DNA may end speculation over 'Belgrano' killing campaigner

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The mystery of who killed Hilda Murrell may soon be solved after Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, ordered new state-of-the-art DNA tests in the case of the 1984 murder of the anti-nuclear campaigner.

The murder became a cause célÿbre after the Falklands War. There were claims that Murrell, 78, was killed by secret agents who were disturbed searching her home for documents relating to the sinking of the Argentinean warship the General Belgrano. However, police concluded she had been killed during an ordinary burglary that went wrong.

Labour MPs, including Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) and Paul Marsden (Shrewsbury and Atcham) have been calling for the DNA tests.

Mr Dalyell said yesterday: 'I believe this was a low-level person working for the security services, and the whole thing went hideously wrong.'

Mr Straw told Mr Dalyell that the latest techniques are being applied to samples taken from the murder scene by police. The tests are being carried out at the Forensic Science Service laboratory in Birmingham.

Mr Dalyell said he welcomed the move, as it could provide a positive match with a suspect.

Two weeks ago, West Mercia detectives reopened the case after receiving fresh information. Police have not disclosed details, but The Independent understands that one of Murrell's former employees has come forward, saying he saw a local man acting suspiciously near her home on the day before and on the morning of the murder.

The witness has not been interviewed by police before.

Suspicions that Murrell was murdered by British agents arose because she was the aunt of Commander Robert Green, a Naval intelligence officer who passed the order for the sinking of the Belgrano in May 1982. After her death there were claims that she might have hidden documents about the Belgrano for her nephew.

She was also preparing to give evidence to the public inquiry into the proposed Sizewell B nuclear reactor.