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Last Updated: Monday, 31 October 2005, 13:32 GMT
Crash deaths cause 'spy' theories
An investigator at the crash site just east of Bournemouth airport
The helicopter crashed near Bournemouth International Airport
Conspiracy theories over the death of a Russian oil firm boss have the makings of a spy thriller, an inquest was told.

Stephen Curtis, 45, and pilot Matthew Radford, 34, were killed when their helicopter crashed near Bournemouth International Airport on 3 March 2004.

Coroner Sheriff Payne told the jury at an inquest on Monday that conspiracy theories arose after the crash.

"Particularly because of Mr Curtis' activities, his Russian clients..." he said at Bournemouth Town Hall.

The possibility of sabotage cannot be dismissed without a thorough investigation
Dennis Radford

"They are all the ingredients for an espionage thriller, a thriller of any genre.

"A man living an apparent lifestyle of international Russians, Russian oil, all sorts of various ingredients which have excited the press in general."

Mr Payne said that Mr Radford's parents felt it was Mr Curtis who was "indirectly" responsible for what happened.

He added that they felt their son "may well have been a target, that either there may have been a defect with the helicopter that had arisen or that was generated by someone with malevolent intent and that this crash was manufactured in some way".

But he said that the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) did not think the helicopter had been sabotaged "in any way".

Thorough investigation

The father of the pilot, Dennis Radford, said he believed the AAIB had spent insufficient time investigating the possibility of sabotage.

Speaking about Mr Curtis, Mr Radford said: "I am not suggesting his business activities or people he was dealing with necessarily suggests his aircraft was sabotaged but it does mean the possibility of sabotage cannot be dismissed without a thorough investigation."

Mr Curtis' uncle, Eric Jenkins, told the inquest that his nephew had received threatening phone calls and was under surveillance during the last two years of his life.

He said that two weeks before his death he had made a throwaway remark in Gibraltar that if anything happened to him, it would not be an accident.

Mr Curtis, of Portland, Dorset, was travelling from Battersea, in south west London, to Bournemouth on the night the helicopter crashed.

He was managing director of Group Menatep, a 16bn holding company with interests in the Russian oil industry.

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