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Monday, 20 November, 2000, 15:41 GMT
'Experiments on elderly' claim probed

Claims that elderly people were used as guinea pigs for germ warfare experiments more than 30 years ago are being investigated by police.

Detectives have been handed three letters alleging that scientists at the Porton Down military base in Wiltshire used people suffering from dementia as research subjects between 1968 and 1970.

The Ministry of Defence has denied that Porton Down was involved in the research.

I have seen evidence which I think is genuine

Monsignor John Barry
The allegations follow reports that up to 20,000 soldiers were duped into taking part in experiments with nerve gas, mustard gas and LSD at Porton Down.

The latest claims are made in documents given by the Express newspaper to Wiltshire Police working on Operation Antler - the investigation into the experimentation on servicemen.

Two of the letters are written by the Roman Catholic priest Monsignor John Barry, who described his belief that the experiments were taking place.

A third was written by the then assistant of the former Liberal Party leader, Sir David Steel.

Monsignor Barry first raised the issue many years ago.

In January 1970 he told the Edinburgh Business Club: "I have seen evidence which I think is genuine, which seems to suggest that there is a certain section of the Ministry of Defence which uses elderly people as guinea pigs for experiments and quietly puts them to death afterwards.

"It is carefully hidden by the Official Secrets Act."

MoD denial

The issue received little publicity at the time, but has resurfaced following the allegations about the testing of soldiers.

A police spokesman said: "We have been handed three letters in connection with the Porton Down investigation. We will be looking at those letters."

A Ministry of Defence spokesman denied that Porton Down scientists were involved in testing the elderly.

"The scientists involved did work at Porton Down, but not at the time of this research," the spokesman said.

They were desperate to keep me away from the subject of Porton Down

MP Tam Dalyell
Veteran Labour MP Tam Dalyell, who courted controversy over the Porton Down issue in 1967, said he plans to raise the matter in the Commons following the latest developments.

In 1967 he was reprimanded by the Speaker after he handed over evidence on Porton Down, taken by the Select Committee on Science and Technology, to The Observer newspaper.

The Linlithgow MP said: "For years I believed the Ministry of Defence had stitched me up over Porton Down in revenge for other issues I had embarrassed them about.

"But now it is dawning on me that they did it because they were desperate to keep me away from the subject of Porton Down. They wanted to make the subject a no-go zone."

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