MoD to Challenge Airman Verdict

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Byline: By Zoe Hughes

The family of a North airman killed in secret nerve-gas tests at the Porton Down weapons base say they are astonished at attempts by Government ministers to challenge a legal ruling which found the 20-year-old had been unlawfully killed.

The Ministry of Defence yesterday said it would launch a judicial review of the second inquest into County Durham soldier Ronald Maddison's death 51 years ago, warning it did not accept the jury's verdict of unlawful killing.

That news was greeted with shock by Mr Maddison's family, who said they were "absolutely astonished" at the response.

Mr Maddison, of Consett, County Durham, believed he was helping experiments to find a cure for the common cold but died just moments after 200mg of the nerve gas sarin was dabbed on his arm. The leading aircraftman's death happened on May 6, 1953 but it was only last month that a jury finally ruled it as unlawful.

Mr Maddison's sister, Lilias Craik, now lives in Nottinghamshire.

Alan Care, the Maddison family's lawyer, said they were "absolutely astonished" at the Ministry of Defence's decision, saying the inquest had come to a "clear conclusion".

He said: "The inquest spent more than six months hearing evidence from more than 100 witnesses and the jury came to a clear conclusion unanimously.

"I would have thought the facts speak for themselves.

"We are astonished the Ministry of Defence feel the need to go along this route." Defence minister Ivor Caplin made the announcement in a written statement to the Commons yesterday, but conceded the Government should apologise to the families. …