Bristol, western England.
Relatives and friends testified he had no reason to commit suicde and an inquest returned an open verdict.
Ashad Sharif, 26, a computer expert with Marconi Defense Systems, died near Bristol in October. A police report said he apparently tied one end of a rope to a tree, the other around his neck, got into his car and drove off, strangling himself. An inquest returned a verdict of suicide.
Richard Pugh, a computer design expert, was found dead in his home in Essex in January. The circumstance of his death have never been explained.
A seventh scientist, Avtar Singh-Gida, 26, disappeared in January in northern England while conducting experiments on underwater acoustics. His disappearance is still under police investigation.
AP , Associated Press
Apr. 5, 1987 11:34 PM ET
© 2013 The Associated Press.