UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd has said police and domestic intelligence agency MI5 will probe allegations of Russian state involvement in at least 14 deaths in the country over the past few years, to see if they were in fact political assassinations.
In a letter to Yvette Cooper, Chair of the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, Rudd was quick to stress investigations and coroner's inquests into these deaths at the time "did not discover evidence of foul play", but the circumstances will now be looked at again.
"The Government was aware of allegations [of Russian state involvement], and takes seriously any suggestion that a foreign state has engaged in murder on UK soil. I will want to satisfy myself that the allegations are nothing more than that."
No evidence of foul play was identified in any of the deaths, and several were ruled to be suicides. These fatalities include dexiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky, and infamous "spy in the bag" Gareth Williams.
Dr. David Kelly was an expert in biological warfare and a former UN weapons inspector in Iraq, who is said to have committed suicide in July 2003.
On May 29 that year, BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan reported "one of the senior officials" in charge of drawing up the British government's dossier purporting to show the danger of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction said the document's facts had been 'sexed up'. On July 10, Dr. Kelly was named as the source the claim, and appeared July 15 2003 before the Parliamentary Committee charged with investigating the scandal.
An official inquest into his death was started, but suspended before completion — and 15 years later, there are no official plans to revive complete it, the first such decision in a suspicious death case in several centuries. The 2004 Hutton inquiry concluded Dr. Kelly committed suicide out of depression and anxiety, but many experts believe he may have been murdered, and continue to demand a full inquest into his death.
For example, in May 2006, Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker stepped down as shadow environment secretary to investigate the case, and remarked "the more I look into it, the less convinced I am by the explanation and the more unanswered questions appear which ought to have been addressed properly by the Hutton inquiry."
Many key questions remain for campaigners. They suggest no fingerprints were found on the knife, pill packets, or Dr. Kelly's water bottle, glasses, mobile and watch, despite him wearing no gloves. Moreover, the Hutton inquiry suggested photographic evidence showed the body was found propped against a tree, yet the first paramedic to reach the scene said he was originally flat on his back, indicating the body was moved — by whom and why is unclear. In any event, all medical and scientific reports, and photographs of Dr. Kelly's body were secretly classified for 70 years by Lord Hutton after the death, for reasons unspecified.
Perhaps most strange of all, a helicopter landed at Harrowdown Hill about 90 minutes after the discovery of his body, which was not mentioned in the Hutton inquiry proceedings once. The helicopter flight log, released under freedom of information provisions, shows it was on hire to Thames Valley Police at the time, but had been 'heavily redacted', suggesting authorities have at least something to hide in respect of its mission.
Hilda Murrell was a British anti-nuclear campaigner, abducted and found murdered five miles from her home in Shropshire in 1984. On March 21 that year, she was scheduled to present a paper on radioactive waste management at the Sizewell B Inquiry, the first public planning inquiry into a new British nuclear power plant.
Instead, she was kidnapped in her own car, the vehicle subsequently abandoned in a country lane five miles outside Shrewsbury — three days later, her body was found in a field nearby. She'd been beaten and stabbed multiple times, and sexually abused, but did not die from her injuries, instead succumbing to hypothermia.
A police investigation failed to identify a culprit, and the murder quickly spawned numerous alternative theories. In particular, it was suggested she was killed by security services, as part of a cover operation against nuclear protesters.
Labour MP Tam Dalyell announced in Parliament December 20 1984 British Intelligence had been involved in the killing.
"[Her] house had been carefully searched and papers gone through, in an orderly manner. Her telephone had been cut off in such a way that, although it was dead from inside the house, anyone calling would seem to hear it ringing out. The police agree that is a sophisticated way of doing things-not exactly the actions of a common burglar looking for loose money and taking a chance," he said.
In June 2003, local labourer Andrew George, who was 16 when Murrell was murdered, was arrested after a cold case review of the murder uncovered DNA and fingerprint evidence linking him with the crime. In court, he admitted breaking into the house, but denied all other charges. In May 2005, he was found guilty of kidnapping, sexually assaulting, and murdering Murrell and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Nonetheless, Murrell's nephew Robert Green has claimed "many unanswered questions" remain, and George's conviction may be "unsafe".
"[George] couldn't drive and didn't match the description of the driver of her car. Since the trial I have found evidence that would've acquitted him, and others were involved. Meanwhile, break-ins to my home in New Zealand and continuing interference with my phone and mail suggest British authorities fear what I might reveal about the case," he said.
In March 2012, Michael Mansfield QC called for an inquiry into what MI5 knew about the case.
Willie MacRae was a Scottish lawyer active in the Scottish National Party. On April 6, he was found in his car, dying from a gunshot wound received 10 hours prior. A Smith & Wesson.45 calibre revolver was found April 8, around 18 meters from where the vehicle had been left. It had been fired twice.
As of March 2018, the cause of his death has never been established, medical reports and post-mortem data relating to the case haven't been released to the public, and there has been no fatal accident inquiry.
Suspicions abound that MacRae was murdered. At the time, he'd been working to counter plans to dump nuclear waste from the Dounreay Nuclear Power Development Establishment into the sea. Due to his house being burgled on repeated occasions prior to his death, he'd started carrying a copy of the documents relating to his work at all times. They were not found following his death, and the sole other copy which was kept in his office was stolen when it was burgled, no other items being taken.
Subsequent investigations have suggested MacRae was under surveillance by UK intelligence services and his death likely involved foul play. In November 2014, a Scottish Sunday Express front-page article alleged he'd uncovered evidence of a paedophile ring in Westminster during the 1980s, and may been murdered to prevent him going public.
Airey Neave was a Conservative MP widely credited with ensuring Margaret Thatcher's seizure of the party leadership in 1975. She rewarded him for his efforts with the post of Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
Neave died March 30 1979, just over a month prior to Thatcher's general election victory, when a magnetic car bomb fitted with a ball bearing tilt-switch exploded under his car as he drove out of the Palace of Westminster car park. The Irish National Liberation Army (INLA), a republican paramilitary group, claimed responsibility.
"Retired terrorist and supporter of capital punishment Airey Neave got a taste of his own medicine when an INLA unit blew him to bits inside the impregnable Palace of Westminster. The nauseous Margaret Thatcher snivelled on television that he was an 'incalculable loss'-and so he was-to the British ruling class," INLA said in a statement.
Despite this, while working in parliament as (former Liberal Democrats leader) Paddy Ashdown's research assistant, journalist Kevin Cahill claims to have had several conversations with security staff, to the effect "everyone knew" the true story behind Neave's death, but couldn't talk about it out.
Cahill suggested INLA did not kill Neave, and it was instead an "inside job", carried out by MI6 agents working with the CIA — he cited Neave's attempts to prosecute senior figures in the intelligence establishment for corruption as motivation.
Another prominent skeptic was controversial Ulster Unionist MP Enoch Powell, who claimed in a 1984 interview with The Guardian the American deep state had killed Neave.
Two years later, in a speech to students in Birmingham, he said INLA had not killed Neave, but rather, he'd been assassinated by "MI6 and their friends". He suggested Powell's attempt to integrate Northern Ireland with the rest of the UK scared the US, as it would've prevented a united Ireland joining NATO.