Mysteries from the Cold War

Wednesday, November 13, 1991

Mysteries from the Cold War

Open Verdict: An Account of 25
Mysterious Deaths in the Defence
Industry
By Tony Collins
Sphere Books, $12.99 (pb)
Reviewed by Mark Delmege

Remember a few years ago the mystery deaths of the British Marconi scientists? It seemed that every other month another body was found in strange circumstances.

I had forgotten all about it until recently when talking to a Joe Vialls in Perth. He claimed that the last chapter (the epilogue) of a book on the deaths was about him.

The book, Open Verdict, is by English electronics writer Tony Collins. Collins studies the mystery surrounding these deaths. He finds unlikely "suicides", improbable "accidents" and an officialdom hell-bent on obstruction and misrepresentation.

Not all of the 25 deaths investigated here involve Marconi scientists. However, most did work in defence industries on what Collins describes as "electronic warfare" projects.

Collins argues that some of the scientists may have committed suicide or died in accidents for reasons unknown to us. Yet sufficient doubt remains for him to explore ulterior motives.

He suggests that perhaps the scientists were seen as potential threats to national security, that their inside knowledge of classified military projects could not be allowed to be shared.

Joe Vialls' case is offered as a suggestion of how these scientists may have been influenced to end their lives.

Vialls worked with sensitive technologies. He claims to have survived life-threatening "psychological abuse" after resisting US government pressure to alter his work in India.

Similarities between the experiences of Vialls and those of some of the scientists could help explain some of the mystery. If "brain washing" techniques were used, this may explain the out-of-character behaviour of many of the scientist prior to death.

Sure, all of this does sound rather far-fetched, yet no more so than the events surrounding the deaths of the scientists. And "brain washing" techniques have been reported to be under investigation by Western governments for many decades.

Tony Collins is an award-winning technology journalist who spent two years writing this book. He's no crank, and his thoughts are worthy of closer examination.

This book may just provide a unique insight into our very recent past and the last days of the Cold War in Europe in the 1980s. n

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