Byline: RICHARD SMITH
A YOUNG airman, who thought he was helping to find a cure for the common cold, died after being used as a human guinea pig to test the nerve gas sarin, an inquest heard yesterday.
Leading aircraftman Ronald Maddison, 20, died less than three hours after an experiment 51 years ago at Porton Down, the Government's secret biological and chemical weapons centre in Wiltshire.
The inquest is seen as a test case for 700 people who took part in trials at the base between 1939 and 1989.
Ronald's family claim he was tricked into believing he was helping to find a cold cure. He was among six servicemen who entered a chamber at Porton Down in 1953.
Ronald was the fourth to have a piece of uniform material loosely wrapped around his left arm. Then 20 drops of 10mgs of sarin were applied to it with a pipette.
The men were left in the chamber and asked how they felt. But Ronald began to have breathing problems 23 minutes after he went into the chamber wearing a respirator.
He was sent outside to a bench in the open air where he took off his mask. But minutes later his condition worsened and he was unable to hear.
Coroner David Masters, watched by Ronald's sister Lillias Craik, 70, told how the flier was "gasping" for breath. He was given an antidote injection and oxygen after being taken to the base medical centre.
But within an hour of being exposed to the sarin Ronald was "ashen grey" and had no pulse. He was given further antidote injections into his veins and muscles and finally an injection of pure adrenalin into his heart. But he died in two and a half hours.
The then Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, was told of the decision to halt all experiments at Porton Down after Ronald become the first, and only, person to die in trials at the base. …