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Some VVIP deaths continue to puzzle

Some VVIP deaths continue to puzzle
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Highlights

Jealous Roman Senators surrounded Julius Caesar and stabbed him to death. It was daylight, the identities of the killers were known and there was no mystery anywhere. As against one such death, history recorded hundreds of deaths which were shrouded in mystery and defied solution.

Jealous Roman Senators surrounded Julius Caesar and stabbed him to death. It was daylight, the identities of the killers were known and there was no mystery anywhere. As against one such death, history recorded hundreds of deaths which were shrouded in mystery and defied solution.

Poisons were easily available and members of royal families used them effectively to get rid of weak kings and queens or their rivals to the throne. Modern research has shown that thousands of years back Egyptians packed their Pharaohs in tight white clothes and buried them with ceremony. But the same research also hinted that some of the Pharaohs could have been poisoned or strangled to death by their rivals.

‘When beggars die there are no comets seen, the Heavens themselves blaze forth the death of Princes’ wrote Shakespeare in ‘Julius Caesar’. In his scholarly treatise ‘Prince’, Italian statesman Nicola Machiavelli mentioned how poison was commonly used among members of royal families to settle scores. Detection of crime and prosecution of the guilty were found wanting; several deaths remained unsolved and the guilty unpunished. Times changed, political murders continued, sometimes in full view of the public. Criminals were not caught because investigators, prosecutors and judges could be bought. Several VVIP murders were ‘solved’, in some cases offenders were punished but there were always the lingering doubts if the guilty persons were ‘really guilty’.

In recent times, much money and efforts were spent in the investigation of US President John Kennedy’s assassination in broad daylight in the American town of Dallas. Lee Harvey Oswald was caught, a weapon recovered from him but while he was still in the custody of Dallas cops he was shot down by a bar owner, Jack Ruby. What kind of policemen would allow this to happen? it was a day of shame for the American security system. The American public was confronted with many unsolved puzzles. Oswald had been to Cuba and the USSR and was supposed to be soft on Communism. But would he dare to kill the American President? Was Oswald shot down to prevent him from talking? What was Ruby’s role in all this mess? Who were the people behind him?
These were difficult questions to answer because the American political system encouraged unlimited power and freedom to its Secret Service and law-enforcing agencies like the FBI headed by J Edgar Hoover who was regarded as more powerful than even the President. The lawless FBI chief taped secret private telephone conversations of everyone, including the President, which made it difficult for anyone to sack him. Hollywood movies and hundreds of thrillers dealt with situations showing Hoover bold enough to plan the assassination of the President and replace him with a right-wing puppet. This was the gist of popular fiction writer Irving Wallace’s thriller ‘The R Document’. American right-wingers regarded Hoover as immortal and were shocked when the old man finally died. But that led to intense rumours. How did he die? Was it natural or was there something fishy about it?
Meanwhile, the Kennedy killing held the nation in thrall. Former US Chief Justice Earl Warren headed the commission which probed the death. After sifting through thousands of documents, it officially came to the conclusion that the assassination was a one-man job, Lee Oswald. The US government accepted the verdict but not sections of the public. Even today, 70 years after the Dallas tragedy, many people feel the mystery has not been solved. On almost parallel lines, racist James Earl Ray was accused of shooting down popular civil rights leader, Dr Martin Luther King. Sentenced to a life term in prison, Ray did not offer much of a defence except spewing venom on King and other black leaders. Decades after his sentencing, Ray spoke out and mentioned a ‘group’ of Southern racists who were behind the killing. He did pull the trigger but the money and brains were of other people. We still do not have all the facts of this murder.
And now comes the news that UK’s Princess Diana who was killed in a car crash in Paris in 1997 was actually a victim of a murder plot hatched by the British armed forces. Diana, the most beloved of all British royals and her Egyptian boyfriend Dodi Alfayed were being driven away at a hectic speed to escape pursuit by international paparazzi. As the entire world, and particularly the UK, mourned the death of the popular Princess, no one put out any theory except that it was a horrible accident. Now, after 16 years, has come this bombshell, that too hinting at the involvement of the British military.
Like the FBI and the CIA, the British secret services MI5, MI6 and SI6 operated in a highly shadowy manner. Till recently, the British government even denied the existence of its Intelligence services. The media was cowed down by the draconian Official Secrets Act and Britons had to be content with the fictitious heroics of James Bond. The secret service operated in a world of its own and the recent revelations made one wonder if it had any specific reasons for getting rid of the popular Princess.
Diana was not the typical British princess and often felt like a caged parrot forced to live with a husband who was in love with another woman and did not hesitate to flaunt this relationship.
There was constant tension in the royal family at the outspokenness of Diana who hit back at Prince Charles with affairs of her own and not making efforts to hide them. She told a journalist quite frankly, “This marriage was not bound to work. There were three people in it” The Royal family was outraged that public sympathy was heavily in favour of Diana and the entire nation mourned her death. As was to be expected, the news of a conspiracy elicited massive media coverage. It surfaced during the trial of a former SAS sniper convicted of possessing illegal arms. The Royal Military Police promised to look into the startling allegation. But the murder claim was rejected and the death was confirmed as due to an accident in ‘Operation Paget’, an investigation launched by the Metropolitan Police in 2005.
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