Drugs are focus of MP death inquiry: Post mortem fails to solve Milligan mystery as ministers mount damage limitation exercise over a 'personal tragedy'

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The Independent Online
DETECTIVES are today awaiting the results of drug tests on the body of Stephen Milligan, the Conservative MP found dead at his home in bizarre circumstances.

Scotland Yard said last night that Iain West, a Home Office pathologist, was carrying out further tests, including toxicology, after a post mortem failed to reveal the cause of the 45-year-old MP's death.

Dr West was also examining a piece of orange found in the dead man's mouth. Oranges are sometimes used as a medium for taking amyl nitrate, a drug used to lower inhibition, relax the body and heighten orgasm. The drug, better known as 'poppers', is used by homosexuals and heterosexuals and is widely available.

The body of the bachelor MP for Eastleigh in Hampshire was discovered by his secretary at his home in Hammersmith, west London, on Monday. He was naked except for a pair of women's stockings and his head was covered with a black plastic bag. Electrical flex was bound round one ankle. It ran up his body and was wound around his neck with the other end close by one hand.

The position of the flex reinforced suggestions he may have been indulging in the dangerous practice of starving himself of oxygen to heighten sexual pleasure. No pornography was found.

A leading pathologist said yesterday that the inconclusive post- mortem could be consistent with death by vago-vasal phenomenon. This can occur when pressure is applied to the vagus nerve, in the neck, usually by a ligature, causing the heart rate to slow down and even stop.

Scotland Yard remained extremely circumspect. A spokesman said that detectives were treating the death as 'suspicious'. Police are investigating a wide range of possibilities, from murder to a transvestite sex session that went too far. Friends and former girlfriends said they believed the MP had been murdered.

Police searched the MP's office in the House of Commons yesterday as well that of his parliamentary secretary, Vera Taggart. Both rooms were sealed off. Forensic scientists also continued to search his house, removing two beige kitchen units and a round pine table top for detailed examination.

Police were interviewing relatives and friends to piece together the dead man's final hours. He last spoke in the Commons on Friday, after which he met Conservative Party whips to discuss his career prospects.

His failure to return telephone calls and keep an appointment prompted Ms Taggart to call at his house. Using a spare key she let herself in and discovered his body in the kitchen-dining area.

Friends and former colleagues reacted to the day's revelations with horror and disbelief. Many could not accept that he had a secret sex life and some believe he must have been murdered.

It was revealed that the MP was a member of an exclusive and respectable dating agency, Drawing Down the Moon.

Emma Nicholson, Conservative MP for Devon West and Torridge, who was a close friend of Mr Milligan's, said: 'I am terribly saddened by Stephen's death and terribly sad he should apparently have been so lonely without any of us realising that.'

Ministers mounted a damage limitation exercise. Sir Norman Fowler, chairman of the Conservative Party, insisted it would be seen by the public as a 'personal tragedy' rather than a blow for John Major. It was rumoured the Government may hold the Eastleigh by- election on May 5, the date of the local government elections.

Speculation about the death continued at Westminster after a policeman at the Commons reported seeing Julie Kirkbride, a lobby journalist with the Daily Telegraph and a close friend of Mr Milligan, in tears at 4pm, 23 minutes before police said they were alerted to the death. It fuelled rumours that whips were given time to prepare before the

announcement.

Ms Kirkbride, writing in the Daily Telegraph today, says: 'I am sure he wanted a wife and family and was looking for the right girl. Our relationship ended because I was just not that girl.

'He was a perfectly normal and loving person. Stephen was decent and kind. He had strong Christian views, and a moral streak in his character, but he was not censorious nor did he attempt to take the moral high ground. I shall remember him as a kind and decent man and that is the way he ought to be remembered.'

(Photograph omitted)

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