- It is a story worthy of a major conspiracy theory, the
script for a Mel Gibson "Who dunnit?" action movie, or a blueprint
for a contrived and unbeleivable episode of "The X Files". Except
the facts surrounding this story are just that. Facts. The Truth. Five
emminent microbiologists, leaders in their particular field of scientific
research, either dead or missing in the last eight weeks, and a bizzare
connection between one of the dead scientists and the mystery surrounding
the death by Anthrax inhalation of a sixty one year old female hospital
worker in New York. Sounds far fetched? Read on.
Over the past few weeks several world-acclaimed scientific researchers
specializing in infectious diseases and biological agents such as Anthrax,
as well as DNA sequencing, have been found dead or have gone missing.
First, on Novemeber 12th, was Dr. Benito Que, a cell biologist working
on infectious diseases like HIV, who was found dead outside his laboratory
at the Miami Medical School. Police say his death was possibly the result
of a mugging. The Miami Herald reported that:
"The incident, whatever it may have been, occurred on Monday afternoon
as the scientist left his job at University of Miami's School of Medicine.
He headed for his car, a white Ford Explorer parked on Northwest 10th Avenue.
The word among his friends is that four men armed with a baseball bat
attacked him at his car."
On November 16th, within of week of Dr. Que's assault, Dr. Don C Wiley,
one of the United States foremost infectious disease researchers was declared
missing. Bill Poovey, a journalist with Associated Press wrote:
"His rental car was found with a full tank of petrol and the keys
in the ignition. His disappearance looked like a suicide, but according
to colleagues and Dr. Wiley's family, the Harvard Scientist associated
with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute would NEVER commit suicide. Associates
who attended the St. Jude's Children Research Advisory Dinner with Dr.
Wiley, just hours before he disappeared, said that he was in good spirits
and NOT depressed. He was last seen at the banquet at the Peabody Hotel
in downtown Memphis the night he vanished. Those who saw him last say
he showed no signs of a man contemplating his own death."
Wiley left the hotel around midnight. The bridge where his car was found
is only a five-minute drive away and in the wrong direction from where
he was staying, leaving authorities with a four-hour, unexplained gap until
his vehicle was found.
Now Memphis police are exploring several theories involving suicide, robbery
"We began this investigation as a missing person investigation,"
said Walter Crews of the Memphis Police Department. "From there it
went to a more criminal bent."
Dr. Wiley was an expert on how the human immune system fights off infections
and had recently investigated such dangerous viruses as AIDS, Ebola, herpes
From the United States, the story moves to England. On November 23rd,
Dr. Vladimir Pasechnik, a former microbiologist for Biopreparat, the Soviet
biological-weapons production facility was found dead. The Times was the
only newspaper to provide an obituary for Dr. Pasechnik, and said:
"The defection to Britain in 1989 of Vladimir Pasechnik revealed
to the West for the first time the colossal scale of the Soviet Union's
clandestine biological warfare programme. His revelations about the scale
of the Soviet Union's production of such biological agents as anthrax,
plague, tularaemia and smallpox provided an inside account of one of the
best kept secrets of the Cold War. After his defection he worked for ten
years at the U.K. Department of Health's Centre for Applied Microbiology
Research before forming his own company, Regma Biotechnics, to work on
therapies for cancer, neurological diseases, tuberculosis and other infectious
diseases. In the last few weeks of his life he had put his research on
anthrax at the disposal of the Government, in the light of the threat
Back to the United States, and on December 10th, Dr. Robert M. Schwartz
was found murdered in Leesberg, Virginia. Dr. Schwartz was a well-known
DNA sequencing researcher. He founded the Virginia Biotechnology Association
where he worked on DNA sequencing for 15 years.
On Wednesday, December 12th the Washington Post reported:
"A well-known biophysicist, who was one of the leading researchers
on DNA sequencing analysis, was found slain in his rural Loudoun County
home after co-workers became concerned when he didn't arrive at work as
expected. Robert M. Schwartz, 57, a founding member of the Virginia Biotechnology
Association, was found dead in the secluded fieldstone farmhouse southwest
of Leesburg where he lived alone. Loudoun sheriff's officials said it
appeared that Schwartz had been stabbed."
And so to Victoria State, Australia, where, on December 14th, a skilled
microbiologist was killed at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial
Research Organisation's animal diseases facility in Geelong, Australia.
This is the same facility that, as the journal Nature announced in January
"Australian scientists, Dr Ron Jackson and Dr Ian Ramshaw, accidentally
created an astonishingly virulent strain of mousepox, a cousin of smallpox,
among laboratory mice. They realised that if similar genetic manipulation
was carried out on smallpox, an unstoppable killer could be unleashed."
The microbiologist who died had worked for 15 years at the facility. His
name was Set Van Nguyen. Victoria Police said:
"Set Van Nguyen, 44, appeared to have died after entering an airlock
into a storage laboratory filled with nitrogen. His body was found when
his wife became worried after he failed to return from work. He was killed
after entering a low temperature storage area where biological samples
were kept. He did not know the room was full of deadly gas which had leaked
from a liquid nitrogen cooling system. Unable to breathe, Mr. Nguyen collapsed
Now for the intriguing part of this story. On Friday, November 2nd, the
Washington Post reported:
"Officials are now scrambling to determine how a quiet, 61-year-old
Vietnamese immigrant, riding the subway each day to and from her job in
a hospital stockroom, was exposed to the deadly anthrax spores that killed
her this week. They worry because there is no obvious connection to the
factors common to earlier anthrax exposures and deaths: no clear link
to the mail or to the media."
The name of this quiet 61 year old hospital worker was Kathy Nguyen.
- Copyright Ian Gurney, December 2001. Ian Gurney is the
author of "The Cassandra Prophecy" www.caspro.com