On more than a few occasions I get asked if there is any book I wish I had written, or that I have thought about writing, but never actually got around to. Well, as for the former, there are plenty! As for books that I have considered penning, one concerns a strange series of deaths that pretty much dawned as the 21st Century began. I chose not to write it because of time constraints, more than anything else. But, that doesn't mean it's not a story worth chronicling in book-length form. It certainly is. So, maybe after reading this, you'll be the one to take up the challenge.
Since 2001, numerous individuals working within the elite field of microbiology - which is defined as the study of organisms that are too small to be seen with the naked eye, such as bacteria and viruses – have died under circumstances that many within the media, scientific circles, the general public, and the field of conspiracy-themed research have come to view as highly suspicious in nature. Most intriguing is the fact that a sizeable number of those dead microbiologists had deep links to worldwide intelligence services, including the United States’ CIA, Britain’s MI5 and MI6, and Israel’s Mossad.
Inevitably, this strange cluster of deaths, in such a tightly knit area of cutting-edge research, has led to a proliferation of theories in an attempt to resolve the matter. Some students of the puzzle have mused on the possibility that a cell of deep-cover terrorists, from the Middle East, are wiping out the leading names within the field of microbiology as part of an on-going plot to prevent Western nations from developing the ultimate weapon of biological warfare.
Of course, observers on the other side of the fence see all of this as nothing more than paranoia and hysteria run rampant in the era of overwhelming uncertainty that has surfaced since the terror attacks of 9-11. Those same observers have accused the conspiracy theorists of playing a game of “Watch the microbiologists.”
Their argument is that if a person takes careful note of any community of an impressive size for long enough, then that same person will inevitably come across countless deaths, but they do not necessarily have to be a part of a dark and sinister, inter-connected plot.
If the rumors of murder are true, then the consequences are devastating. If, however, the fears and suspicions are merely borne out of a new and surreal world possessed by, and obsessed with, terror and distrust, then what does that say about our ability to rationally address such issues in a clear and logical manner? The questions are many. The stakes are high.
And the story is one steeped in fear, paranoia, conspiracy, cover-up, obfuscation, and an ever-growing list of dark, disturbing and suspicious deaths. Two of those deaths occurred in my home country of the UK, so it's those I'll share with you, to give you an idea of what is afoot. But, bear in mind, these cases are just the tip of a worldwide iceberg.
On November 23, 2001, Dr. Vladimir Pasechnik, a former microbiologist for Bioreparat - a bio-weapons production facility that existed in Russia prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union - was found dead near his home in the county of Wiltshire, England; the county that just happens to be home to Porton Down, too. Pasechnik’s defection to Britain in 1989 revealed to Western intelligence services, for the very first time, the sheer extent and scale of the former-Soviet Union’s secret research into the field of biological-warfare, including deadly anthrax.
After his defection, Pasechnik was employed for a year at the Center for Applied Microbiology Research – at Porton Down itself - before forming his own company, Regma Biotechnics. And, in the final weeks of his life, Pasechnik placed the sum-total of his anthrax-based research in the hands of the British Government. According to British Intelligence, Pasechnik died of nothing stranger than a tragic stroke. How very convenient that Pasechnik’s fatal stroke did not hit him until precisely after – rather than before - he had completed his anthrax-themed work and handed it over to British authorities.
Then, on July 18, 2003, David Kelly, a British biological-weaponry expert, fatally slashed his wrist, and downed a cocktail of pills, while out walking in woods near his home – or, at least, that was the official version of events, and the one much preferred by the British Government. Kelly was the British Ministry of Defense’s Chief Scientific Officer and Senior Adviser to the Proliferation and Arms Control Secretariat, and to the Foreign Office’s non-proliferation department.
And in 1984, Kelly had been appointed as Head of Microbiology at Porton Down. In the autumn of 1989, he was called in to assist MI6 in debriefing none other than the aforementioned Vladimir Pasechnik – a debriefing that provided undeniable evidence of a gross violation of the 1972 biological weapons convention: the Russians were shown to be secretly studying the Smallpox virus – which was in direct, flagrant contravention of World Health Organization regulations.
After the Iraqis were slung out of Kuwait in 1991, the U.N. invited Kelly to help force Saddam Hussein into compliance with the peace agreements. Kelly made thirty-six visits to Iraq, and, from New York, continued his work into the late-1990s. He also acted as the Senior Adviser on Biological Weapons to the United Nations’ Biological Weapons Inspections teams (Unscom) from 1994 to 1999. To this very day, Kelly’s suicide is viewed with deep suspicion and great cynicism.
Were the deaths of Pasechnik and Kelly really so prosaic in nature, as the British Government was – and still very much is – so keen to assert? Or was the fact that both of them had deep, secret ties to Porton Down an indication that something stranger and far more deadly, was afoot?
In today’s climate of never-ending terror, it should be recognized that any suspicious deaths in the field of microbiology and biological-warfare – and specifically where many of the victims had links to the Intelligence services of a number of countries and secret installations like Porton Down – might be an indication that a terrorist-based assassination squad was at work in at least some of the deaths.
And, with all that now said, are you up for the challenge of writing a full-length book on the strange case of the dead microbiologists? Someone, I hope, is ready for the task! It's a story that both deserves and needs to be told.