Last Agonising Hour of the RAF Man Poisoned at Porton Down

Daily Mail (London), May 6, 2004 | Go to article overview
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Last Agonising Hour of the RAF Man Poisoned at Porton Down


Byline: SAM GREENHILL

IT is 51 years to the day since young RAF man Ronald Maddison took part in an experiment to help his military masters.

He and other servicemen were told they were simply helping to find a cure for the common cold.

In fact, what they dribbled on to Maddison's left forearm at a secret research centre in Wiltshire was the nerve agent Sarin - and within an hour he was dead.

Yesterday, 20-year-old Maddison's final tortured minutes were related to a jury at the first open inquiry into how the British Government turned its own servicemen into human guinea pigs at the Porton Down chemical weapons research establishment.

Sitting in the front row at the coroner's court in Trowbridge, Wiltshire, was Maddison's sister, Lillias Craik, 70, who has waged a 50-year battle for justice on his behalf.

Wiltshire coroner David Masters described her brother's last moments on May 6, 1953.

He and five other servicemen entered a sealed chamber at Porton Down at around 10am, rolled up their sleeves and had pieces of cloth tied around their arms.

'Sarin was drawn up into a pipette and 20 drops, each totalling 200mg, were placed on the layers of cloth on the inside of the left forearm,' said Mr Masters.

'Ronald Maddison was the fourth of the six to be contaminated, at about 10.17am. Each man returned to his place, putting his left forearm on the table in front of him.' For 30 minutes, the men were monitored. Maddison said he was feeling 'perfectly well', but at 10.40am 'he said he felt pretty queer' and had begun sweating.

He was taken from the chamber, where he removed his respirator and contaminated clothing and walked to a bench for fresh air.

Two minutes later, as he was still sweating, an ambulance was called and a minute after that he complained he could not hear, said the coroner.

Maddison, from Consett, County Durham, was given two injections to stabilise him and, by

10.47am, was at Porton Down's medical centre. 'His respiration was irregular, infrequent and he was gasping,' said Mr Masters.

Despite resuscitation attempts, and an injection of adrenaline into his heart, his pulse had ceased by 11am, and he never regained consciousness.

Sarin - unleashed on the Tokyo underground by a cult in 1995, killing 12 - leads to death by paralysing muscles, including the heart.

Yesterday, Mr Masters said: 'Ronald Maddison was the first known fatal casualty of Sarin nerve agent at Porton Down and the first and only person to die.

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