From Eastbourne to eternity - for £100,000

A Sussex businessman is offering customers the chance to cheat death by having their bodies deep frozen
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The Independent Online

More than 60 people in the UK have joined a movement embracing a process known as cryonics. Indeed, demand is so great that a centre for aspiring cryonauts has been established in Eastbourne by a retired businessman. He also operates a rapid-reaction service to ensure that members' bodies are kept cool and exported swiftly after they die.

Cryonauts hope that future advances in medical science will allow their melted bodies to be cured of the condition they died of so they can be brought back to life. They are willing to invest up to £100,000 to achieve this, despite being warned that there may be only a slim chance of success. Some have opened investment accounts so that they have funds to live on if they return to life.

Leading the British cryonic migration to the giant freezers in the US is Alan Sinclair, a 67-year-old from East Sussex, who has spent £400,000 setting up the Eastbourne centre.

"Some people criticise what we are doing on religious grounds, saying we are cheating death, but I tell them we are redefining it," said Mr Sinclair.

His name and phone number are engraved on a metal tag that hangs around the necks of all UK-based cryonauts. When they die, they hope their relatives will call his number; he will then rush to the scene.

Once death has been confirmed, the member's body is filled with a "cyroprotectant fluid", better known as glycerol. Mr Sinclair then takes it to the Eastbourne centre and plunges it into a bath of iced water. After this, the corpse is wrapped in polythene, submerged in alcohol, placed in 120kg of ice in an insulated fibreglass box and airlifted to the US to be frozen in capsules of liquid nitrogen.

Two Britons have already been successfully exported and entombed.

Although medical experts have dismissed the cryonic suspension of human remains as outlandish and unscientific, an industry has grown up since the first patient, a Californian psychology professor, was frozen in 1967. He still lies in icy vaults in Arizona.

In all, 142 people are in deep-freeze in two US cryonics facilities. While some opt for full-body preservation, others choose to have only their heads frozen.

One of the Britons seeking immortality is Mark Walker, 43, a businessman from Staffordshire. He has taken out a £36-a-week insurance policy to help cover the cost of having his entire body frozen.

"I saw it on TV and I thought, 'Blimey, that's for me'," said Mr Walker. "It's not that I'm frightened of death. I'm a bit of gadget freak and the thought of missing out on future technology was a big drive for me. It will be like taking a trip in a time machine. It's going to be mind-blowing."

Although open with work colleagues and friends, he was apprehensive about telling his wife, Karen, 34. "I really had no idea how to approach the subject. I was frightened it would scare her away. But she was brilliant and now she has signed up as well."

Other British cryonauts include academics, writers, an interpreter and, perhaps surprisingly, a vicar.