Riddle of US aide's death

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The Independent Online
JUST as conspiracy theories about who killed Kennedy were running out of steam, the apparent suicide of Vince Foster, White House counsel and confidant of the Clintons, is beginning to attract the same obsessive speculation about how and why he died.

The facts are simple enough. On 20 July last year police, tipped off by an anonymous caller, found the body of Foster with a bullet in the head in Fort Marcy Park, on the outskirts of Washington. President Clinton said Foster killed himself because 'he was profoundly depressed'.

Death by gunshot of senior White House figures is uncommon enough to ensure the press would not leave it at that. In the six months since Foster died, reporters have produced - a sine qua non of conspiracy theories - a list of unanswered questions and real evidence of a cover-up.

Most of the unanswered questions have commonsense answers. Who, for instance, called the emergency 911 number to tell the police about Foster? The Washington Times - a main force in investigating the affair - says nobody has come forward. But this is scarcely surprising, since many 911 callers are anonymous because they do not want to get involved with the police.

It is not known where Foster spent the last hours after he left the White House around 1pm and his death five hours later. This adds to the air of mystery but a man on the edge of suicide is unlikely to keep to an identifiable schedule. Nobody knows where Foster got the gun - a .38 which is a composite of two weapons dating back to 1913 - but many of the 200 million firearms owned by Americans are unregistered.

Did the White House attempt a cover-up? In December it was revealed that within hours of Foster's death, files relating to Whitewater, the Arkansas land-development affair in which the Clintons are involved, disappeared from his office. The White House then said all the documents would be released without revealing that, under the terms of a subpoena negotiated with the Justice Department, neither press nor Congress would be allowed to see them.

The evident reluctance of the Clintons to produce any more information about Whitewater than was prised out of them is the most compelling evidence that they have something to conceal.