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Friday, 1 September, 2000, 12:16 GMT 13:16 UK
Cash boost for Porton Down inquiry

Wiltshire police have been awarded a grant of nearly 900,000 to investigate claims that servicemen died as a result of chemical trials at Porton Down in Wiltshire.

Officers are looking into the deaths of 45 servicemen who acted as guinea pigs at the Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment on Salisbury Plain.

The Home Office has given 870 000 to the force because of the special nature of the investigation.

In August 1999, police launched a criminal inquiry into the death of Ronald Maddison, who died in May 1953 after the deadly nerve agent Sarin B was dripped onto his arm.

Relatives of other men who died after similar tests at the government germ warfare research centre, then contacted detectives following the publicity surrounding the Maddison case.

Ronald Maddison
Ronald Maddison: Died after Sarin B was dripped on to his arm
Another former serviceman Gordon Bell claimed men were tricked into testing nerve gases after being told the trials were tests for "common cold research".

He said Mr Maddison was given a massive dose of Sarin dripped through his clothing with the purpose of finding out just how much it would take to kill a man in uniform.

Servicemen were offered about 2 and a pass for three days' leave if they volunteered to take part in tests.

Wiltshire police sources said their inquiry could eventually take in up to 70 cases.

More than 300 ex-servicemen claim to have suffered disabilities ranging from breathing difficulties to kidney complaints as a result of tests carried out at the centre run by the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (Dera).

Wiltshire police asked the Home Office for help in meeting the bill for the inquiry, which is believed to stand at 40,000 a month.

Officers have been seconded from the army, navy and air force's own police services to join the investigating team.

The investigation could lead to the prosecution of former Ministry of Defence staff and compensation claims by victims' families.

Detectives involved in the inquiry have travelled to the United States, where the Pentagon agreed to pay compensation to members of its armed forces whose health was affected by similar experiments.

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