Scientist commits suicide over anthrax charges

A top US biodefence researcher committed suicide just before being charged over the anthrax mailings that traumatised America after the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks.

The scientist, Bruce E Ivins, 62, who worked for the past 18 years at the US government's biodefence labs at Fort Detrick, Maryland, had been told about the impending prosecution.



The laboratory was at the centre of the FBI's investigation of the anthrax attacks, which killed five people.



Ivins died of a drug overdose on Tuesday at Frederick Memorial Hospital in Maryland.



Henry Heine, a scientist who worked with Ivins on inhalation anthrax research at Fort Detrick, said he and others on their team have testified before a federal grand jury in Washington that has been investigating the anthrax mailings for more than a year.



Ivins was the co-author of numerous anthrax studies, including one on a treatment for inhalation anthrax published in the 7 July issue of the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.



Last month, the US government exonerated another scientist at the Fort Detrick lab, Steven Hatfill, who had been identified by the FBI as a "person of interest" in the anthrax attacks.



The government paid Mr Hatfill $5.82m (£2.9m) to settle a lawsuit he filed against the Justice Department in which he claimed the department violated his privacy rights by speaking to reporters about the case.



Federal investigators moved away from Mr Hatfill and concluded Ivins was the culprit after FBI director Robert Mueller changed leadership of the investigation in 2006.



The new investigators instructed agents to re-examine leads and reconsider potential suspects. In the meantime, investigators made progress in analysing anthrax powder recovered from letters addressed to two US senators.



Besides the five deaths, 17 people were made ill by anthrax that was posted to politicians on Capitol Hill and members of the news media in New York and Florida just weeks after the 11 September terrorist attacks.



The victims included postal workers and others who came into contact with the anthrax.



In January 2002, the FBI doubled the reward for helping solve the case to $2.5m (£1.25m), and by June officials said the agency was scrutinising 20 to 30 scientists who might have had the knowledge and opportunity to send the anthrax letters.



After the US government's settlement with Mr Hatfill was announced in late June, Ivins started showing signs of strain. A colleague said he was being treated for depression and indicated to a therapist that he was considering suicide.



Family members and local police escorted Ivins away from the Army lab, and his access to sensitive areas was curtailed. Ivins was facing a forced retirement in September.



Ivins was one of the nation's leading biodefence researchers.



In 2003, he and two of his colleagues at the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick received the highest honour given to Defence Department civilian employees for helping solve technical problems in the manufacture of anthrax vaccine.



In 1997, US military personnel began receiving the vaccine to protect against a possible biological attack.



Ivins was the son of a Princeton-educated pharmacist who was born and raised in Lebanon, Ohio. He received undergraduate and graduate degrees, including a PhD in microbiology from the University of Cincinnati.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Howard Marks has been diagnosed with inoperable cancer, he has announced
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
Rowan Atkinson at the wheel of his McLaren F1 GTR sports car
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us