Dead MP's illness linked to Gulf War syndrome

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The Independent Online
A Labour MP who committed suicide yesterday had been suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome and complained to friends that his illness might have been caused by organophosphates, which he used as a pesticide and which have been linked with the illness suffered by more than a thousand British veterans of the Gulf War.

The body of Gordon McMaster, 37, the MP for Paisley South, near Glasgow, was found in the garage at his home yesterday. A police spokesman said there appeared to be no suspicious circumstances.

Friends at Westminster said the 18-stone MP had been suffering from the syndrome, also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), and had been depressed for some time by untrue rumours that he was HIV positive.

Tributes, led by the Prime Minister, poured in for the man who had dedicated much of his parliamentary career to helping the disabled. Mr Blair said: "Gordon was deeply committed to his constituents, serving them with dedication and distinction. He will be missed by everyone who knew him."

Donald Dewar, the Secretary of State for Scotland, added: "He is a great loss to Parliament and to the Labour Party in Scotland."

Mr McMaster left school at 16 and became a gardener, but later went to college, became a lecturer and a horticulturist of international repute.

He won his parliamentary seat in a by-election in November 1990, and served as an Opposition whip for Scotland, a frontbench spokesman on overseas aid, and as a senior officer on the all-party parliamentary Disablement Group. But he had not been given a government job after Labour's election victory.

He was a keen gardener and suspected that organophosphates might have been the cause of his illness. Symptoms include extreme and often debilitating fatigue, as well as aching muscles and mood swings associated with depression.

Organophosphates, or OPs, are also said to produce non-specific symptoms including excessive tiredness, mood swings, depression and memory loss.

Gulf War veterans have linked similar symptoms to low-level exposure to OPs during the conflict.

Colleagues of the MP said last night that he had been depressed for some time and his morale had been further sapped when he was mugged last month outside his London home, suffering a serious hand injury. He had four operations, and lost a finger.

Kate Watson-Smyth