Page last updated at 16:34 GMT, Thursday, 7 August 2008 17:34 UK

Anthrax victim's widow speaks out

Maureen Stevens says knowing the identity of her husbands alleged killer has helped her

US anthrax victim Robert Stevens' widow has called it "shocking" that army scientist Bruce Ivins was allowed near anthrax when he was "certifiable".

Maureen Stevens thanked the FBI for their investigation into Mr Ivins, who killed himself last week after being told he was to be charged.

But she said the US government was ultimately responsible for her husband's death in 2001.

Mr Stevens was one of five people killed by anthrax-laced letters.

"He was not just a little bit weird - he was certifiable, and he had been for years," said Mrs Stevens of Ivins.

"It is now time for the United States of America to own up to its responsibility to my family and to right this wrong that resulted in the loss of my beloved husband and my children's beloved father," she told a Florida press conference.

UK-born Mrs Stevens filed a $50m (26m) lawsuit in 2003 claiming the US government was ultimately responsible for her husband's death.

She blamed lax security at the Maryland army research centre where Mr Ivins worked before her husband's death - even though at the time it had not been established the anthrax was stolen from the labs.

9/11 trauma

Robert Stevens - who worked as a photo editor at American Media Inc - died from pulmonary anthrax in October 2001 after inhaling spores of the deadly bacteria contained in a contaminated letter.

First anthrax-laced letter is mailed on 18 Sept, 2001
Florida sees first of five deaths, three weeks later
The dead are two postal workers in Washington, a New York hospital worker, a Florida photo editor and an elderly woman in Connecticut
Panicked Americans try to stock up on antibiotic Cipro
Postal depots shut for de-contamination; mail is irradiated
Senate offices shut for weeks
Hoaxes become an almost daily occurrence
Plans to deal with a biological weapons attack updated

He was the first of five people killed in the nationwide anthrax outbreak, which infected 17 other people, shut down parts of Washington DC and terrorised an already anxious American public in the wake of the 11 September attacks.

The weapons-grade anthrax was posted in letters to a number of people and institutions. In addition to those directly infected, another 35,000 people were forced to take precautionary antibiotics.

Mrs Stevens claimed in her lawsuit that the US government was negligent because it failed to safeguard strains of the deadly anthrax bacteria at the army's disease research centre in Maryland.

She said the government "owed a duty of care, the highest degree of care" in handling of anthrax and supervising employees who had access to it.

Mr Ivins was a microbiologist who was working on an anthrax antidote at the time.

US man 'linked to anthrax by DNA'
03 Aug 08 |  Americas
'Pressure' killed anthrax suspect
01 Aug 08 |  Americas
US anthrax 'suspect' found dead
01 Aug 08 |  Americas
Huge US payout over anthrax case
27 Jun 08 |  Americas
New twist in anthrax case
02 Jul 03 |  Americas
Pond drained for anthrax clues
09 Jun 03 |  Americas
US anthrax widow files $50m claim
15 Feb 03 |  Americas
Biological weapons: Anthrax
03 Mar 03 |  Special Reports

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific