The Marconi Deaths

The Independent - London
August 26, 1988
The police said it was suicide, and no doubt they were right. Ex-Brigadier Peter Ferry, a marketing manager at Marconi's Command and Control Systems centre at Frimley, Surrey, had apparently killed himself by inserting power main electric wires into his mouth and then turning on the power.
The method chosen was perhaps marginally more grisly than in the case of several other Marconi employees. In 1986, for example, Ashad Sharif, a computer analyst who worked for Marconi Defence Systems in Stanmore, Middlesex, tied one end of a rope around his neck, another to a tree, and put his car into gear. Two months earlier, the body of Vimal Dajibhai, a software engineer responsible for checking the guidance systems of Tigerfish torpedos for Marconi Underwater Systems, was found under Clifton suspension bridge at Bristol.
In March 1987, David Sands, a project manager working on secret satellite radar at Marconi's sister company Easams, in Camberley, drove up a slip road on his way to work and into a cafe at an estimated 80mph. A year later, Trevor Knight, a computer engineer at Marconi's space and defence base in Stanmore, died in his fume-filled car at his home in Hertfordshire. Earlier, two other Marconi employees, Victor Moore, a design engineer, and Roger Hill, a draughtsman, had killed themselves, both seemingly as a result of work pressures.
There have been at least half a dozen more untoward deaths among defence scientists and others working in the defence field. Marconi is not alone, but it is well in the lead. The best efforts of investigative journalists have failed to establish a link either between the various deaths or between the deaths of the Marconi staff and the Ministry of Defence inquiry, now two years old, into some (pounds)3bn worth of defence contracts awarded to GEC-Marconi. No doubt in several instances pressure of work was the main factor: in a field where millions of pounds hang on the securing of contracts, it can be intense, especially if the Ministry of Defence investigators are hovering, as they had been at Frimley, Brigadier Ferry's base. It is hard to believe, however, that other factors have not also been at work. The pressure of work is also fierce in the money markets of the City, where equally large sums are at stake. Yet the suicide rate remains unremarkable.
Mr Ferry's death on Tuesday must add to the concern already aroused by the alarming sequence of deaths in the defence industry. He had apparently been depressed since his car collided with a lorry a month ago; but suicide seems an extreme reaction. In such instances where no foul play is suspected, the inquiries of both police and coroners are likely to be brief, partly for the sake of the distressed relatives. They will not be concerned with establishing a connection with comparable deaths in different counties. Since these cases have been spread wide, there is now a case for pulling the threads together. It may be that there is no conspiracy and no concerted skullduggery. But these have been talented men. To allay anxieties, a senior police officer should be appointed to head a coordinated investigation into the underlying causes of so high a death rate.
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