Feeds

US scientist commits suicide as Feds prep anthrax charges

Overdoses weeks after previous suspect exonerated

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

A senior US government bioscientist thought to be facing charges over the 2001 anthrax attacks has apparently committed suicide.

The Los Angeles Times reports that 62-year-old Bruce Ivins died on Tuesday after taking a massive dose of painkillers. He had learned that the US Department of Justice was about to hit him with charges relating to the 2001 attacks. Last week, the head of the FBI told CNN that the bureau had made “breakthroughs” in the case.

Ivins was a microbiologist at the US government’s biodefense labs at Fort Detrick, Maryland, and reportedly played a major role in the investigations into the spate of anthrax mailings. The mailings caused widespread panic in a US already beyond jittery in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

At the time, investigators had focused on another government scientist, Stephen Hatfill, who was pilloried in the press throughout 2002. In June, the authorities paid $5.8m to Hatfill to settle a privacy case he brought regarding their very public and vitriolic investigation of him. While the government admitted no liability, the deal was seen as exonerating Hatfill.

According to the LA Times, Ivins began showing signs of “serious strain” shortly after the government’s deal with Hatfill, and expressed suicidal thoughts to a therapist he was seeing to treat depression. His access to sensitive work at the government labs was curtailed, and he was subsequently hospitalised for depression.

He was released from hospital on July 24, but was facing the prospect of forced retirement according to a colleague, who described him as “emotionally fractured” by the scrutiny from the Feds.

Ironically, USA Today in 2004 carried a detailed piece explaining how Ivins had spotted and calmly dealt with a colleague's fears that she, and her desk, had been contaminated with anthrax. ®

The Power of One Infographic

More from The Register

next story
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
Jurassic squawk: Dinos were Earth's early FEATHERED friends
Boffins research: Ancient dinos may all have had 'potential' fluff
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.