Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Was North East Man's Death an Accident. or Were the Russians Involved? HELICOPTER TRAGEDY MUST BE PROBED - MPS

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Was North East Man's Death an Accident. or Were the Russians Involved? HELICOPTER TRAGEDY MUST BE PROBED - MPS

Article excerpt

Byline: HANNAH GRAHAM Reporter hannah.graham@trinitymirror.com

An investigation into 14 deaths allegedly linked with the Russian state could shed light on the helicopter crash which killed a North East businessman, MPs say.

MPs have asked the Government to re-examine a number of deaths labelled accidents or suicides, after a former Russian spy and his daughter fell ill in Salisbury on Sunday afternoon.

Police now believe that Sergei and Yulia Skripal were poisoned by a nerve agent, in what's being treated as an attempted murder.

After the alleged poisoning, an urgent question on Government policy on Russia was put forward in the House of Commons.

During the debate, Labour MP Yvette Cooper demanded the National Crime Agency (NCA) review investigations into 14 deaths which she said "have not been treated as suspicious by the UK police but have - reportedly - been identified by United States intelligence sources as potentially connected to the Russian state".

In June, a Buzzfeed news investigation claimed US officials suspected 14 deaths on British soil were linked to Russian security services or mafia groups.

Among these were the helicopter crash which killed Sunderland-born lawyer Stephen Curtis at Bournemouth in 2004. Mr Curtis was managing director of Group Menatep, a PS16bn company with interests in the Russian oil industry.

An inquest heard the 45-year-old businessman had received death threats, and believed he was kept under surveillance during the last two years of his life.

The jury in the case took just over an hour to reach a verdict of accidental death.

But Mr Curtis's death is among those which MPs are now demanding the Government investigate.

In a letter to Home Secretary Amber Rudd, Ms Cooper, chair of the Home Affairs select committee, said: "You will be aware of reports of considerable concerning evidence about many of the 14 cases that raises serious doubts about the decisions made in each case to treat them either as suicides, natural causes or accidents. …

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