Friday, 01 Aug, 2008 Politics

Biodefense Researcher Commits Suicide Before Being Charged of U.S. Anthrax Attacks


One of the leading researchers in the United States has committed suicide after finding out that criminal charges were almost filed against him over the anthrax assaults that caused traumas to Americans after September 11 tragedy.

Bruce Ivins, 62, was a biodefense researcher. Shortly before the suicide he was informed about the awaiting trial. After being warned about criminal charges against him, Ivins swallowed a huge dose of painkillers.

For the last 18 years the researcher was one of the employees at the U.S. government's biodefence laboratories, located at Fort Detrick, Maryland. The FBI started an investigation of the anthrax assaults that led to the death of five people. The FBI's center of attention was the laboratory where Ivins worked.

The acute infectious disease was sent via mail to media organizations and politicians. This happened in 2001 shortly after the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington DC. The virus managed to kill five people and infected 17 others, disabled national postal services and a Senate office building.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Mr Ivins was considered to be a talented microbiologist who provided help to FBI in examining materials contained in one of the envelopes that included the disease sent to the Washington office of the U.S. senator.

The scientist died at Frederick Memorial Hospital in Maryland. The official cause of death has not yet been revealed. According to the Los Angeles Times, quoting one of its anonymous colleagues, the U.S. researcher had taken a deadly dose of a Tylenol mixed with codeine.

"People here are pretty shook up about it," said Caree Vander Linden, a spokeswoman for the agency where Ivins worked.

One of Ivins' former colleagues mentioned that the scientist suffered from depression and had warned of suicide.

One of the man's brothers, Thomas Ivins, said that it wasn't a surprise for him to find out about the suicide of his brother.

"He buckled under the pressure from the federal government," said Thomas Ivins, who also mentioned that the FBI agents arrived to Ohio last year to interrogate him and he had "sung like a canary" about the personality of his brother.

"He had in his mind that he was omnipotent," added Thomas Ivins.

Previously another scientist was under suspicion. His name is Steven Hatfill and he worked in the same laboratory as Ivins. The scientist filed lawsuits against officials from the Justice Department. One of his "targets" was Attorney General John Ashcroft, who in 2002 described Mr Hatfill as "person of interest" in the investigation.

In order to drop Mr Hatfill's lawsuit, the Department agreed to pay him $5.85 million. Head of FBI, Robert Mueller, recently stated that the agency is currently registering "great progress" in its investigation over anthrax attacks and that it was "in no way dormant."

Source: DailyMail

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