Computer Magazine Says Scientists' Deaths Don't Add UpLESLIE SHEPHERD , Associated Press
Apr. 13, 1988 8:48 PM ET
LONDON (AP) _ The deaths or disappearances of 15 British scientists in six years is more than coincidence, but there still is no proof the cases are linked, a computer magazine said Thursday.
Computer News, a highly regarded industry weekly, analyzed in its latest issue the string of cases dating back to March 1982.
''Computer News' feeling is that it's certainly more than a coincidence,'' said Jane Lawrence, the magazine's editor. ''But we have no conclusive evidence.''
The government has admitted the spate of cases is odd, but has insisted the frequency of the deaths is a coincidence, and rejected calls for an inquiry.
''It is possible to believe that the official reluctance to give information on these deaths is instinctive rather than conspiratorial,'' the magazine said. ''It is equally possible to believe that these cases are the tip of an iceberg.''
Computer News said several of the scientists were working on sensitive defense projects, particularly in fields relating to signal processing, which is critical to detecting, identifying and tracking targets.
Many died in unexplained, even bizarre, circumstances, it said. Most resembled suicides, although only two have been so ruled. Eight died in 1987 alone.
Computer News said speculation the scientists committed suicide because of stress ''cannot be ruled out,'' although many relatives felt the scientists had been in good spirits.
The magazine said a particularly odd case involves Peter Peapell, 46, found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning in his garage. Peapell had a high-security job at the Royal Military College of Science testing titanium's resistance to explosives.
Peapell's wife, Maureen, said she last saw her husband alive about 3 a.m. one morning in February 1987 after they returned from an evening out. The magazine said she went to bed and left her husband to park the car.
About six hours later she awoke and found him dead under the car, with the engine running and garage doors closed. Carbon deposits on the garage door showed the engine had been running only a short time.
The magazine said Peapell's head was sticking out face-up from underneath the car, his mouth virtually aligned with the end of the exhaust pipe.
It is not known whether Peapell knew John Brittan, who had left the college to work at a Defense Ministry research establishment.
Brittan also was found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning in his garage. He and Peapell died shortly after returning from business trips to the United States.
A young scientific officer at the college died in a mysterious car crash in Cyprus in April 1987, the magazine said.
Another scientist involved in signal processing disappeared four days before Brittan died, but was traced four months later by a British newspaper to a boutique in a Paris red-light district.
Avtar Singh-Gida disappeared while finishing his doctoral thesis on underwater signal processing at Loughborough University. He has refused to talk about his disappearance or the death of an acquaintance, Vimal Dajibhai, a computer programmer at Marconi Defense Systems, an electronics firm.
Dajibhai fell to his death from a bridge in August 1986.
Questions also surround the October 1986 death of Ashhad Sharif, another expert in advanced ignal processing, the magazine said. An inquest ruled that Sharif killed himself by tying a rope to a tree, looping the other end around his neck and then driving off in his car.
Four other digital communications experts died unusual deaths, the magazine said, including one who drove a car filled with gasoline tanks into an empty cafe.