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Monday, 29 July, 2002, 15:05 GMT 16:05 UK
MoD 'will not oppose' new inquest
Porton Down
The way has been cleared for a new inquiry into the death of a serviceman during nerve gas tests at Porton Down research centre nearly 50 years ago.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has told the High Court it does not intend to oppose moves to quash the original inquest verdict into the death of airman Ronald Maddison in 1953.

Mr Maddison was 20 when he took part in what he thought was an experiment to find a cure for the common cold in May 1953. He was dead 45 minutes later.

The inquest was held in private "for reasons of national security" and found he had died of asphyxia.

Ronald Maddison
Ronald Maddison: died 45 minutes after the test

But it was claimed in 1999 that he died after being exposed to the deadly nerve agent Sarin.

The High Court will have to decide at a one-day hearing in November whether it is in the public interest to re-open the case.

But a procedural hearing on Monday was told the MoD would not stand in the way.

Moves to have the original inquest verdict quashed have been made by Wiltshire coroner, David Masters and are supported by the Attorney General.

Former servicemen have claimed for years that many of their colleagues died after being exposed to testing at the base on Salisbury Plain.

Wiltshire Police have investigated the deaths of more than 70 volunteers at the establishment.


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